How insurtech startup Symbo aims to disrupt the industry with vision, fitness, marathon, and women-specific insurance
Engineer and entrepreneur Mitesh Jain, also an avid cricketer, suffered a minor hairline fracture during one of his games. Given his busy schedule, he chose to ignore the injury and let time heal it instead.
“That one stich that didn’t come in time led to nine more,” Mitesh recalls. His hairline fracture became a grievous injury that needed long-term medical attention and gave him a crooked finger, which threw his game off for the longest time.
Football players are at a higher risk of ligament tears and fractures than a heart attack. However, a standard health insurance will cover them better for heart conditions than their out-patient (OPD) expenses for treating those seemingly innocuous ligament tears. Because, the insurance sector has a very big problem: it can become very generic, and as a result, quite irrelevant for many.
Mitesh, along with Nimit Bavishi and Anik Jain, decided to tackle this problem and co-founded Symbo India Insurance Broking Limited in mid-2017. The Mumbai-based startup provides simplified, relevant insurance products with automated user experience – from purchase to sale.
In fact, two of their most successful products include fitness and vision insurances. The founders have one aim :
“To change insurance from a one-size-fit-all to relevant covers that actually solve real customer needs,” says Nimit.
Symbo plans to geographically expand to Southeast Asia and operates out of Singapore as the country has easy access to capital. “We have already acquired a licence in Singapore and are operational there with a team,” Nimit says.
The startupis backed by Singaporean investors Dymon Asia Ventures, Insignia Ventures, and Abhinav Jhunjhunwala (CEO of AJ Capital).
Team of experts
Co-founder Anik has spent more than two decades in the insurance industry. “My father was in the insurance industry, most of which is still working on the same products in 2019 that my father used to work with in 1974. It’s crazy how the whole world has evolved but this hasn’t,” he says.
Mitesh and Nimit, on the other hand, were previously co-founders of HR-tech startup Happy2Refer. There, HDFC Life was their biggest client and the duo saw the pains of agents and customers alike when it came to insurance distribution.
“Every larger insurer sees a 100 percent churn in its sales workforce every year and ends up spending up to 60 percent of the premium amount to distribute, which makes no sense,” Nimit says.
After exiting Happy2Refer in 2017, the duo was looking for someone with strong industry experience to help them solve this problem. Their current investors introduced them to Anik. After spending days brainstorming, the three teamed up to build Symbo.
At present, the startup has more than 100 employees, with 50 percent of them building the tech. Additionally, it has a team of six in Singapore and a team of five in Delhi-NCR.
Targeting consumers with similar needs
Symbo identifies large consumer bases with similar behaviour and risk needs. For example, women, fitness enthusiasts, runners, students, party people, and so on.
“With primary research, risks tests, underwriting analysis, and customer buying and claims journey, we build a relevant new product structure and get the product underwritten from two to three interested insurers,” says Nimit.
Symbo extensively uses data pools, either available with them or other sources, to understand potential behaviour and underwriting risks.
“We use basic machine learning (ML) to build relevant products for the customer and recommend right fit coverages to adequately protect customers, given their lifestyle choices,” says Nimit.
The startup then partners with large corporates (including Goeventz, Playo, Stepsetgo, Kick, Poddar Housing and Development), with existing customer bases and microentrepreneurs, to make the product readily available to end customers. This also enables Symbo to integrate with their partners’ systems.
The end customers - buyers of insurance - can raise claim, track, manage, and get real-time digital consulting through their Symbo MyAccount.
Symbo services customers from the smallest fitness insurance ticket and can go up to millions of dollars' worth of re-insurance transactions.
"Customers who book a gym class or a football turf, can buy an insurance for that particular session at Rs 9," Anik says .
Proving all types of insurance including auto, health, property, and business insurance, the team has created five products so far – vision insurance, marathoners insurance, fitness insurance, party insurance, and women-care cover.
“A housewife, who may be adequately covered for heart conditions under the family floater health insurance bought by her husband, is not covered for breast and cervical cancers,” Nimit says. Symbo’s goal is to introduce more people to such relevant insurance schemes.
These customisable insurances are made by Reliance General, Bharti Axa, Religare, IffcoTokio and Aditya Birla among others. Claim process is managed and supported by Symbo’s technology platform and settled by the respective insurance company.
Symbo is essentially a CAC (Cost to Acquire Customer) company. Instead of burning cash on per transaction basis to acquire the end customer, the startup invests in building relationships, technology, and strong claims support.
Nimit says,“We have crossed our entire annual revenue of FY19 in the first five months of this financial year. But the best is yet to come. Given the seasonality, the last quarter generally contributes 60 percent of revenue in the insurance industry.”
Since April, Symbo has recorded quite a bit of traction on the microentrepreneur side. In four months, it claims to have scaled from 1,500 microentrepreneurs in April to more than 10,000 now, and is adding another 3,500-4,000 per month.
“By end of March 2020, we aim to accelerate our rapid growth and create more than 40,000 microentrepreneurs,” Nimit claims.
“Overall, our number of bite-size insurance covers issued is expected to scale from current 10,000 this year to 500,000 by March 2020,” he adds.
The Indian insurance industry comprises 57 companies, of which 24 are in the life insurance business and 33 are in the non-life category.
According to IBEF, gross premiums written in India reached Rs 5.53 trillion ($94.48 billion) in FY18, with Rs 4.58 trillion ($71.1 billion) from life insurance and Rs 1.51 trillion ($23.38 billion) from non-life insurance. However, overall insurance penetration (premiums as percent of GDP) in India have only reached 3.69 percent in 2017 from a mere 2.71 percent in 2001.
Symbo competes with the likes of Acko, Coverfox, Turtlemint, BankBazaar, Easypolicy, and Policybazaar.
Symbo plans to launch three more products very soon and its goal is to get to 15 innovative products by March 2020 and “50 by March 2021,” says Nimit. The startup is also in the process of raising its Series A funding.
Additionally, Singapore has opened up Symbo’s access to a much larger and diverse pool of capital. “We see a massive opportunity for our innovative products and technology to scale beyond India in the Southeast Asia region,” Nimit ends.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)