A Process Oriented Approach to Waiting Line Management in a Large Pilgrimage Center in India Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 January 2017

A Process Oriented Approach to Waiting Line Management in a Large Pilgrimage Center in India

This article documents an innovative approach to manage waiting line in the largest pilgrimage center in the world. By a judicious combination of process orientation and advances in Information Technology, the pilgrimage center’s management has been able to dramatically change the pilgrims waiting experience.

The pilgrimage location under study is Tirumala located in Andhra Pradesh state in India. The number of visitors to this important location has been steadily increasing over time. As of 2011, the location attracted approximately 30 to 40 million visitors a year.

The primary objective of a pilgrim visiting Tirumala is to have darshan of the principle deity in the temple. The secondary objectives include tonsure (shaving head as a mark of respect), offering donations, prasadam collection, thulabaram, arjitha seva (paid services), local sightseeing and shopping.

The immense popularity of the temple and its location poses significant challenges to the management of the system. This temple is a tradition bound Institution. Therefore, some alternatives to resolve pilgrim waiting time are feasible and some are not. There are some hard constraints which may not stand the test of logic.

The ability to manage the traffic volume is a function of processing rate (darshan duration) at the temple and darshan time available per day.

This case study is an example of improving operational effectiveness by using formal management methods in addressing an important real life problem in an under researched area.

This pilgrimage center is located in the extension of Western Ghats and is popularly known as Tirumala. It is considered to be the abode of Lord Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara. The temple is the richest pilgrimage center, after the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, of any faith (at more than 50,000 crore) and the most-visited place of worship in the world. This center attracts a large number of visitors from all over the country irrespective of their caste, religion, belief, social status and professional affiliation. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on average), while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world.

The temple is on Venkatadri (also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill), the seventh peak, and is also known as the “Temple of Seven Hills”. Venkatadri, the hillock residing place of Lord Venkateswara is probably one of the oldest religious institutions in India. It is known to exist for over a period of 2000 years. It has a recorded history of thousand years. Based on the recorded history, the rituals and daily routines in this sacred temple are being performed without a break for more than 1000 years.

Over a period of time Venkatadri has evolved as an epicenter of Vaishnavism. Several prominent Hindu religious institutions either have established a presence in Venkatadri or have made this as place of their administrative headquarters. Today, Venkatadri is not only a religious institution, but it has also evolved as a social institution. It supports financially a group of thirty (higher) educational institutions. Its mission is to systematically promote the study of Vedas and Sanskrit literature. The temple also provides generous financial support for construction of similar temples (Venkateswara) elsewhere in the country.

Over a period of 50 years, the number of visitors to the temple and the town has increased by eight fold. [I960(2 million), 1970(4 million), 1980(7 million), 1990(11 million), 2000(16 million), 2010(30 million)].

Such a huge traffic generates tremendous stress on the social and physical infrastructure of the temple down (Tirumala and Tirupati). Being a tradition bound organization, certain modifications (on procedure, layout etc.) are not acceptable. The devotees (exposed to modern social norms) who come to the temple expect a better service quality and shorter waiting time. Thus, the managerial challenge is to balance the tradition, operational efficiency and increasing pilgrim expectations.

Activities in the temple and the town and their management need to be also seen from a religious perspective. There is a divine dispensation in the institution, which may not be tinkered with in whatever modification(s) that are made in the facilities redesign and management of activities.


The product and its delivery

Pilgrims from all over the country arrive in the temple town. Usually they reach the foothill which is known as Tirupati. The mode of transport is rail, road (public or private transport) and air. Having reached Tirupati, those who have their own transport directly proceed to Tirumala. Some spend a few hours in sightseeing and visiting other temples and religious locations in and around Tirupati.

The distance between Tirupati and Tirumala is 19Kms. Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) operates regular services between Tirumala and Tirupati. The round trip is about 2.5 hours including waiting time at both the boarding points.

Having reached Tirumala, the pilgrims look for a suitable accommodation. There are about 5000 cottages owned and managed by TTD for pilgrim’s convenience. After (a brief) resting, pilgrims go for tonsure (there are 500 barbers who operate on a 3 shift basis; 15,000 tonsures are done in a day). The annual revenue from export of hair (from tonsure) is Rs. 100 million. Following tonsure pilgrims go for a wash and bath in the holy tank in the middle of the temple town and then join the queue for darshan. Some pilgrims on arrival at Tirumala directly join the darshan queue and after the darshan visit the tonsure centre, take a bath in the holy tank and departure to their place of residence.

There are 32 waiting compartments to house pilgrims while they await darshan. The average capacity of these compartments is 500. About 17,000 pilgrims can be held in waiting at any time. The average waiting time for darshan can vary between 2-12 hours depending on the day and season. There is tremendous uncertainty as when darshan would happen. There is also anxiety as how long is the wait. There is no (accurate) information to the pilgrims on what is ahead. Because of the commitment to the pilgrimage process, individual pilgrims go through this tedious experience with reverence and patience.

Finally on a FIFO basis, pilgrims arrive in front of the deity. The actual darshan lasts for about 1.5 to 2 seconds. However, the pilgrims can have a view of the deity from a distance of 30 meters from the main entrance. The travel time is about 45 seconds. Actually, the passage towards darshan admits a file of 6 or 7 columns of pilgrims to go through the darshan process simultaneously.

After the darshan the pilgrims donate money at the Hundi, equivalent of donation box, located inside as well as outside the temple and then leave the temple premises. The Hundi collection is about Rs. 2000 million a year. Often, they stand in another queue to receive free laddu (there are several counters that sell laddu). Approximately, 75,000 laddus are sold in a day. In view of demand and supply gap, there is rationing and restrictions on how many laddus a pilgrim can buy.

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) the administrative agency in charge of this temple provides free meal to about 25,000 persons in a day. After receipt of laddu(s) and a meal, the pilgrim returns to his cottage or wait for a transport to go Tirupati and subsequently to his place of residence.

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