Discussions around insurance purchase has become a family event: Amaresh Jena

Commencing its operations in 2001-02, Bangalore-headquartered Exide Life Insurance Company Limited manages assets of Rs 18,381 crore (as on March 31, 2021). The company, which is 100% owned by HDFC Life, distributes its products through multiple channels, viz. Agency, Bancassurance, Corporate Agency & Broking, Direct Channel and Online. The Agency channel comprises of 40,000+ advisors attached to 200 company offices (as on March 31, 2021) across the country. The Company also offers group life insurance solutions.

Exide Life Insurance is focused on providing long-term protection and savings plans and has a strong traditional product portfolio with a consistent bonus track record. The pandemic has really changed the approach towards life insurance which has now become a necessity. With a good amount of education and awareness created by organisations like Life Insurance council the life insurance category should be on a good growth path.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully for their column Marketing Minds, Amaresh Jena, Executive Vice President & Head - Marketing & Digital, Exide Life Insurance, speaks about how the insurance category has evolved in the last few years and how his company is planning several marketing initiatives and engagement strategy to get their brand into the consideration set.

Life insurance is a very low involvement category. How do you nudge your potential customers and educate them on the importance of insurance? What has been your communication strategy here?

From the mindshare perspective, life insurance as a category has been ever evolving. From being perceived as “important, but not mandatory” in one’s financial planning to “sabse pehle life insurance” – the positive mindshare has come a long way. In the last couple of years, the pandemic has played a key role in this transition of mind-set. Lately, there are more open and objective discourse about securing one’s dependents’ future with a life cover vis-a-vis what used to happen prior to the pandemic. Having said that, a lack of understanding of various products to intangible nature of the product benefit to avoiding tricky conversations about “what after death”, there are still some barriers in the minds of potential customers.

Considering these barriers, we nudge our customers via a two-pronged strategy. The first remains in creating awareness and initiating conversations about financial needs at various life stages and how one should be prepared enough in the case of an unfortunate situation of loss of life. The second is conversations around products, related-benefits catering to financial needs and various other services.

From the overall communication standpoint and considering the underlying intangible nature of the category during paying years, our communication strategy varies according to the audience and the geography however the underlining message is always about a sound financial planning to mitigate the challenges emanating from unpredictability of life. India is a country with diversity and multiple languages, so we extensively use life stage experiences and vernacular languages in our communications to build an emotional connect, be it for our existing or prospective customers. The choice of platforms for conversations is primarily driven by the markets we operate in, consumption of information from past experiences, which remains a mix of both traditional mediums such as print and digital platforms.

What is the role of research in culling out insights for your campaign? What kind of campaign approach works in this category?

For us as a brand, research and consumer insights are the fulcrum basis which our campaigns are formulated. We conduct extensive customer research on our specific set of customers and the markets we majorly operate in. This is our most critical and first step towards understanding the sentiments, perception, life-stage needs and brand affinity. In fact, this has helped us shape the “problem statement” based on which the campaign is designed, thereby informing individuals as to how our brand or our product and services is going help them meet the desired financial planning needs. In broad areas, the campaigns usually are bifurcated either to spread awareness about life insurance or create mind share for certain product and services or creating brand awareness.

The pandemic has brought a shift in consumer behaviour. As a brand how have you adapted to the new consumer behaviour and what kind of trends have you noticed in the Life insurance sector?

We know for a fact that in the last two years the discussions around insurance purchase has become a family event as against the primary bread-winner of the family making the policy purchase decisions. Individuals, specifically in the last two years, are spending more time than ever in understanding various insurance products and the benefits they offer. Concepts such as mortality and morbidity are understood better by a larger audience now who therefore recognize the significance of life insurance. In fact, we have noticed the consumption of information about life insurance and related products via digital medium have increased multi-fold especially in the said timeframe. This is quite a positive indicator for the sector as well as for policyholders.

The Life Insurance Council recently conducted an exhaustive survey to understand the Indian audience’s perception towards life insurance. The survey findings pointed to the fact that life insurance is seen as a top priority for the earning members of a family. The survey findings indicated high awareness, and that people of all age groups across the country consider life insurance an important financial instrument. However, while 91% of the people consider it a necessity, only 70% are willing to invest in the same which is a gap we are trying to plug with various communication initiatives.

There has been a digital transformation across all industries, especially finance. How have you embraced technology and digital in your company to increase efficiency and productivity?

The pandemic has resulted in a complete new dimension with respect to the strategic imperatives for many insurers, including us. Organisations who have invested in adopting futuristic technology prior to the pandemic had a smooth sailing when Covid-related restrictions came into force. As a brand, we had transitioned onto e-sales and e-learning platforms a few years prior to the pandemic, which was an advantage for us. This not only improved our efficiency and productivity, but also helped us tide over the challenges during the pandemic and made us future ready. With our digital initiatives, we empowered our sales teams and also understood the customer needs and requirements to come up with solutions that would help them experience a hassle-free insurance purchase journey. This led us in creating platforms where engagements ranging from socializing products, financial need assessment, risk evaluation, payments and policy issuance could be done digitally.

From the other spectrum, insurers are beginning to invest heavily in technology to enable advanced research and analytics resulting in offering insurance products that are tailor-made for a customer segment. Customer-centricity certainly has a new definition now.

What has been your engagement strategy with your target audience? How have you approached your overall media strategy to stay top of mind and get your brand in the consideration set?

We use a fair mix of digital and traditional media to drive home the message about life insurance through various marketing and PR campaigns. However, before embarking upon any mass communication campaign we try to thoroughly understand our target audience that includes the demographics, the geography, cultural preferences, etc.

In this modern day era, digital platforms have given us an edge to sharpen our customer targeting. In life insurance sector, when you have varied kinds of understanding, a specific media platform can only help in meeting part of the objectives of a campaign. The one-size-fits-all approach has its limitations for a category like life insurance. From a broad stand point, traditional media such as TV, Print, so forth always helps in creating reach to a large segment of audience, however digital and social mediums provide an extensive engagement opportunity with new as well as existing customers. The choice of media mix in the modern age heavily depends on the geography, demography, purchase mind-set and timing of the communication.


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