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Buy a car, get puja done for free

By Amit Kumar Srivastava in New Delhi
January 25, 2008 10:26 IST
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Buying a new car? What about going to a dealer who along with freebies, offers a free 'puja' for the car with a priest in attendance?

As Indian priests hop from household to household performing 'pujas' in the capital, they now have a new job opening, performing quick puja for the customers at showrooms before they drive away with the four-wheeler.

Aware of the fact that in a country like India where most of the Hindu acts are followed by a mark of religiosity, many dealers have now started to provide the grand-old service of performing customary rituals and ceremonies right at the car showrooms.

Raman Gupta, who is a Manager (operations) in a leading IT company, recently bought a new Maruti from a car dealer in the capital. Like many middle-class Indians, he also believes in starting any new work after performing some rituals. Just as he was about to leave for a Hanuman temple in the nearby area, a person from the showroom approached him and introduced himself as Pandit Radhamohan Tyagi, a priest deployed by the outlet manager for carrying out the "customary rituals and ceremony" for the occasion.

"We are here for your convenience sir. Don't worry I will take care of your feelings," remarked the priest. In just 15 minutes, he along with his disciple performed all the rituals from coconut-breaking and 'swastik' smearing to 'aarti' and all.

"I am really delighted at the service being offered by the company at no extra cost", says Seema Gupta, Raman's wife.

Panditji is happy too. "We perform every ritual as per the demand of customer and get paid by the company", he says.

Regarding the change in his traditional way of working, he says "The car dealers have started offering some specific services to its customers in order to attract extra-smile on their face. So, they have started arranging puja (blessing) ceremonies, where a Hindu priest blesses a car for good luck".

"The showrooms also sell accessories, including small statues of Hindu gods to place on dashboards", he adds. "Drive with auspicious omen on your side," displays a signboard next to a mini-Ganesha idol. "Moreover, we get handsomely paid by the owners of the showroom as against the low income from being at temples and homes. So, I have adopted to work for them", he says.

India is one of the world's fastest growing car markets. Sales are growing at the rate of 15 per cent a year, with volumes due to rise from 1.3 million to 2.1 million by 2010, according to Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy. As such the manufacturers are focusing to develop an intimate bonding with each customer by providing these services.

Another priest, Krishnamurari Jha, employed at a leading car showroom, says "with the rise in incomes and strong economic growth, average Indians are spending more and buying cars. This augurs well for us as more and more priests would be hired by the dealers in the coming days".

In a country where the first-time buyers account for at least 35 per cent of sales, the proposition is seen as extra hand-holding of the customers and a step forward in extending customer satisfaction. "Nowadays customers want all services available at a 'single-stop'. Thanks to their sophistication that we are in demand," adds Jha.

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Amit Kumar Srivastava in New Delhi
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