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Now, dial a horoscope

August 22, 2003 12:25 IST

Help is now literally at your finger tips if you need any astrological advice on match-making, janam-patri consultation or on the future course of action to succeed in love or in business.

Especially, if you are a Hutch phone subscriber. All you need to do is to punch in a number on your mobile handset and the Ahmedabad-based SiddhiVinayak Astrology Services will come to your rescue.

The company has launched its GaneshaSpeaks mobile service on astrology in a tie-up with Hutchinson in the Gujarat circle and claims to be receiving 400 calls a day.

But that is just the beginning. "In two months, we plan to take our mobile astrology service to the seven Hutch circles in the country," says  Hemang Pandit, CEO, SAS.

He said the company is also in talks with the Tatas and the Reliance group to offer astrological advice in the basic services too.

Clearly, the five-month-old astrology services company has ambitious plans. And why not, after all astrology is estimated to be a roughly Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) market, according to  Pandit.

"Our aim is to get onto all forms of communication platforms to offer live and online astrological advice," says Pandit.

To lure customers to his site, Pandit -- with his business partner Tarun Bhai Patel -- has roped in popular astrologer Bejan Daruwalla as an advisor.

Daruwalla will be assisted by a team of 10 astrologers. Commenting on his association with GaneshaSpeaks, Daruwalla says: "This is a service where people are expected to get good guidance at reasonable rates."

At Rs 120 for half-an-hour consultation (Rs 4 a minute), even Pandit believes that it's a good value for money. "Typically, if you get a janam patri made, it costs Rs 51 and for good astrological advice, you have to shell out a minimum of  Rs 100. Through our service, you can avoid the pain of waiting outside an astrologer's door to know about your bad rahus and shanis," says Pandit.

The company has already made Rs 5 lakh (Rs 500,000) since it launched operations and is projecting a turnover of  Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million) in the first year.

Encouraged by the customer response, Pandit plans to extend GaneshaSpeaks service offline.

It plans to set up offices in the metros where customers could go for one-on-one consultations. An IP-based call centre astrological service is also in the pipeline.

 "We are currently setting up infrastructure for a call centre where calls from anywhere in the world can be entertained," says Pandit. Apart from Daruwalla, Pandit is hiring 30 additional astrologers for the GaneshaSpeaks call centre.

For online consultation, GaneshaSpeaks charges Rs 1,001 for personal predictions including  health, career,  finance, property etc. Kundali matching comes for a price of Rs 501.

But Pandit, who had earlier worked with Fascel Ltd, is not  limiting himself to tapping the mobile phone user. His future plan includes making inroads into companies whereby GaneshaSpeaks will offer expert astrological opinion to boost productivity.

"For instance, we could check out a prospective employee and advise a company if he or she could be facing personal problems that may affect productivity," he says. But will companies buy his theory? "If handwriting analysis can be used as a tool in recruitment, why not astrology?" he argues.

The future, according to Bejan

  • The Kashmir issue will be resolved before October 26, 2005.
  • President George Bush may not get re-elected.
  • Aishwarya Rai will find love between 2003-05.

These are some of the predictions made by Bejan Daruwalla in his latest book Annual Horoscope 2004, slated for a release in New Delhi on Friday. Annual Horoscope 2004 is the astrologer's 15th book in as many years.

Last year, 500,000 copies of the book published by Hind Pocket Books were sold. This year, the publishers expect the book to keep up with previous year's sale figures. "We've ordered an initial print run of 100,000 copies," says Shekhar Malhotra, managing director, Hind Pocket Books.

The company has been publishing Daruwalla's books for the last 15 years. The horoscope is also available in Hindi, Bengali and Marathi translations.

The 2004 horoscope focuses on science and technology predictions, with a new chapter devoted to the "powerful resurgence" of the Indian Air Force.

Though there are additions on health and medicine, the book has steered clear of politics. "These days I prefer to focus on science and technology rather than politics. The year 2008 will be a high point in technology. But I can say that the BJP is the party of the future," says Daruwalla.

At 72, Bejan Daruwalla, the man who has entertained both cynics and believers through his astrology columns and TV shows, still treats life as a "terrific adventure." The pacemaker in his chest is only an aberration.

He continues to  operate out of Shelley's Hotel in Mumbai's Colaba, his home for nine years, "where he can write in peace", or watch his favourite cartoon show Tom & Jerry "without worrying whether the cook has come and done the cooking," he says.

Curiously, he has a philosophical view of his own astronomical rise to success.

"I predict much in advance which no one cares to or dares to do. But it's a risk you take. I think both poets and astrologers are similar in that both rely on intuitive perception. Some call this ESP, I call it Ganesha."

Maitreyee Handique