How an insurance startup became a favourite in the tech community for its customer experience

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight squarely on India’s healthcare sector and emphasises the urgent need for a strong healthy workforce as an integral part of every resilient health system.

With the pandemic came unforeseen expenses such as personal protective equipment, oxygen cylinders and medicines, alongside huge hospital bills, thereby reinforcing the need for health insurance. But even in a country as large as ours, access to health insurance has historically been low with only 10-15 percent getting it through insurance companies. The primary reason behind the hesitation has been affordability. While the pandemic has definitely pushed people to explore the option, most still depend on their employers to provide insurance. But even that path is riddled with challenges. This reality triggered an idea in the minds of Abhishek Poddar and Saurabh Arora as they set out to accomplish their vision of making health insurance accessible to every Indian.

The Plum edge

Founded in November 2019, the Bengaluru-based fintech startup was clear from the start that it wanted to leverage technology to give companies of all sizes insurance plans customised as per the needs of their employees.

The duo noticed that there were three segments that needed their attention:

  1. For <100 employees: They realised that startups and small businesses with less than 100 employees were mostly being approached by small-scale insurance brokers as they struggled to access high quality insurance plans, usually wasting months in building and negotiating a plan.
  2. For <200 employees: A sound plan was oftentimes too expensive for mid-sized companies, leaving employees of these firms in a sticky situation. The brokers who offered insurance came from very traditional backgrounds without much technology know-how.
  3. For >200 employees: They noticed that for large enterprises who have been in the market for years, the challenge was to have a modern health insurance partner with tech-enabled experiences for HR teams and employees that previously didn’t exist.

Focusing on these three segments, Plum went on to build a robust system that was affordable and easy, eliminated the interference of agents and did not discriminate between companies based on size. Customers could get pricing directly from the insurer. Companies with as few as two employees could get access to a health insurance plan within five minutes. Firms could pay as low as Rs 85 a month to get their employees covered, and employees would not need more than five minutes to get their claims settled. The platform’s real-time insurance design and pricing would enable companies to buy insurance in just three clicks.

Plum realised early on the two crucial parts of an insurance company - claims experience and risk assessment. To that end, the startup created an integrated digital interface that helps customers settle their claims quickly without hassles. Their WhatsApp-enabled Claims system, an industry first, also helps companies utilise health insurance through the app. Today, the company claims an NPS of 79.

On the risk front, Plum forged new underwriting and fraud detection algorithms to help companies with few employees benefit from group insurance.

Another important agenda for the team was to provide companies with plans that were a fit with their employees - custom plans. To that end, they worked on their pricing model to ensure that various parameters were being considered like age, cover, location, size of the group, among others. The cover was then customised as per the needs of the organisation.

Tiding over regulatory challenges

As health insurance has always been built for companies with hundreds of employees, getting insurance partners to underwrite health insurance for startups and SMEs was turning out to be difficult. It took the team six months to demonstrate how Plum built its robust underwriting and fraud detection platform to ensure they can give insurance to companies as small as two employees.

Another huge task was replacing manual operations such as pricing, onboarding and claims with technology and getting insurance partners to build APIs for them. The team also struggled with getting a license from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA). Today, Plum is one of the few insurtech companies to have a license to distribute insurance, unlike most other players in the space, that operate without one.

Insurance for everyone; wellness too

Plum recently rolled out LGBTQ partner cover for companies that allows employees to enroll same-sex partners in their corporate health insurance policy.

While Plum caters to small companies, it has recently co-created unique products for teams as small as five employees that cannot afford to pay large annual premiums.

To further ensure that more people get access to insurance, Plum offers innovative, pioneering products with best-in-class benefits including no pre-existing disease exclusions, no waiting periods and no disease-wise capping.

Apart from insurance, Plum also offers comprehensive employee benefits and wellness plans that include health checkups, doctor teleconsultations, mental wellness, dental care, fitness, diet and yoga. Additionally, all Plum members get complimentary care services like 24x7 doctor-on-call service.

Future plans

“Plum is growing at over 30 percent MoM and has insured 100,000 members so far. Much of the platform’s growth has been driven by first-time buyers of health insurance, with 82 percent of organisations on the platform bringing health insurance and health benefits for the first time.” said Abhishek Poddar, CEO and co-founder of Plum.

The company’s early adopters include some of India’s fast-growing startups and SMEs such as ZetWorks, Groww, Unacademy, Twilio, CleverTap, Smallcase and Zinnov. Ashish Tulsian, Founder, POSist, said they were able to set up their health insurance in less than 24 hours.

Rahul Gonsalves, Founder, Obvious, recently tweeted, “Really wish that I was an investor in Plum rather than just a customer! They’ve taken an incredibly dry area - corporate insurance and applied a strong end-user focused lens.”
“At a time when we were too small to qualify for good health protection for our teams and their families, Plum ensured we could get the right cover,” says Srikrishnan Ganesan, Founder at Rocketlane.

Despite these milestones, Plum has a long way to go. They aim to get 10 million lives insured, and then all of India. And, the journey has just begun.

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