Ganesh Chaturthi: Wheresmypandit and other online pujari services

Gone are the days when one had to scourge the neighbourhood for a pandit for their holy rituals. Just like hiring a cab from taxi-aggregators like Ola or Uber, hiring a pandit for his services has become a click away.

By Benita Chacko

Gone are the days when one had to scourge the neighbourhood for a pandit for their holy rituals. Just like hiring a cab from taxi-aggregators like Ola or Uber, hiring a pandit for his services has become a click away.

Ganesh Chaturthi is just round the corner and devotees across the country are preparing themselves to welcome Bappa to their homes. The ten-day festival that begins on 5 September has everyone looking for a pujari for the sthaapna and visarjan day.

Over the years many websites have come up that help in finding a suitable pandit for all religious rituals. Through these websites one can not only book a pandit but also the puja samagiri and avail of other religious services.

While they provide these services all through the year, undoubtedly Ganesh Chaturthi proves to be one of their busiest periods. With so many pujas lined up across the 10 days, Wheresmypandit.com, a website that promises to be a “one stop solution for Pandit, Puja and Yatra Services”, has an innovative solution.

“We hope to conduct around 1000 pujas this year, four times what we conducted last year. We have around 800 pandits. To make sure that we do not lose time we have come up with the idea to allot a biker to each pandit who will help them reach their destination for the puja quickly,” says Ronak Agrawal, Vice President, Wheresmypandit.com.

Apart from that the website will also be conducting an e-puja for the Sthaapna on 5 September through which people from across the globe can participate.

The startup that initiated in 2014 has seen steady growth over the years. Demand for pandits has grown three fold since last year, says Agrawal.

Wheresmypandit also has an app to provide easy booking options for phone users.

Ghar ka Pandit, one of the earliest websites to provide such services, has planned a package for its customers where they will be provided with a pandit for both the sthaapna and visarjan day. They began to receive calls from the across the country two to three months in advance, with most bookings coming from Mumbai and Pune.

Shipra Sinha, the founder and CEO of the website, says that they take customer reviews after every booking to know how their experience was and based on this they improve their services.

By bridging the gap between supply and demand these websites have helped the poojaris find a continuous source of employment.

Having been a pandit himself for over 15 years, Ravi Kumar, a software engineer working for a private company, founded Poojalu.com, a website that provides pujari services across the country. He says, "Websites like ours help poojaris find employment on a steady basis, since it is mainly a seasonal job."

Sinha agrees saying, "Pandits want to be a part of websites like us, since it provides them a forum through which they get visibility. Earlier people would look for them only through local directories or through mutual contacts."

While many have taken to this as a new option, there are still some who are sceptical about these services.

Mahek Chhaya, who will be bringing the lord Ganpati idol home for the festivities for the first time this year says, “Puja is something deeply personal for us and we would like to have a pandit who we are familiar with. We are still not receptive to the idea of ‘booking’ a pandit through an app. It feels like going digital just cause everything else is digital.”

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