Betting on the problems of insurers, bootstrapped Xceedance thrives globallyAparajita Choudhury
Arun Balakrishnan’s Xceedance partners with insurers, reinsurers and brokers to launch new products, drive operations, deliver superior analytics capabilities and optimise processes. With clients on four continents and 850 employees, the insurance tech firm is a one-stop service provider.
Arun Balakrishnan, then CEO of Berkshire Hathaway India’s insurance operations, did not hesitate to grab the opportunity when Berkshire Hathaway decided to exit the Indian insurance market in March 2013 owing to lack of profitability and laws that constrained ownership by foreign companies.
Arun, 34, soon floated a new idea to the Berkshire India management team: To set up a company in India to provide shared services to the multiple insurance and reinsurance companies within the Berkshire Hathaway group.
Manish Khetan, vice president, Berkshire India, and Amit Tiwari, vice president and head of technology, Berkshire India, joined hands with Arun in his new venture, Xceedance, which was launched in 2013.
The partnership helped Arun bring in long-term service contracts in technology, insurance operations and insurance analytics.
“While Berkshire Hathaway didn’t provide equity capital, they agreed to support this company by providing quarterly revenues in advance to manage cash flows and long-term pilot contracts with a couple of their group companies.”
With the vision to become a one-stop service provider to the insurance industry, Xceedance has grown to 20 clients and 850 employees in the last four years.
Xceedance provides technology application development services for insurance clients in addition to business intelligence and data sciences across SME insurance, personal lines, reinsurance and direct distribution. The company helps insurers address challenges and opportunities in many critical areas of the insurance lifecycle: insurance operations; underwriting; catastrophe modeling and exposure management; actuarial services; policy services; reporting and business intelligence; claims; and finance and accounting.
Xceedance’s client base includes primary insurers, reinsurers and brokers, and it has offices in US, UK, India (Gurgaon, Noida and Bangalore), Poland and Bermuda.
Arun states Xceedance group revenues crossed Rs 100 crore from January to December in 2016.
Growing the business
Before starting Xceedance, IIM Ahmedabad alumnus Arun had floated another venture in the insurance space to help customers compare and buy auto, home and travel insurance products. This company was backed by angel investors and later received funding from Rediff. However, it couldn’t survive the 2008 economic downturn and closed down in mid-2010. Berkshire Hathaway then wanted to start a direct distribution model in India and Arun was the right fit for them.
Arun and the team never raised external funds for Xceedance. He recalls that some key pilot clients at the start of the business gave them advance revenue in exchange for favourable pricing terms. He adds that the company has had a net positive cash flow, which has been reinvested to fund and grow the business.
“Our first clients were two companies from the Berkshire Hathaway group. The founding team of Xceedance were executives of Berkshire Hathaway India in our prior roles. We leveraged the relationships and credibility we had with the group to secure the first few pilot clients,” Arun says.
Xceedance helps clients improve processes that increase the ability to underwrite more premium and leverage technology and people to optimise the cost of doing business.
The firm started operations in Gurgaon but set up a global office in Boston in late 2014 as majority of their customers were in the United States.
Arun moved to the United States in 2015 while Amit and Manish continue to operate from Gurgaon. The company recently expanded its global footprint with the launch of a new service delivery centre in Poland. In India, Xceedance operates from four state-of-the-art facilities located in the NCR/Delhi area and Bangalore.
On the path to growth
Xceedance follows multiple revenue models, including fixed cost projects, per account pricing, retainer based, product revenue or time-and-material basis.
According to Arun, 70 per cent of their revenue comes from the United States and the remaining 30 per cent is divided equally between United Kingdom and the ANZ/Asia regions.
Given the impact of technology intervention in the insurance space, investors across the world are betting on insurance tech startups.
According to a CB Insights report, deal activity in the insurance tech space hit its highest annual total in 2016. Deals involving insurance tech startups increased 42 per cent on a year-over-year basis in 2016 to hit 173, with total funding in 2016 reaching $1.69 billion.
To ready for the future, the Xceedance team is currently involved in initiatives and projects around artificial intelligence, cognitive learning by machines, robotic process automation, big data, and Internet of Things on insurance operations.
The company is also planning to expand reach in the Bermuda insurance market and set up a presence in at least one other region of the globe.