Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

21 Sep 2006, 12:09 p.m.

Temple Management

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Leonard and I had another wedding ceremony on Sunday; my parents were in town and wanted to see us get hitched Hindu-style. We capped off the rituals with a visit to a Ganesha-centric temple in Flushing. As I watched my parents pay a cashier, then show a receipt to a priest to request a ritual, I thought about how many temples don't even have that level of organization. Business-speak follows:

Hindu temples, like many organizations, would like to switch from cash/paper payment systems to more efficient payment tracking mechanisms. As they grow, priests stop having personal relationships with worshippers, and become labor in centralized, scheduled ritual performance. Retrofitting existing temple payment and scheduling systems for growth, efficiency, and electronics is frustrating. Most of these places face zoning and funding barriers. Right now there's a Hundi (donation box) next to each idol; donating money towards a particular god has important ritual meaning. But how much time and trust has to be spent in collecting and counting that cash money?

Temples need a holistic evaluation of their needs to determine where technology could help. Perhaps all worship stations could come equipped with smartcard-reading kiosks. Or maybe a centralized point-of-sale station, accepting credit cards and cash, could print receipts, horoscopes, ritual-completion certificates, and lists of suggested rituals. The solution must allow for at least some cash donations, non-native English speakers (preferably with support for all 14 Indian languages), and a greasy, smoky environment. (Ix-nay on the touchscreens?)

Ben suggested that such a system could even email worshippers to remind them of Today's Sanskrit Chant To-Do List. However, he and Leonard both noted that temples don't think they need this system. Talk about a barrier to sales.

So if I wanted to use this idea for my Master's project, I'd have to spend time learning this domain from the people who run Hindu temples, and whom I don't find the most likeable people in the world. And then I'd have to consider educating them about their needs so I could sell them on my whiz-bang POS or whatever. I find this opportunity technically and socially interesting, but not enough to overcome the business and social irritations. NEXT.