The outbreak of covid-19 pandemic has brought several challenges for industries across the world and the uncertainties are intensified at a certain level with the second wave. To understand how the outbreak and the ongoing concerns reshaped the insurance sector, in particular, Elets News Network (ENN) spoke to Rushabh Gandhi, Deputy CEO, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Ltd. During the conversation Gandhi said that the brand narrative for IndiaFirst Life is based on positioning life insurance as a risk management solution for the certainties of life. He spoke about the news initiates namely ‘GharBaithe Insurance’ and e-Sampark and also shared the future strategies of the insurance provider.
The world around us has changed drastically with the pandemic outbreak. How challenging it is to portray the role of a leader, of a sector that has changed dynamically lately?
The year 2020 has been a unique one for businesses and business leaders. When every conversation seems to be hinged on the three words – ‘The New Normal’, what we really need to think about, is of the world beyond the new normal. The new normal is not the future, it is our present.It’s important to understand that being a leader is a privilege and a responsibility.
In my view, leadership traits such as – clarity of purpose, capability to think futuristic, ability to inspire change, the flexibility of thoughts, need for speed, and crisp & clear communication will never go out of vogue. The prioritisation of these traits will change depending on the situation at hand.
In today’s unprecedented times, the priority is to think futuristic and remain agile in delivering value to all stakeholders. In this ‘Fail Fast. Learn Fast’ era, leaders will need to maneuver organisations to learn, adapt, and improvise swiftly, not only to survive but also to thrive.
While challenges are evident, what opportunities did you see in these uncertain times?
The pandemic sparked anxiety, creating a sense of precariousness. Due to the fear of unknown, customers are opting for pure protection plans available at affordable premiums. Further, market volatility and falling interest rates shifted the focus away from long term savings products offering variable returns to guaranteed long-term products. To help customers secure for the certainties of life, IndiaFirst Life enhanced its product suite to cater to their evolving needs. 35% of our business has comes from these plans in last fiscal.
IndiaFirst Life has been at the forefront in using technology and digitization for better customer experience. Given this, we managed to improvise quickly and introduced newer customer journeys and operational processes.
Strong convictions precede great actions. IndiaFirst Life did just that by leveraging on the following–
- Onboarding of employees virtually
- Conducting induction and developmentaltraining through e-modules
- Reaching out to customers through webinars (e-Sampark)
- Facilitating GharBaithInsurance to enable fulfillment
- Dispatchingpolicies electronically
- Resolving customer queries digitally through our self-service portals, WhatsApp services, multi-lingual website, and our chatbot IRIS
- Settling of 100% genuine claims online
As is apparent, we’ve digitized the entire customer journey from the time an IndiaFirst Life employee is recruited till the time the death/maturity claim is settled.
In your view, how important is the Bancassurance business for an insurance company? How has it helped IndiaFirst?
Banks have a captive customer base, all of whom have wealth management needs. This captive base trusts the Bank to deploy their monies efficiently. An insurance company can therefore leverage the Bank, its branches, and its infrastructure to adopt a distribution model that is scalable, sustainable, and profitable. Given the cost-effectiveness of this model, Bancassurance enables an insurance company to invest more in digital enhancements, state-of-art products, and much more thereby improving the overall customer outcome.
IndiaFirst Life has tremendously benefited from the patronage of its promoter banks – Bank of Baroda & Union Bank of India. We have access to 23,000+ branches and over 25 crore customers, which accounts for almost 1/5thof the total Indian population. This inherent distribution strength has enabled us to grow at 32% CAGR in the last 5 years. With a 98.70% claim settlement ratio, we are doing our bit to ensure families have financial resilience. IndiaFirst Life takes pride in serving customers across 98% of the pin-codes in India. We continue to move closer to achieving our long-cherished dream of “Insurance for All”.
How has IndiaFirst Life’s business performance been in FY20-21?
