The Covid pandemic has brought in big changes affecting the way many of us process death. Many enterprising entrepreneurs are, however, seeing this as a fertile time for people to re-imagine funeral practices allowing them the opportunity to pre-plan their own funeral services.
One such entreprenuer is Sanjay Ramgude, whose Sukhant Funeral Management offers people the option of pre-planning their funeral service. The firm offers various plans, including allowing people who are single or whose families do not stay with them to pre-plan their funeral service. It also offers services where families can ask it to arrange the entire funeral service after a death in the family.
Ramgude founded Sukhant (meaning ‘happy ending’) in 2014 with an intention to provide someone who has died with a dignified farewell. A cinematographer by profession, he was working in Varanasi in 1995 when the idea came to his mind. “What I realised is that if there is birth, there is death. And when death happens in a family, they usually don’t know what to do. It creates a lot of difficulty,” he said.
A pre-paid funeral costs around Rs 37,700. In case a person has pre-booked his or her funeral, the company will be in touch with the person for the rest of his or her life. Upon death, a funeral director performs the funeral service.
Ramgude presently has a team of 20 people working for him. While the majority of his 1,500 clients have availed services for Hindu funerals, the firm also provides Christian and Muslim funeral service.
To date, Sukhant has carried out close to 5,000 funerals. It ensures the grieving family is provided with funeral materials (Antyashti Samagari): sevaks (attendants) who assist with all arrangements, a pandit to preform puja, an ambulance service and morgue facility.
In many cases where the family members are NRIs or live in a different city, Sukhant ensures the person who has died has his or her funeral wishes fulfilled. “Many a times when a parent pre-plans his or her funeral, their children are not happy with the idea. However, when the person is no more, the family is too shocked and bereaved to carry out all the rites by themselves. That’s when they realise that parents’ decision to plan the funeral in advance was right,” said Ramgude.
Recently, Sukhant participated in the Indian International Trade Fare (IITF) in New Delhi. Many were intrigued by the idea, while many felt it was a good initiative. “We went to IITF not with the intention of showcasing ourselves as a business venture but to raise awareness about what we do,” Ramgude said.
“You want to be beside your loved one in that hour and if you have to keep running around for the funeral it doesn’t give you personal time with your beloved.
Being with my mom was a different experience and being by her side helped me give her a meaningful goodbye,” said Mandar Reddy (53), who had pre-booked the funeral service for his mother in 2018. His mother passed away in 2021.