MUSBA HASHMI chats with VIKAAS GUTGUTIA, Founder & MD, FernsNPetals, about his latest venture — Last Journey — a funeral service, how the idea hit him and what the future holds for the industry
It goes without saying that the year 2020 has tested us on all levels — mental, physical and emotional. While many of us lost a lot in the year, be it jobs, businesses or our loved ones, some did try to find hope even in the smallest of the joys.
And when one talk about losses, there is no way one can compensate for a loss of a loved one. However, what we can do is to become a part of their sorrow and help them sail through it, if not more. Taking up this cause, FernsNPetals launched a new venture — Last Journey, a service which will help one conduct dignified last rites for their loved ones, while one mourn the loss.
Vikaas Gutgutia, Founder & MD, Ferns N Petals, tells you that professional help is needed for anything and everything and that is why they came up with Last Journey. “I realised that there is a huge vacuum in funeral organising segment. All the rituals are done by the families themselves. But now with more nuclear families coming up and time scarcity being a real issue, I thought professional help would be required for people to go through this process smoothly,” he explains.
From transportation and ambulance facility to informing friends & relatives and from bookings and arranging items for cremation services to floral and freezer box arrangement, everything is taken care of in the service.
“Not only this but the service also covers organising prayer meetings such as chautha/tehravin ceremonies, hygienic food arrangement for the guests, booking of bhajan singers, personalised remembrance ceremony, writing and publishing obituaries, priest/pandit booking and asthivisarjan services too,” Gutgutia tells you.
The cost of the services depends on what all facilities one is looking forward to. They start from Rs 5,000 and go up to Rs 5,00,000.
Every new business teaches one thing or the other and so is the case here. “There is a new learning with every case that we handle. In these last four-five months we have learnt about new rituals and traditions. We are getting to know about the different communities and their way of saying goodbye to their loved ones,” he says. It goes without saying that the service caters to every religion, cast and community.
He tells you that initially when they started Last Journey, people were not organising prayer meets because of the pandemic. But now, it has started with limited numbers. “As we move forward, we will actually get to see the true colour of Last Journey. Also, at present the service is only for Delhi-NCR but in the coming few months we plan to extend it to the metros first and then Tier-II and Tier-III cities as well. May be we will take the franchising route to expand the services quickly,” he says.
With Last Journey, Gutgutia’s aim is to be a game-changer in the segment. “We are constantly working on to improve the quality and features of everything. We see a lot of possibilities of newer ideas and innovation to make it smoother and more desirable,” he says.
Till date, he says, the brand has organised at least 800 funerals.
“We are not handling Corona-related cases, that is solely the Government’s part to do. But there are certain cases wherein a patient died in home quarantine because of some complication so we do handle such cases. In fact, out of these 800 cases one or two have been COVID cases but otherwise it is under the Government only,” he adds.
He tells you that the team reaches the place within an hour or as soon as possible depending on how far the place is.
“We have a 24 hours hotline. One can call up and book the services anytime. One can book the service for a day or two or may be for more days, as per their requirement,” he says.
Gutgutia says he didn’t have any apprehensions before launching the venture, even though it was during Corona.
“There were no apprehensions as such. Because it is the time people are exploring options that are easy and can give them time and space to mourn the loss. On the contrary, the Corona situation has helped us grow faster,” he says.
He says that there is a kind of thought process involved when one enters into this business.
“There are some people who would ask what kind of a business is this? You are making money out of someone’s death. But I feel that this is a big business in foreign countries and is widely accepted there. We celebrate everything in life, but when death is considered it is nothing but a taboo. It is the time when a beautiful soul leaves the earth, it’s the final journey of a person and how can we run away from this fact of life. I feel we are helping the grieving families with this service and people have accepted it nicely. In the coming few years, we wouldn’t be surprise to have more funeral planners than wedding planners in our country,” he tells you.
Ask Gutgutia if it is hard to handle so many deaths daily and he is quick to reply — not at all.
“Death is an emotion that we weren’t connected with at all. But now, the day you arrive into the world and the day you leave, FernsNPetals is with you all through. Death is not a taboo. You live everyday, but you die one day. It is very important to celebrate that day,” he says.
However, there are a few employees in the team who are laid down by fear but others work just fine. “There have been a couple of employees who said: Sir, mujhey to shamshaan ghat ke sapney aate hain main nahin kar paunga. We can’t do anything about them and they are free to go but the others are fine. And generally, we have received positive feedback from our clients and they feel that this service was very much required today,” he tells you.