PolicyBazaar’s Singh: “Adaptability key to thriving in post-COVID world”

By Sarbvir Singh

The pandemic has highlighted the key role digital platforms play in keeping the global economy going. Businesses will need to adjust strategies and adapt accordingly to this new reality in order to thrive after the crisis passes.

The COVID–19 crisis has reinforced the importance of digital platforms and the integral role they play in sustaining economies across the globe. While businesses relying solely on physical interactions have been hardest hit, digital businesses that have adapted continue to serve customers. Specifically, in the insurance business, the crisis has opened up new opportunities for insurtech players like us in how we can onboard more customers digitally, expand operations without the need for physical offices and reduce our overheads. It is essential that industry leaders seize the moment and align their strategies to the changing realities so that they can continue to thrive in the post-COVID world.

Silver lining amid the gloom

The global community at large is looking at an economic slowdown, which could be as big as the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, amid all the gloom, there are some silver linings. Digital players such as Zoom, Skype, Netflix and Hotstar are attracting millions of new consumers. Closer to home, insurtech companies with their all-digital journeys are continuing to serve consumers and ensuring that the sale of essential insurance policies does not stop. The insurance ecosystem has been able to leverage the digital medium and ensure that all operations continue despite employees working from home.

Opening new horizons and possibilities for the entire ecosystem

The current crisis has essentially led to a reinvention of how business operates and forced us all to adopt a radically new approach towards running operations. In fact, we consider the scenario a blessing in disguise because, for a long time, we had wanted to experiment with the work-from-home (WFH) model. When the lockdown was announced, our main challenge was how quickly we could integrate technology for our 13,000-strong contact centre function to ensure that WFH operations could start. Our technology and operations teams worked round-the-clock and completed the task in record time. The results have been a revelation for us, as our contact centre’s overall efficiency has gone up by 30%.

The increased operational efficiency has meant that we can curb our investment in acquiring office space. From now on, we will always have 30% of our workforce working from home. We can also expand nationally at a faster rate now, without the need for time-consuming office space acquisition. This will allow us to serve customers even more effectively, as our advisors will be speaking in their local languages. This will also be good for our advisors as we now can offer them even greater incentives yet have a substantially lower cost base.

We have all also learned that having a digital offering is just a part of the picture. An efficient customer journey across all contact, sale and service points is needed. Our ability to provide end-to-end support and deliver policies to consumers has been critical. We will focus on making these processes run even more smoothly and seamlessly.

On the industry side, the demand for pure protection and health insurance will increase. We have been advocating social security through insurance for so long and the crisis has highlighted the need for it. We believe that this will benefit all industry players.

The events of the past few weeks have managed to partly allay the notion that physical contact is required to buy and sell insurance. Currently, it is the digital channels that are driving business for the entire industry at a time when consumers need protection the most. Excellence in the ecosystem and consumer benefit continue to play an important role in our decision making.

Long-term prospects are still strong as every crisis presents an opportunity

Every business is linked to the overall economy, which continues to face great uncertainty. Thus, it is only natural for everyone to be impacted by the current crisis. Total insulation is simply not possible. Hence, the tremors of the slowdown will be felt across the board. But, it is my firm belief that in the long run, the sector will emerge stronger than ever because the robustness of the digital medium has clearly been established. As the overall macro economy recovers, investment will continue to remain strong in the fintech space and companies will further develop technology that will strengthens digital offerings.

As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but the most adaptable.”

Sarbvir Singh is the CEO of India-based insurance aggregator PolicyBazaar.com.



 

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