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This IIT-Bombay grad is bringing astrology and technology together at his startup, Taaraka

IIT-Bombay graduate Jikku Abraham was always the person friends and family would go to for advice even when he was young. He became their personal counsellor and life coach, and, in a lot of ways, helped them navigate the ups and downs of life.

While growing up, Jikku found himself drawn to occult sciences, philosophy, and spirituality, but had to put it on the back burner after college.

After starting up and then moving on from a number of his own companies, as well as a three-year stint with engineering prep service, IITians PACE, he decided to follow his passion, and founded Taaraka in 2018.

Mumbai-based Taaraka provides astrology services to consumers via an Android and iOS mobile app. It calls itself a “self-discovery app” that provides people daily insights about their lives.

What’s unique about Taaraka is that it uses tech and automation to provide a lot of its services. Jikku, a certified Vedic astrologer and a true blue engineer, says tech can not only help an astrologer “perform 10X-100X their ability”, but also use algorithms to standardise operations.

Taaraka uses tools such as data sciences, AI/ML, and algorithms throughout its functioning, like making horoscope reading real-time and hyperpersonal, for example.

Scaling consistent quality is a huge challenge when it comes to astrology, but we get around it by using data sciences and algorithms along with our pedagogy to augment an expert to perform at many notches above their usual performance,” Jikku tells YS.

“Our vision is to increase the spiritual quotient of the universe,” he adds.

Taaraka’s platform currently has around 200,000 signups, and a monthly average user base of 50,000. It has been clocking Rs 12 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per month, and growing at 40 percent, per month.

Business model

Taaraka offers several products and services on its app, at varying scales.

Services such as curated guided meditations, spirituality, philosophy, and motivational content are free on the app for all users, regardless of whether they buy paid services.

The second product it offers on the app is Ask-a-Question, which allows users to ask astrologers enlisted on the app one question of their choice for Rs 299 on the Android app, and Rs 499 on the iOS app. The question can be about anything — from life problems to business issues, Jikku explains. The startup strives to respond to the question within 24 hours after studying the user’s horoscope.

“We are building automation here in an unprecedented manner to operate at scale. Astrologers don’t have profiles on the app, but we’ve realised that it’s not a blocker for our target audience that is more concerned with seeking top-quality guidance versus unnecessary bells and whistles around the expert or the platform,” Jikku says.

Its premium product is expert sessions — for 20 minutes and 60 minutes — over a Zoom or a WhatsApp call where users can discuss their horoscopes, or seek astrology-led counselling and guidance from experts. Taaraka charges users Rs 1,499 for the 20-minute session and Rs 3,999 for 60 minutes.

“Most of the customers are delighted with the Ask-a-Question product, and they keep asking questions at regular intervals. Those who want the adventures of self-discovery and enlightening to continue end up becoming our premium customers,” Jikku says.

The startup claims it has a paying customer base of 10,000 users.

Funding and market

Taaraka has so far raised a seed round from Blume Ventures, and is looking to raise its next round soon. Currently accessible in 37 countries globally, the startup says its 0-1 journey is still focussed on strengthening its user base in India.

“Our core focus till we attain a million transacting user base will be India. We’re not in a hurry,” remarks Jikku.

The startup’s other co-founders include Lokesh Bathija, a product and tech expert who has worked with the likes of Morgan Stanley, and Marina Emmatty, the head of Taaraka’s operations who was previously with Capgemini.

Taaraka’s peers include startups such as AstroYogi, AstroBuddy, AstroTalk, Astrosage, AstroVed, GaneshaSpeaks, and others, in the currently fast-growing online astrology space.

The market has evolved so rapidly in the last few months that even independent astrologers have now taken to consulting over WhatsApp chats in the pandemic-induced ‘new normal’.

Global studies and media reports indicate that online astrology platforms recorded a 20 to 30 percent increase in traffic during the lockdowns last year.

The Indian spiritual and religious market is estimated to be worth over $40 billion, of which the horoscope space alone is worth $10 billion. While the entirety of the global astrology market hasn’t been mapped yet, there is a clear, discernable proliferation in the number of startups providing these services, and the number of users availing them.

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