Serial entrepreneur Giresh Kulkarni on bridging the gap between temples and devotees in uncertain times

India, home to many Gods, has a robust devotional tenacity. Regardless of faith and religious affiliation, almost everyone has grown up watching their parents, grandparents offering prayers during festivals, celebrations, and other special occasions. These belief systems pass on from generation to generation. And so, sometimes, the values we imbibe from our parents or ancestors help us find opportunities in unlikely places.

For a dynamic and multifaceted entrepreneur, Giresh Kulkarni, who fondly calls himself a ‘temple trotter’, the idea to bridge the gap between temple and devotees started from homeBorn and brought up in a Maharashtrian Brahmin family based out of Pune, a thriving metropolis known for housing some of the most popular and most visited temples in Maharashtra, Giresh first started visiting temples with his parents. Over time, through their intent to learn more, he grew closer to his passion of knowing more about holy placesThe serial entrepreneur, primarily from the media communication and event management fraternity, then spent over two and a half-decade in the religion and spirituality industry, which also got him enough global exposure “I have closely worked with the prestigious Shree Siddhivinayak Temple, Prabhadevi temple and worked with temple trusts and management to organize the various events, namely the Maghi Mahotsav, Ganpati Festival. We also conceptualized and curated The International Temple Summit with participation from all over the globe. The summit divulged into topics related to safety, security, funds management, technology in temple management, and more. This dynamic experience helped me formulate the concept of Temple Connect, a unique devotional-tech aggregator and marketplace that documents, digitalizes, and distributes content related to over 9600 plus temples worldwide. Temple Connect is an initiative that brings convenience for the consumers or visitors in the devotional segment.”

If research is to be believed, religion and spirituality is an approximately $40 billion industry in India. When the pandemic hit the country, a sudden surge was seen in online worship and live-streaming of religious ceremonies. Ardent devotees who once thronged temples and pilgrimages now explored digital avenues to attend rituals and participate in festivities. In such a scenario, Temple Connect came to their rescue. Giresh explains, “The model is hugely content-driven, with advertising and poojan vidhi as its core. We have an application that presents an overview of all the poojas, aartis, information on various aspects of the temple, their history, trivia, and must explore options.” At present, this company that believes in Divinity Worldwide captures 7,200 plus temples across India and approx. 2400 temples under Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism worldwide.

Even though the religious landscape of India is technologically evolving and devotees are actively attending the rituals online, the entrepreneur feels merging faith and technology has been highly challenging. “More so because this market is one of the most unorganized sectors in India. We, at Temple Connect, aim to be the organizer in the game by using new-age technologies to initiate change.” The 45-year-old entrepreneur boasts of reaching over 52 countries worldwide with digital content and confesses to receiving a heartwarming response globally.

In October 2021, Giresh presented its consumers with yet another stellar offering from the Temple Connect, the Indian Puja Box – a perfect ergonomic box to manage the poojan samagri. Revealing the concept, the founder says, “Usually, we don’t organize Puja items in a standardized format. But we should decorate and beautify our temples in the best possible ways. That’s when the idea of ‘The Indian Puja Box’ was conceived.” The box is an ensemble of ingredients that can bring alive a ‘Soulful puja performance’. Each puja box contains 20 ingredients needed in the home temple, such as Agarbattis, Gangajal, Kapur, Ghee, Dhoop, Turmeric, Red Vermillion, to name some. These ingredients are specially handpicked to ensure a pure and undiluted experience.

For the unversed, Giresh ventured into entrepreneurship accidentally at the age of 17 and successfully set up Invents, an Event Management and Marketing Communications firm in India. Since then, he has never looked back. When asked, knowing what he knows now, if there is anything he would have done differently when he first started out, he candidly admits, “No! The learning has been apt, the exposure has been phenomenal, and what I could deliver has been optimum.” In the last five years, the start-up space has grown multifold. Many young entrepreneurs aspire to make the cut in the start-up ecosystem. Giresh, who is regularly invited to mentor students, advises them to research their aspirations well and plan accordingly. He also urges them not to procrastinate and take a plunge on opportunities with a swift mindset to win the game.

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(Content Exclusive for Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)

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