Understand digital insurance and its changing trends with Atul Mehta

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

This People of Insurance edition is a little different. This month, we got two insurance experts together that has been a part of the insurance industry for years! First, let’s introduce our guest Atul Mehta. Atul is the Executive President at Go Digit, a general insurance company that offers products like health, car, bike, and travel insurance, to name a few.

 

They have become one of the fastest-growing insurance companies, being the first Unicorn of 2021, and now valued at $3.5B. They have built a name for themselves. Whether you have seen their ad campaigns with Virat Kohli or have read about them in your morning newspaper, we are sure you have not missed out on who they are.

 

Interviewing Atul Mehta today is Assurekit’s Chief business officer Abhinav Gujral. Abhinav has been a key person in building the right direction for Assurekit. With almost 2 decades of experience in the industry and having worked with the top insurance companies of India, he has plenty of insight into the world of insurance.

 

This edition of People of insurance is one you absolutely cannot miss.

 

Let’s get into it!

Abhinav –


Digit has had a fantastic year in terms of revenue and growth. You have been able to adapt to the changing world quite rapidly, tell us what the backend was like, how has it been for you?


Atul


Thanks a lot, Abhinav. You’ve been very generous with your praise on Digit and I feel very humbled to hear such good things about the work we are doing. It’s always a matter of pride and pleasure for us that we are part of such a winning team.


To put things in perspective. About four years ago when all of us were on the drawing board as to how we will really look at the shape of this organization, one thing which was at the centre of it was simplicity and innovation and obviously, all of that blending very well with as much technology as we can use to simplify the end customer and the distributor-partner experience and I think somewhere this has worked out well for us and has led to a lot of firsts for the company and the industry. We have succeeded in the way we have modelled ourselves by keeping everything lean, challenging the status quo and going with our learnings on a day-to-day basis. So, I think the real success I would say is more from the core team and all the people who work on the ground to make this organization what it is and backed by our superior technology, which we keep evolving as we cross each milestone.


I think all of this comes together in a very customer friendly or user-friendly format, which I think the industry has appreciated. Even from an external standpoint, we get a lot of good voices of appreciation when others look at our platform and the way our customer journeys are embedded. So, I think that gives us a lot of satisfaction. Yet in technology, everything catches up. You yourself are a tech company and you would know what is relevant today might not be relevant maybe after six months or so. Innovation is something which we have to constantly be conscious of and there is always something more one can do, which we keep trying.


I think this is what Digit is all about. We are often termed as an online player. I would like to clarify that we are actually a digital company first and not really an online player.


Online is just a portion of our business, which is true for the entire industry per se. When we say digital, we mean we use technology to reach the customer and distributor. Secondly, we are completely paperless. We use technology in every aspect of every sphere of insurance operation. It could be as basic as a quotation or settling a claim through video streaming. So digital is the way we have modelled ourselves.


Abhinav –


That’s a great outlook, I clearly echo whatever you have just said, in fact, three important takeaways are :

– Digital Insurance

– Technology

– Innovation

being the key to sustaining and growing.


I truly believe Digit is definitely very innovative when it comes to products. I’ve personally seen several products being advertised in a very different way. I remember that there was some campaign where you had children look at the terms of the policies and give their views, which was very unique and very different. I think it worked very well.


Of course, you guys are doing well. Given that you have been able to bring in a lot of competitive edges as compared to any other insurance till now in so many years. So, it’s phenomenal. Of course, digital insurance is definitely an important factor. That’s exactly what I think. I would like to talk more about it now and ask you more about it. So just to simplify the question.


I want to understand, what according to you is digital insurance?


Atul – If you look at any insurance transaction, there are two very important points in it. One is the customer side of it and the other is the delivery side of it, which could be directly from the insurer, or from the distributor, who in turn is aligned with the insurance company.


To bridge this, there were and still are, the traditional methods; there is a human handshake, wherein there is personal contact, a proposal form, certain interaction or discussion questions where queries are answered in a verbal dialogue or even in a written form. That happens even today in rural business lines. All of this then eventually culminates into an insurance quotation of premium payment and a policy generation. So that is s one aspect of it.


When we say digital Insurance, let’s simply say that anything, which is paperless and is being driven by a tech system, where the entire customer journey is embedded on a technology platform offered by the insurer or by the distributor running an API can be called digital insurance.


So, essentially right from the word “Go” a customer can query digitally, or a customer can seek quotations, or a distributor can reach out, digitally pushing a link for the literature of the product.


The product demonstration to the customer, its benefits can be done over a tab on a computer or laptop or any handheld device. They can generate a quotation based on the information that is put in the system. It can also assist the user in collating or populating the information one might need to issue a quotation or a proposal for the policy.


