Despite the funding winter, luck may be shining upon astro and spiritual tech startups in the coming festive season as more venture capitals have shown interest in infusing capital in the space.
Just last week Entrackr exclusively reported that online astrology platform AstroTalk is in process to mop up $25-30 million in its growth equity round.
Virtual astrology and spiritual platform Vama, one of AstroTalk’s competitors, is also finalising a $1.5-2 million round, according to sources aware of the development.
“A global VC is leading a new round in Vama while existing investors are doubling down,” said a person aware of the development.
Founded in late 2020 by Manu Jain, Himanshu Semwal and Acharya Dev, Vama provides easy access to e-pujas, e-darshans, and astrology services to devotees.
In December 2022, the startup closed its $1.25 million seed round with $500,000 as a top-up. Vama’s early backers include 7Square Ventures, Supermorpheus, Varun Alagh and Kunal Shah, who is also an investor in AstroTalk via his fund Qed Innovation Labs. MyPandit, Bodhi and InstaAstro have emerged as the potential competitors in the segment.
As per sources, more early stage startups in devotional and astro are looking to raise their growth round this festive season. “InstaAstro and Bodhi are also in the market for a fundraise,” said another source, requesting anonymity.
Devotional app DevDarshan, which facilitates online daily darshan, pujas and digital donations in temples for devotees, has also raised capital in the vicinity of $700,00-$800,000 in a new round, according to a source. The new round saw participation from investors like All in Capital, Veda, and Titan Capital, the source added. This Noida-based startup raised seed funding in May 2021.
DevDarshan’s competitor Utsav App recently raised its seed funding round led by India Quotient. Sutradhar, 27 Mantra and AppsForBharat also operate in the same space. Peak XV Partners-backed AppsForBharat has already scooped up $14 million in funding.
Queries sent to Vama, DevDarshan, InstaAstro and Bodhi did not elicit an immediate response.
[A multi-billion dollar industry]
The Indian religious and spiritual market reached a value of $44 billion in 2020 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 10% between 2023 and 2028, according to a report by Expert Market Research.
This is not really surprising considering the cultural aspect of the country, which is also often described as the land of faith and spirituality. Millions of people flock to different pilgrimage sites within the country all round the year.
For perspective, the faith-based tourism market size in India is estimated to be worth over $1 billion in 2023 and is set to grow at a CAGR of 16.2% in the next decade or so. The places of religious tourism earned Rs 1,34,543 crore in 2022, up from Rs 65,070 crore in 2021, according to the Indian tourism ministry.
Even as the tourism sector has been one of the top beneficiaries, a slew of new-age startups have emerged tapping into the spiritual space. Astrology-based startups are also part of this trend. In the early days of the internet, websites like Ganesha Speaks and desktop-based Kundali software were quite popular.
The new-age startups aim to woo millennials as well as a demography that has eventually moved to digital and smartphones. For instance, AstroTalk has roped in celebrities like Ranbir Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Mouni Roy, Bharti Singh, and Virender Sehwag to promote its services. The platform allows one to chat and talk to an astrologer.
Even though spirituality is deeply rooted in India, these startups too face the fundamentals of business that is to earn and make profits. These startups like D2C firms too rely on discovery and word of mouth publicity. This means they will have to crank up spending on marketing and advertising. The only difference is that these firms are asset light. The VC money is great but these sources can dry up in an absence of a sustainable business model.