The director and founder of Acko talks about a new online model that’s disrupting the insurance market.
Ruchi Deepak should know all about breaking stereotypes. The director and founder of Acko started her entrepreneurial journey together with the journey of motherhood.
She gave birth to her twins at the same time when she was setting up the company and filing for the licence in October 2016.
Ruchi grew up in Jamshedpur and completed her Bachelor’s from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), followed by a course from the Faculty of Law.
In a career spanning many years, she held senior positions in India and London, in companies like Coverfox, Matrix Partners, and Franklin Templeton Investments, where she learned the tenets of legal and compliance work. She also worked as an adviser to multiple startups.
Always enterprising and not averse to ‘risk-taking, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Ruchi explains how Acko came into being. “Buying an insurance, especially a simple product like automobile insurance, was a cumbersome, boring and non-transparent process, let apart the servicing or the claims aspect. One of the biggest flaws is the price point of these products. We saw a huge opportunity that a digitally empowered insurance company could unlock both in terms of customer experience and enterprise value. My co-founder Varun Dua and I decided to pursue it,” she informs HerStory.
According to her, insurance is boring and is increasingly seen as a redundant product, when it is actually the most relevant financial product in the market. “Consumers today are driven by price and experience and especially the digital experience of shopping, and they are the focal point of everything we do. We are investing heavily in building a customer experience that is relevant and superlative. Luckily, there is a massive scope for innovation in our sector and we are going to tap on that.”
Acko makes buying and using insurance really effortless. It uses technology to provide personalised products after measuring customer behaviour using data analytics. The company says it’s a ‘digital-first’, which means you’ll be as comfortable using it as you are using your own smartphone.
In Varun Dua, she found a co-founder who aligned with her business principles and ideas. The two were colleagues at Franklin Templeton and Varun had previously worked with Tata AIG Life Insurance before he co-founded online insurance brokerage company Coverfox in 2013. “We reconnected in 2014 when he was trying to raise capital for Coverfox and I was with Matrix Partners Venture Capital. I left Matrix in 2015 and was adviser for many startups, including Coverfox. During this time we discussed about Acko and how a new model could disrupt the insurance market. For us the biggest win was securing the general insurance licence,” says Ruchi.
Acko went live in December 2017 and Ruchi believes while it’s still early to talk about revenues, “the flows are extremely encouraging and backs our business model thesis.”
Validation, almost immediately, came from customers. “As we have just gone live, numbers may not be relevant, however, I felt proud when our first customer exclaimed, ‘Ma'am, it was very easy, I didn’t have to talk to anyone, I could buy the policy myself’,” she quips.
Acko also raised $30 million in seed rounds, which is one of the largest seed funding in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Impossible may be nothing, like the ad may tell you, but despite a change in mindsets and attitudes, it’s not easy being a woman in any sphere of life. “Men form a majority in most setups and, unfortunately, they form a cartel. It’s difficult to break into a boys’ club and make space as a woman. It’s quite tragic because in their collective subconscious a woman’s place is at home. But I must say, there has been a very positive change in the last decade or so, with a lot of parents and spouses encouraging and supporting women in their life to forge ahead. But a lot is left to be desired,” she adds.
Ruchi is thankful to have an extremely supportive founder in Varun, a wonderful team at Acko and a hands-on husband who helps her stay afloat.
“My aim is to transform Acko into the most loved insurance brand and a company that is all-inclusive and encourages diversity - a company that is known for its highest standard of corporate governance, for its pro-employee policies and frameworks. Of course, in all this my biggest priority is to give quality time to my children and raise them to be happy human beings,” she says.
Who says you can’t have that proverbial work-life balance? You just have to work hard to achieve it.