Insurtech ventures have emerged from being a service provider to strategic partners

Umesh Padala

Enabling automation on customer touch points, delivering the services on customers’ preferred channels in a personalised manner, handholding the customers during the journey with human touch, a truly phy-gital model in action. To know more about the significance of insurance in the society, Shruti Jain of Elets News Network, interacted with Umesh Padala, Chief Technology Officer & Chief Digital Officer, Star Health and Allied Insurance.

Q. How is digital & talent transformation accelerating as insurers adapt for post pandemic growth?

Ans. Talent retention, re-imagination of existing business models & embracing digital technologies form the pillars of large scale organisational transformation. The digital transformation journey and adoption was kicked started in 2019. Digital first and client centricity were core strategics adopted across the organisation. Covid-19 indeed accelerated our journey by rapidly shrinking change cycles, paving way for new business models. Furthermore, customer awareness on the necessity of health insurance fuelled business growth. This is when insurers started to leverage the digital technologies available in the market swiftly to meet the business demand. As we see today, there is tremendous progress done in the digital journey across the organisation.

Innovations, 24X7 uninterrupted contactless customer service, branding and hand holding the end customers during the pandemic, walking the extra mile were the norms at the organisation. Talent, Digital- First and customer centricity strategies, Data, Open API platforms, building platforms of scale for ecosystem were embraced to build sustainable business growth. Partnerships with global players, niche start-ups, tapping cross-industry talents, re-skilling, upskilling and training on digital adoption were instrumental in nurturing much sought after digital talents to scale fast.

Remote working, business transformation and the sales force adopting digital platforms were propelled during the pandemic and are sustaining post-pandemic too. Implementing the agile methodologies of scale in turn improved our faster time to market. During pandemic the organisation being virtualised in entirety helped tremendously in sales, servicing and reaching out to end customers through the channel of choice.

These interventions helped in bolstering the brand and our mindset as a tech company and enabling the business to cater to a rapidly evolving customer aspiration without any hassle.

Also Read | 5 Upcoming Trends in India’s InsurTech industry

Brand respect/cognisance: The Company strengthened its recall around ‘speed’ and ‘sensitivity’, perhaps the biggest positive on long-term sustainability.

Responsiveness: The company reduced the change cycles from a quarter or month to bi-weekly and weekly cycles; it improved systems uptime, scalability (elasticity) and stability leading to superior measurable customer satisfaction.

Cost management: Enhanced competitiveness in the market, as digitalisation re-imagined the business process and evolved models leading to cost optimisation, improved revenues, operational efficiencies and most importantly sustainability.

Customer Experience: Omni-channel and multiple channel technologies were enabled for customers and end users, resulting in an elevated customer experience.

Q. Insurers are increasingly dependent on emerging technologies and data sources to drive efficiency, enhance cybersecurity, and expand capabilities across the organisation. What are your thoughts on this?

Ans. Couldn’t agree more! “Data is the new oil” – I believe this statement. But I also believe, “data without insights is meaningless and insights without action/ decision are pointless.”

AI-powered human operations and zero trust security are the keys to effectively manage opportunities and the ever evolving risk landscape.

AI is here to stay and is a reality. In fact AI is working next to us and will continue to do so. Moving out of hype cycles and AI- powered business cases are rapidly emerging in automation and intelligent operations. AI- powered human operations are far superior and efficient in addressing the customer aspirations.

To maximise benefits, value, and drive excellence (enhancing the boundaries of efficiency) across the streams; Insurers have exceeding needs to harness the power of digital transformation that removes data silos, crafts new business models and above all, serve the people at scale in a robust and supreme way possible both in urban and rural sectors.

Of course it goes without saying, all the above means, seamless integration of technologies that are in-compliance with the Industry Regulator and other regulatory bodies in the digital era.

Q. How is Star Health individually and collectively, reframing the role and purpose of insurance in society?

Ans: Star Health is playing an optimistic yet responsible role in reinforcing the significance of insurance in society and especially in the rapidly changing health insurance sector. Star Health has played a huge role in accessibility and penetration of health insurance across segments and customer demographics, brought industry first innovative products and elevated the awareness of insurance. Looking at the maturity, having achieved virtualised operations at the enterprise, enabling sustainable technologies and processes are the focus now.

Competitive products, widening distribution network, increasing service channels, and rural friendly policies coupled with digital technologies that are accessible everywhere are offering growth momentum for us.

In addition, our Wellness and Telemedicine platforms empowered customers with care, prevention and cure, giving them digital access at any time of the day.

Q. How are you enhancing and personalising customer engagement and experience after a pandemic?

Ans: Enabling automation on customer touch points, delivering the services on customers’ preferred channels in a personalised manner, handholding the customers during the journey with human touch, a truly phy-gital model in action. Furthermore, omni-channel technology is paying dividends.

Also Read | Pandemic accelerated the digital journey of the entire life insurance industry – Vighnesh Shahane

Empowering customers with multiple self-service capabilities, consolidation of data pipelines in data lake, having 360 degree view of customer engagement and hyper personalisation driven by AI models across channels. Investments are pointed towards refining and generating new AI models to keep the growth momentum intact.

Q. Digitalisation has also put the insurance industry on the verge of a paradigm shift. What are your plans on the collaboration with insurtechs?

Ans: Our sentiment towards Insurtechs have been always optimistic. Open APIs, collaboration with Insuretech, industry participants across technology and business eco systems, evolving regulatory framework in ease of doing business, adopting the digital and phygital models are encouraging for the insurance industry in India. There
is a huge opportunity for insuretech to play a significant role in technology-powered insurance penetration across segments. In this dynamic market, improving overall efficiencies are critical, and digital has a significant role to play.

When taking the micro perspective here, digital data, AI, open APIs, and cloud technologies embraced by digital talents are the key components driving this paradigm shift in making insurance services accessible for all segments.

Insurtech ventures have emerged from just being a service provider to strategic partners in bringing the disruptors in technology and business processes. Most insurtech companies help insurance company to improve products and processes, expand the market and deepen penetration. Definitely collaboration with insurtech companies is pivotal in not only generating business value but to stay competitive and relevant in the market.

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