Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thirukadaiyur: Religious Business

Shashtiabdapoorthi, Bheema Ratha Santhi and Sadabhishekam are very important decennial events for Hindu men, atleast in Tamil Nadu. I wouldn't go into details of each, you could Google and figure it out yourself. But it would be worthwhile to surmise that Thirukadaiyur is the place that one goes to when they hit 60, 70 and 80 to offer prayers to the Divine Being. You may either click here or here to get more information. Despite whatever I claim about my leanings on religion, mythology interests me a lot.

Well, what interests me equally is management.

I went to the temple, recently, on my father's 70th birthday to perform Bheema Ratha Santhi. And in Thirukadaiyur, I observed excellent practice of management principles. The temple and its happenings reminded me an excellent market place, replete with fierce competition. While Thirupathi is a very large market with many unorganized players, Thirukadaiyur is a perfect oligopoly. There are just a few, what I would call long-life pooja, service providers.

  1. Division of labour: Each of the service provider had a great organization structure. While the main vaathiyar is the CEO, the initial archanas are performed by an employee (junior kurukkal) before handing over the client to a senior kurrukkal for performing homams. Not only that, the front office is manned by another set of staff with primary responsibility of ushering in the acquired customer. Players in the client servicing and hospitality industry have loads to learn from these set of efficient operators. Everyone has a distinct role and process is followed to the hilt. 
  2. Usage of common infrastructure: The temple management is quite business-friendly providing a set of infrastructure that the operators can use, more like plug-and-play. Be it space within the temple or the musicians (read mela thalam) or even the elephant. I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite extreme hostility between different operators, the common resources were being used quite effectively without any tensions. It was quite funny to see the pachyderm marching up and down the corridor from the entrance gate till the main door of the temple, meticulously accompanying the couple who perform the pooja. In fact, I am sure that the elephant probably has such a huge practice that even if the mahout is not there, it will do its job.
  3. Partnering: Photographer and the hotel staff are the business partners. It is a win-win two-way relationship. The photographers also double up as collection agents.
  4. Packages: What I found discriminatory about the pooja is that there was a different package for poojas for Brahmins and Non-Brahmins. I don't know what is the difference between these two packages. If I have one suggestion to these religious men. The packages should not be based on caste but ability to pay by customers. The service/package could differentiated be based on the duration of the homams.
Most importantly, the business runs on word-of-mouth. One customer leading to the next. But that doesn't mean the businessmen of religion take it easy. There are good customer service practice, there are marketing collateral in the form of small shloka books and even presence on the Internet.

The entire structure is so good, even God can't complain! Though, He or She may want a cleaner temple.
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