Insurance industry to remain high-touch human-oriented but with digitisation: Shyam Seshadri, Head, Innovations Lab, TATA AIG

Shyam Sheshadri

The pandemic brought several significant changes across the industries and insurance sector is no different. From being a forced product to a demand driven entity, insurance industry travelled a long way to embrace tech-based changes to self-serviced customers. To understand the frequently changing market and consumer needs and rising role of disruptive technologies, Rashi Aditi Ghosh of Elets News Network (ENN) interacted with Shyam Seshadri, Head, Innovations Lab, TATA AIG.

Excerpts of the conversation

1. Insurance in India has traditionally been a high-touch, human-oriented industry. What major changes did you witness post the Covid outbreak?

The pandemic has brought in a drastic number of changes, one aspect being the shift to digitalisation. The insurance industry will always remain a high- touch human – oriented society. Before the shift to digitalisation customers used to rely on agents or distributors for renewal or buying a policy, however with the number of online platforms that are available, customers today find it convenient to do things directly by themselves.

2. The pandemic brought several challenges. Do you see any opportunities in disguise amidst the uncertain times?

Absolutely, during these times we’ve seen many opportunities arise. Today customers are leaning more towards self-service, and completing processes through the available channels. With these challenges internally, we as a company had to question a lot of processes, and pushed for a digital first or even a digital only process approach. In a way this has helped us tap into a larger talent pool as remote work and work from home has challenged certain narratives and pre-conceived notions that we had before the pandemic.

3. Would you like to tell us about Tata AIG Innovations Lab? How is it levelling up the innovation quotient at Tata AIG?

The TATA AIG innovations lab was set up during the ongoing pandemic. We would describe it as a bunch of software engineers coming together to create a small insur-tech start up. We believe in Fail-fast mentality, and quick iterative projects. We build capabilities that can be reused across the organisation, like video streaming, OCR, Image processing, etc. This helps to bring in agility to the ecosystem thus allowing teams and businesses to try and quickly experiment with society. All the innovations we ideate are business focused keeping in mind the impact of the innovation which helps us to drive high quality innovation. We also evangelise technology and capabilities internally to bring everyone on the same page.

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4. How are emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain impacting Insurance?

Artificial Intelligence is the future and is impacting not only the insurance industry but it’s becoming a part of almost each and every functioning sector. It democratises tribal knowledge and sets a process for providing intelligence and later guidance for everyone. Core processes like sales, claims and servicing are now all leveraging AI and ML in various ways, from propensity models to decide likelihood of certain actions from a customer to fraud models to identify suspicious behaviour to guidance and intelligence modules which provide suggestions through various workflows. Blockchain similarly has a chance for a high impact, but it is not recognized as AI. It uses cases for sharing knowledge about customers and policies across insurance companies that can be explored to gain information and are at various stages of implementation.

5. In your view, how significant is developing in-house technologies for the insurance providers?

Any insurance provider would be better off by developing some in-house capabilities. Working with vendors and providers has its advantages, but also is a bottleneck in terms of agility. I see the future as a hybrid model with a small in-house team focusing on core technologies, supplemented with partners, vendors and startups to allow for scale. Of course, it does require a strong commitment on innovation and working on cutting edge, as attracting talent currently would be a challenge to many.

6. What are your innovation-led growth plans for 2022?

We as an organisation are strongly driven by customer satisfaction. We will continue to focus on our customers and work towards their betterment by evaluating every necessary touch point in order to give our customers a better experience. We are also working towards building engaging solutions on customer apps, as well as improvising our core processes and bringing innovation led improvements across the board.

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