How this insuretech startup is expanding coverage by digitally empowering insurance agents
When Dhirendra Mahyavanshi and Anand Prabhudesai launched insuretech startup Turtlemint in 2015, they made sure technology did not deem insurance advisors' and agents’ roles redundant. Infact, they decided that humans and technology merging together could only lead to greater coverage.
And so, by digitally empowering insurance advisors, this six-year old technology startup, headquartered in Mumbai, has redefined the rules of the game.
According to Dhirendra, insurance is a complex product, and is it best to take the advice of an expert, which is why advisors play a key role.
According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a trust established by the Department of Commerce, the insurance industry in India was expected to reach $280 billion by 2020. Moreover, the overall insurance penetration was pegged at 3.76 percent for FY20, with life insurance at 2.82 percent and non-life at 0.94 percent.
Role of advisors
Dhirendra, an IIM Calcutta alumnus, is an insurance industry professional having worked with leading companies such as ICICI-Lombard and Quikr. Co-founder Anand, a graduate of IIT Bombay, has worked with Nokia, Yahoo and Quikr. The duo were both at Quikr when they met as colleagues, and later became business partners.
The founders knew only too well that insurance advisors and agents go a long way in garnering people’s trust, and policies are mostly bought based on their inputs. And yet, herein lay a big gap. As most agents still relied on pen and paper methods to get their entire work done - right from helping customers choose their policies to filling in the paper work to signing on the dotted line - their work often resulted in considerable delays.
“We saw very limited effort towards helping insurance agents digitise their work, where they could have all the necessary tools at their disposal,” says Dhirendra. And soon enough, the duo decided to address this gap.
Turtlemint’s technology platform is primarily through an app, so insurance advisors can have information at their fingertips. However, while building the technology was easy enough, convincing insurance companies to get onboard took some convincing.
“Our tech solution gave insurance advisors access to not just information on insurance products and policies but also training modules,” says Dhirendra.
Other conducive developments at the time proved to be beneficial, like - insurance industry regulator IRDA allowed agents to sell products of more than one company. And smartphone penetration and cheaper mobile internet also meant more people could adapt to the digital platform.
According to Dhirendra, Turtlemint’s technology platform saw great adoption, even in locations outside of the metros, which constitutes about 65-70 percent of its business.
“Our platform enabled insurance distributors to get on the platform using our app. This helped spread awareness about insurance policies faster,” says Dhirendra.
Turtlemint provides various digital tools for advisors including training materials, knowledge hubs, master classes, engaging with industry experts, live chats, and more.
For insurance agents, Turtlemint has digitised the entire process of training, licensing, and verification, enabling them to go through the whole process of customer onboarding in a much more efficient manner.
It also helps agents give customised recommendation to clients. For example, many customers in Rajasthan seek policies that cover the marriage expenses of their children, whereas those from Tamil Nadu are more focused on educational requirements.
Most recently, when the COVID-19 outbreak happened, demand for insurance products increased, but this had to done in a contactless manner.
“We saw significant scale-up in the number of consumers being comfortable with buying an insurance product without a face to face meeting,” says Dhirendra.
This meant using various digital modes, including interactions through videos, digital signing of policies, cashless transactions and more.
According to Dhirendra, a majority of all the solutions are delivered to the insurance advisors digitally, but some are done on a real-time basis.
The pandemic environment also witnessed certain changes or restrictions on the insurance products, and agents had to be updated on the these developments. It is here that Turtlemint's tech platform keeps advisors up to date on all the latest developments.
Today, the company has witnessed over a million downloads since the last three years or so. It has served over 1.5 lakh active insurance advisors and sold over 30 lakh policies.
The startup claims to have a reach across 16,000 pincodes in the country, and more than 1.5 million customers.
“The insurance advisor is an independent micro entrepreneur, and we have played a significant role in making them digital-ready, which is helping in wider distribution of these products,” says Dhirendra.
Turtlemint is at that sweet spot where it enables independent agents become micro-entrepreneurs, while the companies benefit from their products reaching out to a wider set of customers.
“Our biggest USP is that we are democratising tech, which is making insurance accessible and available. We are not eliminating the distributor of these products but empowering them,” says Dhirendra.
Turtlemint also provides other services such as buying of insurance policies across both life and non-life segments. It also provides its technology platform to other companies under a SaaS model.
Turtlemint has cumulatively raised $69 million in funding till now with investors such as Jungle Ventures, GGV Capital, Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, Dream Incubator, Trifecta Capital among others.
Digit Insurance, Acko Insurance and Policybazaar are some of the other prominent players in the market.
Dhirendra believes the insuretech segment will continue to attract investor interest as they are many areas of this industry which are yet to be fully digitised like claims processing or underwriting. Turtlemint has already started to work on the tech aspects of claims management.
Signing off, Dhirendra says, “As an entrepreneur, I’m very excited and the industry as a whole is fairly collaborative. It is a good time to be in the insuretech segment.”
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