For example, keying in the registration number in a motor insurance case and populating the entire details of the vehicle saves a lot of typing time.


That also solves a lot of endorsement errors subsequently and then eventually agreeing on the transaction price and paying the premium again, which is paid through online modes of now various banking channels or cards. Then a policy pop-up, which again is digital.


So, I think digital insurance is all about streamlining the customer and the distributor’s experience in a way that there is minimum human intervention. The human intervention is only during the context-setting or running the transactions in a particular fashion and the end output and the user experiences are all on the digital medium. This could be a portal or could be via any handheld device.


I think that’s a very simple way to describe digital insurance per se. All products today in the modern form barring a few can be structured and put on the digital platform for end-to-end user experience.

 

Abhinav – So nicely put. In other words, we can also say that digital insurance is nothing but a contactless journey. As you know, we don’t really want any human contact nowadays because of the pandemic situation which has happened in the country and across the globe.


So, coming to the pandemic side of things.


How do you think digital insurance has been affected by the pandemic?


Atul –


Firstly, it created a handicap where there was no way to reach out to people who want to buy insurance, who want to make a premium payment other than the digital means. Furthermore, obviously, other distribution curves or distribution channels had to quickly adapt to the ways of selling digitally.


Let’s take an example. Suppose today if I am a transacting agent with an insurance company and there was lockdown in March of 2020. There was no way I could reach out to, let’s say, my customer Abhinav who wants to buy an insurance policy.


I’d have to pick up the phone, explain it to him, maybe push a link for a quotation or a premium payment or even help him do his own transaction digitally. I think all of this picked up steam and people or entities who are not up to date or were not investing enough have now put in a lot of investment to push this piece through.


We have seen that humans adapted to the situation very very fast, but technology helps us do that. That’s what the digital mediums have done in the pandemic situation.


2) The insurance distribution, the curve has only expanded. The market shrunk maybe in terms of the premium only momentarily. The line-wise mix could have changed, but definitely, there was a wider reach to the customer base and more people can now be contacted in lesser time. A lot of efficiencies have come in.


3) All processes and operations, which required a lot of human actions without any concrete results also got wiped out in the process. The processes have also become more streamlined.


4) Companies that were already ahead of the curve excelled even more. One such case in question was us. We had this “handicap” of being paperless in the practical world. . There is this positive side to our business model where everything is digital. So, we just picked steam and ran with it. So, I think this helped us in a big way.

 

Abhinav –


Definitely Atul. Absolutely, for your company, you had an advantage of being a digital organization and already had things in place, but there were many other companies, of course, who probably had to evolve, just in a very short time. I do see a lot of companies have evolved and they also try to come up with digital ways of doing business and, you know, of course, that’s definitely going to be there for many, many years to come.


What trends do you see? That would be coming now from a digital insurance perspective going to the pandemic and even otherwise?

 

Atul – So, I think one thing which will clearly happen and we are seeing a lot of progress in, is the area of – one set of intermediation channels or even through one intermediation channel an insurer or an intermediary can reach out to a much wider audience in terms of customer or even intermediary network in a very big way.


So, there are entities that are expanding far and wide using technology and resources in a more optimal fashion. I think the distribution curve net has widened.


More and more people are coming in to buy insurance. I think that is a clear positive fallout of the way technology is being used.


The other piece is that customization or segmentation of products has picked steam. So earlier, there were a lot of entities who were offering cliched and conventional solutions. Now with more digital play involved, I think the customer choice becomes primary.


People are questioning the status quo and asking for more solutions. So more segmentation has come in and this is the way forward. Very early days, but I think going forward, higher segmentation will come in. You will see more product variations.

A wider audience is now within the reach of an insurer or distributor. As a customer also, there are several options available now on various platforms, which the customer can avail.


Earlier this was very geography-driven. The expansion could happen only depending on your physical infrastructure. However, if you see today, with the use of technology, you can actually go to every nook and corner of the country.


So, you have distributors today who are working with 500 to 50,000 distribution points or point-of-sale using their technology network, having  APIs with various insurance companies, and physically, they could be present only in about 15 or 17 centres. That was unheard of earlier. This picked steam in the past two years and the past one year, this has come up in a very big way.


So I think the trend is:

– With minimum resources present on the physical side, the maximum or optimum utilization of resources will happen on the technology side, which will give a larger output in insurance premium and customer delivery.


Conclusion


There you have it, a deep dive into what digital insurance means, how it was affected by the pandemic and what unheard trends have we seen in the past years. This was part 1 of our POI edition with Atul Mehta, sign up to get notified when we release part 2. Where we will be discussing changes in customer behaviour, how to not confuse your customer and what is Digit focusing on for the next 5-10 years?

Stay tuned for more!

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