While the ongoing recession has spelt doom for most of us, it has brought boom time for value-added services (VAS) players and mobile operators. The recession-triggered uncertainty has prompted consumers to look to astro services for a glimpse into the future, and these players are gaining from that.
Raghunath Mandava, Chief Marketing Officer, Mobile Services, Airtel, says, "While the usual traffic in queries related to marriage, health, money etc continues, we have seen a marginal increase in queries pertaining to job safety, promotions etc." There is an increase in the number of astro services subscription as well as the minute of usage. Airtel has daily SMS alerts on horoscope, Talk to an Astrologer and Astrology on Demand services.
Sunzay Passari, VAS & Devices Head, Loop Mobile India, says, "In the last couple of months, we have seen an increase in the number of people seeking our Mantras@cafe and Astrology Live services. Also, the minute of usage has gone up. People ask queries pertaining to job loss, promotion, career prospects etc."
Mantras@cafe comes at a subscription charge of Rs 30/month and costs Rs 1 per minute, while Astrology Live costs Rs 6 per minute.
Madhavan Iyer, Vice President, Content Operations, Global, IMImobile, says, "We have seen a 300 per cent increase in subscriptions of astro services in the last two months." IMImobile provides Panchang and some other astro services.
Astroyogi.com also admits that it has seen a significant rise in traffic during the same period. Its astrologers have seen an increase in the number of youngsters pouring out their fears. These youngsters are mostly IT professionals or B-school graduates. Their queries mostly centre around the fear of being laid off and whether they can get better opportunities in their home country.
Meena Kapoor, CEO, Astroyogi.com, says, "In the past two months, 20 per cent of the queries received on a daily basis are about future job prospects and career problems. Our Phone Advice service has on a daily basis seen at least 9-11 callers talking about their fears regarding their career. In the last quarter, the Phone Advice service has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of callers."
For Phone Advice, depending on the astrologer, the fee can be anywhere between Rs 20 and 150 per minute. For online advice, while a celebrity astrologer can charge between Rs 500 and Rs 5,000, the in-house panel (astrologers employed by the portal) can cost between Rs 200 and Rs 2,000.
Nitish Mittersain, Chief Executive Officer of Nazara Technologies, says, "We have seen a 40-50 per cent increase in such services in the last six months. Mostly, the users are in the age group of 20-40 years."
According to Nazara, contrary to the notion that mostly women tend to seek astro help, around 65 per cent of the users of such services are men.