In Kerala, people ready to spend up to ₹10 lakh on funerals

With a large diaspora, the State is now seeing event management companies cash in, while families choose to personalise the experience

June 22, 2023 11:36 am | Updated 12:19 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

On demand: A funeral service firm comes in handy when a grieving family is overwhelmed with a list of tasks.

On demand: A funeral service firm comes in handy when a grieving family is overwhelmed with a list of tasks. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sanjay George Mathew, an entrepreneur who founded Coconadu Event Management, Thiruvalla, in 2010, received a call from a United Kingdom-based Malayalee seeking the details of funeral services offered by his firm. The man at the other end of the phone asked for every detail, ending by seeking a costing.

“He also wanted the cost of including a procession from the hospital to home and then to the church, all accompanied by a motor cavalcade of black Royal Enfield bikes,” said Mr. Mathew. “He nonchalantly added that his father had been admitted in a private hospital in Kochi, and was on the ventilator, so he was readying for the funeral service in a few days.”

Thanks to Kerala’s burgeoning non-resident diaspora, especially from the Christian community, the funeral ‘market’ in Kerala is getting bigger with more personalisation involved. Generally, the cost of the service ranges from ₹50,000 to ₹10 lakh. Individual elements can take costs up. For instance, a casket is available at ₹4,500 but also at ₹1 lakh, depending on the wood and other accoutrements.

Irinjalakuda’s Kayros Funeral Service that has a five-star rating on Google, owns a large fleet of ambulances and custom-made hearses featuring details like glass panels and satin curtains. He says there were only a few firms pre-pandemic that provided these services. “At the height of COVID some event management firms opened their businesses to this when all public events, including marriages, were banned,” says Pinto Chittilappilly, a manager with the company.

Services offered by agencies include corpse dressing, live funeral bands, live-streaming of the event, decorating the casket and grave, and anything else a family may ask for. Among the various components, make-up of the deceased plays an important role in the ‘package’. “Overseas relatives and people close to the deceased want to see the body in a more life-like appearance,” says Mr. Mathew. Foundation is applied, along with lipstick and eyeshadow. Most ask for a light touch-up, but many ask for heavier make-up, given that this will be the last time a person is seen.  

While requests to dress the deceased in a blazer, suit, or jacket are common, there are also seemingly peculiar asks that companies do not question nor pry into. “Recently, an overseas client asked me to have the deceased wear a set of Ray-Ban sunglasses,” says Mr. Mathew. Appearances are important as the entire programme is live-streamed mainly for the benefit of overseas relatives, especially children unable to attend.

The casket is decorated with flowers and lights, security is provided if needed, and staff is deployed to take care of the guests. The procession to the church or crematorium, and the feast after are the responsibility of the event management company.

Paul Jiffy in Thrissur, who recently made use of the funeral service of a firm, said hiring them was practical. Often a number of tasks can overwhelm a nuclear family or one that has come from out of town, and is grief-stricken. Mr. Jiffy feels light make-up makes it dignified, as the body is placed for public homage. “The company takes inputs from family members, keeping the aesthetic essence of the person in mind. This is an important aspect of the service,” he feels.

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