In an exclusive article shared with Elets News Network (ENN) Suresh Suresh Sankaranarayanan, Chief Technology Officer, Kotak Mahindra General Insurance Co. shares his experience on how the sudden outbreak of the pandemic has affected millions of lives and livelihoods globally and what role the tech-leaders can play in ensuring smoothening of operations by re-strategising their action plans.
A few days back, I read an interesting forwarded message on Whatsapp; It read If Coronavirus was to submit its performance appraisal form for 2020, one of the strongest points in its favour will be the fact that it was responsible for global digital transformation and fast-tracking of digital aspirations. Isn’t it so true? What a lot of CEO’s & CXO’s aspired to do, the pandemic just fast-tracked for them within 6 months! So, what are the learnings for all of us here?
For me, the biggest takeaway is that we have to always be future-ready. What worked over the years, can change overnight. Did any of us think that the world will suddenly come to a grinding halt one day and everyone will be confined to their own space without any physical interactions with others? Or for that matter, we will work from the comfort of our homes for such a long period of time? But, when the time came, we did and many of us continue to do so successfully. By now, all of us know that work from home is here to stay in some form or another. As an organization, we have acknowledged this and are looking at leveraging the power of technology and the reach of internet to make it easier and more efficient.
Be it sales, customer service, or claims, we have been able to successfully develop and deploy digital platforms & technologies to make sure we are able to reach and serve our customers without any interruptions. The entire cycle of buying, from prospecting to onboarding to delivering a claims experience can be handled digitally. For example, today our surveyors are able to assess and settle vehicle claims completely end to end digitally. Similarly, features like co-browsing can help contact centre representatives guide customers step by step online, for servicing their requirements. A large part of our front-end force is able to issue policies digitally sitting in the comfort of their homes. While the general insurance industry has been notoriously famous for being a paper-based business, the pandemic has changed this forever. Traditional fence-sitters who were wary of going digital have converted. Investments in digital and technology will continue to be a focus area for everyone, without an exception!
There can’t be more emphasis on innovation than now. Innovation will be a discipline in itself and will encompass all areas, be it product innovation, process innovation, pricing or distribution innovation. Brands and businesses that have a clear innovation focus are the ones that will survive. For example, with work from home here to stay, the frequency of daily commute is coming down significantly. Is there an opportunity for insurers here, in terms of product pricing innovation?
Tech-enabled solutions like pay per usage products will see increased adoption and insurers are likely to launch more such products. Another area that is seeing a lot of traction is the preventive health and wellness space. The pandemic has taught us the importance of health and we are more aware and conscious than ever before. To put some context to this, health insurance as a category has witnessed more than 10% growth* in the first six months, while motor insurance has de-grown. This increased awareness and demand, coupled with the availability of digital platforms have led to skyrocketing of remote consultations, not only in healthcare, but also in the wellness space like online yoga lessons, training, nutrition consultations etc. Bundling all of this with a good health insurance policy and delivered digitally to the customer can be a gamechanger.
Similarly, customer experience is likely to play a bigger role than ever before for the general insurance industry. Let me illustrate this through an example. While buying your favorite pair of shoes or a swanky new mobile on your favorite e-com portal online, there is a lot of excitement around the product, its attributes like the look, colors etc. Compared to this, there is no such excitement while buying an insurance policy. Little differentiation in products, adds to the dullness. And the problem is further accentuated if it was to be sold remotely. So building an unforgettable digital experience via platforms will go a long way in offering incredible customer experience. The power of 3Vs – Voice, Video & Vernacular is likely to increase adoption. Especially so, when insurance players are looking at going beyond traditional markets to reach first-time insurance buyers in rural India. Websites and apps are going multi-lingual, so are the interactive voice response systems. We may not be far from moving towards a use case where the web browser tracks your location and serves you content in your native language.
What the pandemic has done is unprecedented, affecting millions of lives and livelihoods globally. Businesses and industries have vanished or transformed. While the general insurance growth has been flat, we are witnessing some green shoots. This is the perfect time to view this as an opportunity to be future-ready, innovate continuously and invest in futurist technologies and platforms and usher growth for the industry to serve more people. What we have gained as an industry shouldn’t be ceded.
Wishing everyone a healthy and safe new year.
*Source: Segment-wise Business Numbers, Sept 2020, General Insurance Council.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by the author are personal and not that of the company
Authored by Suresh Suresh Sankaranarayanan, Chief Technology Officer, Kotak Mahindra General Insurance Co.