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The Rise Of Private Entities In India's Funeral Services Space The scope of work across emerging deathcare startups are diverse and innovative while being cost efficient for the masses

By Rishabh Jalan

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India is a prime example of how an economy can grow leaps and bounds if doors for the private players are open and encouraging schemes are deployed. With privatization, progress has come and at a macro level desirable outcomes such as cost reduction, risk transfer, and a good source of revenue followed. Diving deep at a micro level, improved infrastructure, better service options, and increased efficiency has benefited the consumer pool at large. For a country like India that has successfully integrated technology across all sectors, it comes as a surprise that a nation where death is treated with such respect and dignity, the funeral sector remains rather stagnant.

Right from the machinery to the infrastructure as well as the lack of organized entities for seamless coordination, India has been deprived of organizations that can make a difference. However, in the last few years, efforts have been made by young entrepreneurs who with an empathetic and scientific approach have tried to address this gap. Organized funeral services providers also referred to as deathcare startups have made quite the buzz and had mixed reception from the masses but the paradigms have started changing as more people sense the urgency for accountability and better practices.

Private players in the funeral sector are with the motive to coexist alongside public establishments, their rationale remains to provide an alternative option for people to choose from; their stakeholders are drawing parallels from the coexistence of private and public hospitals. The rise of private entities in India's funeral services space has allowed the integration of new technologies and state-of-the art infrastructure, along with stringent SOPs to ensure standardization across vendors. Amidst the covid horrors, anecdotes of many grief stricken families surfaced, entailing terrible experiences at crematoriums and multiple episodes of exploitation.

The scope of work across emerging deathcare startups are diverse and innovative while being cost efficient for the masses. From 24x7 mortuary ambulance services to freezer box, cremation ground coordination, etc; along with international repatriations, pet burials, grief counseling have gained significant demand in the market. Favorable factors such as price uniformity, accountability, faster turn-around-time of services, all-in-one packages are driving the growth of private last-rites organizations. Some players such have come forth with initiatives to revamp cremations infrastructure by installation of new machinery and increasing sustainability. Many entities are also going international to provide emergency services for distressed Indians (or people of Indian origins) in foreign countries.

The inclusive nature of private organizations have led to joint campaigns wherein grief counselors, nature activists, and some NGOs have also collaborated. Recently, some stakeholders highlighted on social media the landmark decision of March 9th, 2018, when a five-Judge Bench comprising Dipak Misra CJI, A K Sikri, A. M. Khanvilkar, D Y Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan JJ held that 'the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.' This has been highlighted in order to pan the focus of netizens to how things within the unorganized space are jeopardizing this and also to perpetually lead focus onto the need for private funeral organizers.

It is now more than ever, a high time for stringent rules to be instituted and it is imperative for the greater good of the society that authorities allow favorable schemes in favor of these entities, provide provisions of their safeguard and also have dedicated budgets for infrastructural development at municipal level. The future of India's Death Care holds excellent growth potential but requires spreading awareness among people on a vast scale. Currently, the industry stands at just over USD 3.5 billion in India, which is a long way from USD 0.98 billion back in 2008; therefore, it is evident that India's death care industry is at a positive growth tangent and will continue to grow in the coming years.

Rishabh Jalan

CEO and co-founder of Last Journey

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