Now, the mountain will come to you — in virtual reality

Venkatesh Ganesh Bengaluru | Updated on March 30, 2018 Published on March 30, 2018

A priest tries out a VR headset at Durgaparameshwari Temple in Mangaluru

Start-up Kalpnik provides VR headsets to help perform, attend religious rituals

A Bengaluru-based start-up has come up with a new way to appease the Gods.

With websites and religious trusts enabling live-streaming of poojas, Kalpnik, the start-up, is giving virtual reality (VR) headsets to people to help them perform, attend religious rituals.

So with a smartphone and an internet connection, a person can get a 360-degree ‘live darshan’ of Siddhi Vinayak or a special sermon at a church.

“The objective is to recreate for the devotee, the experience of being physically present at the event,” said co-founder John Kuruvilla, who was MD of GenNext Ventures, a Reliance Industries-sponsored fund. The app, called VR Devotee, is available for Android and iOS users. Further, the VR headset has to be bought, which the start-up is looking to price at ₹150. Kuruvilla said the need for such an app came about when his and co-founder Ashwini Garg’s parents couldn’t visit religious places due to physical ailments.

“When my mother said she wanted to visit Parumala Church (in Kerala), but was unable to do so, that got me thinking on how that experience can be replicated for people like her,” Kuruvilla said. When a similar problem was expressed by Garg, Kuruvilla started thinking about augmented and virtual reality technology, which, among other things, is used by the US military to train soldiers and in flight training schools as well as games.

The start-up has so far distributed 50 such headsets and live-streamed from 15 religious institutions such as ISKCON temple at Chowpatty, Mumbai, and Karmanghat Hanuman temple in Hyderabad. Kuruvilla claimed 50,000 app downloads in a couple of months is a testimony to the under-served demand for such services.

Investors also have followed suit. In January, Kalpnik raised $500,000 in angel funding, led by Venture Catalysts India’s first incubator, with investments from Rajan Anandan, Vice-President and MD, Google India, amongst others. The revenue model of the firm will be built around making the app available on subscription basis. “We plan to charge around ₹25 for specific rituals such as Mahamastakabhisheka, Raghavendra Saptaaha Mahotsavam in Udipi, and others,” Kuruvilla said.

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Published on March 30, 2018
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