Spending on health in India is expected to increase manifold over the next decade, a trend that will likely be accelerated by covid-19. The insurance sector will be one of the beneficiaries. Yashish Dahiya, co-founder and group CEO of the PolicyBazaar Group, said in an interview for Mint’s Pivot or Perish Series that the group’s main objective is to increase market share. Edited excerpts:
How has covid-19 affected your business?
We have 17 business units. Of these, some eight units are up by 25-40% since the pandemic. Health and life insurance are growing very fast and we are gaining market share there. But fulfilment has become harder because getting people to do medicals has become a little harder in the lockdown. We are working with companies to get medicals done without physical presence. So, we are now able to do twice as many policies than earlier.
Six units are seeing almost zero revenues during this period. Credit cards, personal loans are not happening because there’s nobody out there giving loans or credit cards. Travel insurance is not happening right now because no one is travelling. And then there are a couple of units that are 10-15% lower.
So, overall, our revenues are flat. But April is supposed to be a weak month of the year, and yet, we have just finished a profitable month.
How is covid affecting people’s thinking towards insurance?
In India, there’s a huge protection gap in terms of insurance coverage. What this thing has done is give people time to think and realize that health insurance or life insurance are important to them.
There were four trends in insurance that were happening for the last 10 years, but they were happening at a very slow rate. One, people were realizing they need health insurance and life insurance, so awareness was growing. And we played a large role in that because we have spent upwards of ₹1,000 crore in advertising (since starting out in 2008). Second, more people buying products on their own, which basically means they were opting for online versus offline. Third, there was niche product creation, which means creating better products based on customer data. The fourth was trying to do as much fulfilment remotely as possible. So, doing e-KYC, e-medicals, video inspections, etc. Covid-19 has speeded up all these four trends.
How are you managing costs?
In the short run, costs have gone up because we had to procure many laptops and handheld devices. We had to get people trained. We are still paying rent for our offices, still paying for all our infrastructure. But taking a three-month view, our costs are pretty much in control. We have not cut any salaries. In whichever units we have been washed out, we are trying to honour our employees’ loyalty as much as we can. But eventually, we have to take care of employees, shareholders and customers. So, we are trying to apply a balanced approach.
Costs would have been a big issue if revenues had been severely impacted. But we have only one, primary objective right now: To increase market share.