The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Manu Jain of VAMA
Manu Jain is co-founder and CEO of VAMA, a one-stop virtual platform that provides easy access to an array of services for one’s religious/spiritual journey.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. The Fund is a founder collective and early stage firm, by founders for founders.
India’s current population is over 1.4 billion and is set to become the world's most heavily populated country by 2030. It’s also a place with a culture and deep roots in spirituality and religion. VAMA, an acronym for Virtual Astrology and Mandir App, is growing quickly by using technology to make it easy for people to book pujas, do mandir darshan, attend a daily aarti, collect donations, receive astrology services, remedies, and more. The co-founders behind VAMA are Manu Jain, Aacharya Dev, and Himanshu Semwal and they are on a mission to make the temples of India accessible to anyone and keep faith alive digitally. While the app is only available in India at the moment, they plan to expand to the international diaspora soon. We chatted with CEO Manu Jain to find out about their journey and what’s in the stars for VAMA.
Why VAMA and why now?
My two co-founders, Himanshu and Aacharya, and I go back about a decade. All three of us were working with telecom operators in India. Before the whole mobile internet generation had come in, the only way that you could consume organized content was behind telecom operators and at the time, astrology was the most used content. When we decided to do something in the internet space, we agreed that not only astrology, but also the temple ecosystem, was a vertical that needed to be brought online. Between us, we have 30 years of experience in the space, we understand the nuances, and we’re passionate about bringing people closer to their faith and religion.
What differentiates VAMA?
The team that we have and the unique skills that each of us bring to the table. Aacharya is a third generation astrologer and gets us access to temples, which is not easy, Himanshu comes from a product background, and I have a history of partnering for distribution. Right now, there are a few platforms that provide some similar services; the large market continues to be offline and we are on a mission to build this online with our experience and strengths.
Tell us about some recent milestones that VAMA has crushed?
-One of the biggest things for us is that we are very proud of the temples that we have partnered with. For many of the temples, it’s the first time that they are coming online so there's a huge trust. In India most temples are unicorns in themselves - they don’t need money, they really want to partner with someone who understands the subject, so for them to partner with us is a huge win.
- We’ve signed distribution agreements with MX Player (a large OTT platform), and with one of the largest matrimony sites in India (Jeevansathi) along with a large distribution opportunity with a Telecom operator in India.
-We also recently raised a $1.25M seed round.
How does VAMA inspire customer love?
During COVID people couldn’t visit temples, and customers told us that we made it possible for them to see their God. Our astrology customers tell us that they appreciate that our astrologers want to solve their problem without prolonging the calls for higher prices. Faith is really a zero or one, either you have it or you don’t. For people who have it, we’re providing services that they are usually not able to get.
What have been some of the greatest challenges building VAMA?
It has been a challenge to raise capital for three first time Internet founders who are 40+ and who don't come from pedigreed education. People expect us to be much younger, especially in the India ecosystem. We also come from a corporate background so investors question whether we will just go find another job. We have been fortunate to have some people who believed in us quite early, but getting people to take you seriously and back you when you’re building is always a problem to be solved.
What makes you unique founders?
Our success, I believe, will be defined by our execution. There’s a word in Hindi that’s called junoon (जुनून), which is passion. The junoon we have for making VAMA one of the most successful companies in India is unparalleled. We wake up with a jump in our spirit to make changes each and every day; along with our diverse backgrounds and the understanding of the space, we are confident in making VAMA one of the largest platforms for Faith.
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