Astrologers look to the stars to help Indian businesses
- 10 March 2014
- From the section Business
It is another busy day for Abhishek Dhawan in Delhi. His phone has not stopped ringing and he has a series of business meetings.
Many of his business clients want to know when is the best time to release their products.
Abhishek has been studying a number of factors and charts to try to help them. But he is not a marketing guru or an economist - he is an astrologer and he uses the position of the stars and the planets as a guide to help businesses maximise their profits.
Traditionally, astrologers have helped set wedding dates or check if the stars of potential brides and grooms match up.
It is a multimillion-dollar industry that is part of everyday life in the world's largest democracy.
But now they offer a whole series of different services as well.
Go online and you will find astrologers telling you which shares to buy, while others will help you predict which way the rupee is going to move or the price of gold.
Not everyone is a believer though.
SEBI, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the organisation that regulates the country's stock market, has warned investors "not to be guided by astrological predictions on share prices and market movements".
But many here are ignoring that advice.
And that is good news for the likes of Abhishek Dhawan. His company, ask.ganesha.com, has seen the number of business clients double in the past year.
Many other online astrology companies have recorded similar growth.
He tells me: "Many businesses in India consult astrologers before launching a product as they need to know an auspicious date."
He pauses for a moment and then smiles as he says: "If the forces of nature are with you, you will have a better life - if they are against you then it will be a struggle."
When I ask Abhishek what his success rate is, he answers immediately. "Eighty per cent - this is like a science and when we make mistakes it is because people do not provide us with the correct information."
So how widespread is the use of astrology in the financial sector?
Good luck - or not?
Ramjit Ray runs a corporate communications company in Calcutta and helps some of India's largest companies market their products.
"Many companies will consult an astrologer before they name a brand," he says.
"They will want to know how many letters it should have and whether the name is going to bring them luck or not.
"Even when we are doing a large event, sometimes we will have to consult an astrologer before deciding where we place a stage."
Ramjit, who is in his early 40s, is an example of the new successful young Indian businessman. So what does he make of the use of astrology in the modern world of Indian business?
"It is an important part of our lives," he tells me unhesitatingly.
"And it is based on a logic which is related to the way that we live our lives through our religion."
'No scientific basis to it'
Not far from Ramjit's office, a group of business students is having a cup of tea.
Astrology is not part of their course, and when I ask them if they would ever use astrology for their business decisions they look at me as if I were mad.
"For me, astrology is not a factor. I would rather look at other factors like the market scenario," says Raj, one of the students.
Before I can ask him another question, his friend Alok stops sipping his tea and adds: "No way would I ever consult an astrologer - it has no scientific base to it at all."
As I walk away I can hear some of his friends murmuring: "Ridiculous, who would ever consult an astrologer on serious financial matters?"
But there is the question of whether these students' views really do reflect a changing attitude towards astrology.
Business analyst Mudar Patherya is sceptical that a new generation of Indian business leaders will turn their backs on this ancient tradition.
"Yes, there are some who think that it is all mumbo-jumbo," he says.
"But there are many others who believe that there is a science to astrology and that if you plan what you do according to the stars or the planets, your investment or product will be profitable."
That is good news for astrologers like Abhishek Dhawan. Every day he gets new requests.
His latest one is what colour a company should use to brand its new product - do the stars recommend blue for success?
He is getting ready to turn his phone off for the day and go home. Before he does - maybe I should get some financial advice.
Now, what time was I born...?