Bandhu bought an insurance policy last year and it came in handy almost instantly when Bruno, three years old, ended up with a fractured leg because of one of its antics. “The treatment cost me about ₹8,000 and the entire amount was recovered within just a week. I was always on the lookout for pet insurance, given Bruno’s personality, but there was nobody offering it in India till recently," says Navi Mumbai-based Bandhu, 25, who bought insurance from Pawtect.
Though the pet insurance industry is at a nascent stage in India, it’s poised for big growth. Reason: According to 2019 data by Statista, there are 21.42 million pet dogs in India, and the number is likely to reach 31 million by 2023.
The need for insurance
Launched in 2018, Pawtect is the brainchild of Prakash Khaire, chief executive of Pune-based Vetina Healthcare LLP, which offers animal healthcare products. Khaire came up with the idea of launching the insurance service for dogs during a work trip to the UK. “At the time, there was no such product available in India and I realized the wide scope for it, given how popular it was abroad. After my return, we started working towards collecting data and managed to get a decent understanding of the product to finally launch it," Khaire says.
Reaching out to pet parents, however, was a big challenge in the beginning. “We had to place advertisements, use social media marketing, participate in pet shows and run campaigns at various clinics to spread the word," he explains.
Pawtect offers three plans: one covers accidents, another one covers illnesses and the third option provides security against both. Each service has its own premium, which also depends on the breed and age, and ensures treatment at any clinic across the country for dogs between eight weeks and eight years.
“The business picked up slowly. Over the last year, we have sold about 10,000 policies. We get between 50-100 enquiries these days and almost 60% of the clients go ahead and buy insurance. The largest sum that someone has insured against is ₹1.5 lakh. We are currently collecting data and hope to offer something similar for cats as well," Khaire says.
For people like Bengaluru’s Suresh Ramdas, 38, buying insurance for Suzie, his three-year-old Shih Tzu, is just an extension of a practice he’s cultivated over the years.
“Like I have medical insurance for my family, I wanted to have one for my pet too. It has made life less stressful as I don’t have to worry about the costs for any major issues," Ramdas says.
Besides Pawtect, there are other platforms too that are emerging in the pet insurance space.
At a pet fair in Mumbai last month, over a hundred visitors asked Devanshi Shah, 27, founder of petcare startup PetKonnect, if they offered insurance for pets. Having lost her own pet a few years ago to an illness, she was well aware of the costs she had to incur. The queries prompted her to start researching on pet insurance.
“On an average, any good vet will charge around ₹1,500 per visit. Then, there are other generic expenses related to vaccination and deworming. When Hazel (her pet, a Havanese) had to undergo surgery, it cost us about ₹15,000, besides additional expenses for dressing and plaster. On an average, accidents cost about ₹20,000, while in case of illnesses related to arthritis, the heart or kidneys, it can rise all the way up to ₹50,000. The costs can get as high as it is for humans at times, if not more," Shah says.
When the initial plan to create a blood bank for dogs was found to be unfeasible, Shah created a networking site, where dog owners could exchange notes, create an online medical history for pets and access resources like a 24-hour, on-call vet and ambulance services in case of an emergency.
In the next few months, Shah will offer pet insurance as part of new services at PetKonnect.
“Unlike insurance products for humans, which are in your face because of advertising, it’s not out there when it comes to pets. The products are similar to human insurance services, but there aren’t many. Owners tend to spend anywhere between ₹30,000-50,000 to cover their pets. It shows people are ready to go the extra mile for their pets because they are family," she says.
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