IndiaFirst Life reported a net profit of INR 30 crore in FY 2020-21. This has been an exceptional year of growth and productivity. The company continued to focus on razor-sharp execution and the launch of differentiated initiatives leading to a holistic growth in the company’s performance. The company’s 5-year CAGR in Individual NB APE stands at 32%, approximately 2.2x that of the private sector (15%) and 2.8x that of overall life insurance industry (11%). Building on this momentum, we are optimistic about our ability to generate sustainable top and bottom-line growth. For the first time since inception, the company has written INR 894 Crores of Individual New Business Annual Premium Equivalent and its renewal business has crossed INR 2000 crores with an AUM of INR 17,109 crore. Our 13th month persistency ratio stands at 84%. Our Claims Settlement Ratio stands at 98.70%. With a total Sum Assured of over 2.89 lakh crore, we’ve proudly insured over 8.6 million lives in the last fiscal. Our 3,100+ dedicated employee strength, 23,000+ partner branch networks and 2000+ agents have supported 18,000+ families through claim payments.
A validating testament to our #CustomerFirst and #EmployeeFirst ideologies are the ~25 esteemed awards that we have been honored within FY21.
Has the considerable shift in consumption pattern influenced your marketing strategy? What are the new brand initiatives and product offerings that were launched recently by IndiaFirst Life?
The brand narrative for IndiaFirst Life is based on positioning life insurance as a risk management solution for the certainties of life. In a world where most insurance companies talk on the “fear of the unknown”, IndiaFirst Life took the distinct route of ‘Life Is Full of Certainties’ that need to be planned for. This sentiment is strongly voiced in our stance of “Let’s talk Life, not Death!”.
IndiaFirst Life’s #CustomerFirst philosophy has enabled the company to extend customer delight by offering them hyper-personalised offerings across life stages. We are in constant touch with our existing and potential customers through all modes, including digital, offline, and phy-gital channels.
IndiaFirst Life has been agile in strengthening its brand offerings in the past year. To establish a digital-connect and ensure seamless accessibility with customers, we launched ‘GharBaithe Insurance’ and e-Sampark. The existing product suite was further enhanced with Non-par and Protection products, such as IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Benefit Plan, IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Protection Plan & IndiaFirst Life Long Guaranteed Income Plan. Enhancing our #CustomerFirst offerings are our One-Day Claim Settlement and our multi-lingual website.
Given the current pandemic and associated stress, we launched #BhonduJustChill campaign that focused on need to retain peace of mind. We integrated this with our affiliation with the Netflix dramedy Pagglait, which is a story of living life to the fullest.
How did IndiaFirst Life help employees navigate ambiguity and find purpose and fulfillment during these challenging times?
IndiaFirst Life lives by the philosophy of creating a ‘Happy, Passionate and Connected’ workplace for its employees. With its #EmployeeFirst ideology fueling people innovation and a progressive culture, the company has been consistently recognized as a Great Place to Work, Best Companies to Work in the BFSI segment, and also the Best in Insurance.
To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care!” While the initial wellbeing challenges brought on by lockdown have been addressed on priority, we at IndiaFirst Life have undertaken various strategic initiatives to support our employees and their families. We have tied-up to offer free counselling services to our employees to optimize their mental health and emotional well-being. Additionally, we have offered one month’s extra salary to all our frontline workforce as “Covid allowance”. To encourage employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle and help them remain intellectually and socially motivated, we conduct regular mid-week exercise and meditation sessions.
We are providing benefits like Group Term Life policies to our employees. In case of an eventuality, the nominee of the deceased receives approximate 10 years of his / her salary at a go. We have a Group Mediclaim policy to take care of hospitalization of employees and their family members.
IndiaFirst Life is organizing vaccination drives at its offices and also reimbursing vaccination charges, if any. When providing Covid leaves to employees, we are also recalibrating their targets.
Constant communication with employees via internal digital platforms has played a vital role in letting them know we care and that we all are in this together! Through continuous engagement, we are helping them combat social isolation, build resilience in community and bolster a culture of psychological safety.