Technology is turning astrology into a billion dollar industry

Unlike the traditional Janam Kundlis, start-ups seem to have found the mix of ancient astrology and AI/ML. Since the onset of the pandemic, demand and supply in the Indian astrology market has witnessed a notable uptick supported by capital investments and the use of algorithms. The millennial’s growing appetite for clarity has indeed proven the comfortable coexistence of technology and astrological beliefs, but it comes with its own set of security issues.

Although astrology and technology are at two different ends of the spectrum for the most part, one thing that has remained common between them since day one is data collection. Astrology is basically based on personal information, including name, date of birth, and residence. Its status among young people is fueled by Instagram meme accounts and venture-backed apps that use a combination of algorithms, AI, and ML to provide solutions based on stars and planetary positions.

Since 1930, when the first horoscope column appeared in Britain’s Sunday Express, astrology has come a long way. The column was produced during the stock market crash when people were lost, scared and looking for advice. Fast forward to 2022 and people are still struggling to get those answers in light of the recent pandemic.

Recently, ‘Zodiac Affinity’, a playlist generator based on a user’s Spotify listening habits and star sign, was launched and reviews on social media platforms indicate that users seem happy with the playlists. readings generated. Additionally, “Bumble” users in the United States can now access the new Astrology channel in the conversations screen in Bumble’s Date mode.

Around the world, interest in astrology was already experiencing something of a renaissance. According to Google Trends, searches for “birth chart” and “astrology” both hit five-year highs in 2021, and several astrology businesses took off.

In India, a dozen of these companies have accumulated INR 130 crore in the first months of 2021, three times the combined amount raised by these start-ups in the previous five years. The Indian spiritual and religious market is estimated at over $40 billion, of which the horoscope space alone is worth $10 billion.

In July 2021, the former CEO of ‘Gaana’, a famous music streaming platform Prashan Agarwal has teamed up with a former Nexus partner to launch a spiritual wellness platform ‘IMO’. OMI has raised an undisclosed amount of funds from Nexus Ventures.

In the same year, “AppsForBharat”, an app development company focused on spiritual and devotional needs, raised $4 million in its funding round from Sequoia Capital India and BEENEXT Ventures. Existing investor WEH Ventures also participated in the round.

In 2019, a graduate of IIT-Bombay created Taaraka, an astrology service app that grows from INR 12 lakh to INR 15 lakh per month and simultaneously grows by 40%. It currently has around 200,000 registrations and an average monthly user base of 50,000.

The main leaders of a batch of astrological apps have found a devoted following over the past year. They each claim to be more personalized than ever due to algorithmic and live readings, as well as capital in the “mystical services” space.

Despite the ongoing astro-tech movement, it has been reported that over 40 or nearly three-quarters of all companies have yet to receive funding.

Security and privacy issues

In March 2021, Avast and VPNCheck published a list of 134 scam apps with around 500 million downloads available on AppStore. Several astrology apps, including “Path”, “Nebula” and “Life Palmistry”, were on the list which raises questions about security and privacy concerns for users.

Founded in 2008, AstroSage ‘Kundli’ requires current residency of the user. Although they are considered “entertainment” apps by the iOS App Store and Google Play, the information they require is quite personal and real.

The privacy risks here are not just for those who use them. For example, astrology frequently involves compatibility assessments requiring information about family, friends, and partners. The privacy policies of these apps state that sensitive information is “anonymized” and therefore cannot be traced back to an individual. However, this is not necessarily true in practice.

Superstition or science?

Psychologist Graham Tyson revealed in his 1982 study that “people who consult astrologers” do so because of stressors in their lives, particularly stress “related to the individual’s social roles and relationships” , Tyson explained. “Under high stress conditions the individual is ready to use astrology as a coping device, even under low stress conditions which he does not believe in.”

For now, with social media serving up Mercury memes in retrograde and modern life offering little spiritual support, the revival of astrology appears to be here to stay.

Lance B. Holton