Insurance biz is doing very well in these uncertain times: Sharat Dhall,

Sharad Dhall, COO,
Sharad Dhall, COO,

As we go through Lockdown 4.0, digital further growns as people are restricted to their homes and have nothing but their screens to help them pass time. The digital sector has grown tremendously, whether it's gaming, social media or OTT. Although the digital sector has always been growing in India, the restrictions on other media in the current scenario has made digital the favourite for many in these times.

One such sector is the online policy market. While health is of utmost importance especially with a pandemic aboard, players like Policy do see a surge on their platform. Online policies have gained the confidence of people and they do gravitate towards these offerings.Although the current scenario does see a change in the consumer viewership and buying patterns. There is a strong focus on health and term insurance now.

In an interaction with Adgully, Sharat Dhall, COO,, talks about the behavioural changes in the consumers due to the COVID-19, their digital and media strategy in these times, as well as the communication done for the consumers.

What kind of policies are people looking for on your website? Any trends that are visible here from the potential customers who are surfing the site. Are health-related policies being purchased more at this point of time?

Soon after the lockdown commenced, we noticed a significant surge in the number of policies being sold online. Since then till today, we have recorded a 40% increase in our sales for both protection plans, that is, term life & health insurance covers. We are also innovating further down the consumer-buying journey by focusing on making insurance buying a pleasant and seamless experience, even amidst this COVID-19 crisis.

Over the last few weeks, the trends have changed slightly with queries on the platform regarding health insurance going up by more than 50%, and the conversion rates are also higher than ever before. More and more health policy seekers are now going for comprehensive covers with adequate sum insured plans to keep themselves and their family members protected. This is especially the case when a health cover with a sum assured as high as Rs 1 crore is available at highly affordable prices (for example, around Rs 9,500 yearly premium for a 30-year old male). We also noticed a trend where policyholders are also investing in many super top plans to add-on to their already existing covers and enhance the total sum insured thereby. Clearly, the realisation of the importance of term life insurance and health insurance has increased manifold amongst people during this crisis. More and more people are buying High Sum Insured plans. Earlier, people buying Rs 20 lakh to 1 crore was less than 5 share. Now, it has become almost 50%, as people become more and more aware and high SI plans become cheap.

How are you sustaining the saliency for brand Policy Bazaar? Are you running any brand campaign? What’s your media strategy for the same?

We believe that in such tough times, it is essential to ensure that the Policybazaar brand is salient and offers solutions to an audience that is currently very insecure about their future. We are communicating a very clear messaging that informs customers that they can secure their and their family’s future by insuring their health and life for a very reasonable sum. We have been extremely active both on TV as well as digital channels over the past couple of months with a high share of voice communicating the importance of getting yourself insured and securing your family’s future, in these uncertain times.

Apart from brand messaging, having one’s ear to the ground and understanding changing customer trends is also critical. We have seen media consumption patterns change and have aligned our media strategy in line with the changing trend of more week day and day time TV viewing and digital surfing.

What is the objective of the public service campaign that you are running? Has your objective set for this campaign paying you the yields?

Policybazaar has always been a customer-centric company and has always worked towards the benefit of the customers. Amidst these difficult times, we believe that spreading awareness amongst customers about the ease of buying insurance from the safety of their homes is our utmost priority. To simplify the buying process for consumers during this nationwide lockdown, we are ensuring end-to-end digital delivery of insurance. One such step being tele-medicals/ video medicals. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we realised that people might hesitate to visit medical centers to get a medical test done, which is very important to buy a term or health insurance plan. Therefore, we innovated by working closely with our insurance partners to reduce physical medicals and increase the usage of tele-medicine and video medical facilities. These processes require the customers to make a declaration about their health condition through a call with a doctor appointed by the insurer, who will ask simple questions regarding their health conditions and lifestyle habits.

Moreover, with e-KYC in place, consumers are finding the process of buying insurance quite hassle-free. Our key objective is to keep our consumers well versed and up to date with all the new digital innovations happening around the insurance sector, in order to add more convenience to their buying journey.

With the lockdown still continuing and relaxation happening very slowly, people are carefully spending mainly on essentials. How do you plan to woo them during these times?

Interestingly, what we are seeing is something very contrary to what you have mentioned. We are observing a trend where insurance is becoming more of a pull product than the typical push scenario that existed pre-COVID-19. From an awareness point of view, consumers are up-to-date and are making much more informed decisions today, they have done their research well and are opting to invest in more protection covers keeping themselves and their loved ones secure. In short, they are making insurance a priority in their lives and that’s a welcome change. The relevance and importance of covering oneself with a term life and health insurance plan has increased manifold amongst people in the last 2 months. The insurance business for us is actually doing very well in these uncertain times! What we see is conversions going up with higher talk time and most customers spending much more time on our website than ever before.

Most brands have moved their spends to digital in a big way. What has been your strategy and even in digital have you tried some innovations to beat the clutter?

During this period of lockdown, we have not curtailed our spends but instead have doubled down on optimising them to make them work even harder for us. We have been doing both TV and digital advertising very consistently over the past 2 months. TV certainly has a higher reach and allied with a significant presence on the digital front, adds to the omni-presence of the brand. More and more people are watching television news to get the latest updates on the COVID-19 situation and we are very active on all the news channels. Moreover, with a pause on the distribution of daily newspapers, most people have switched to digital mediums to get the latest updates. We are doing a lot of interactive and video content to be in touch with these audiences. This has certainly opened new possibilities to gain a larger target audience, develop a decent social presence and leverage the credibility of well-established publishers.

Being at home also meant more time spent on OTT, Apps and Mobile, and in line with this changing trend, we have an increased focus to invest aggressively in Programmatic ads. We saw improvement in CTRs as more people are likely to view ads and respond since the number of calls from a bancassurance channel or an offline agent has reduced, and people are now searching online for insurance products. In times of crisis, a customer’s deep interaction with the organisation can trigger a long-lasting and lingering effect on their trust and loyalty with the brand. Thus, we are also ensuring that all inbound service calls are addressed with the utmost of care and empathy.

There is a huge behavioral change that is likely to take place post lockdown. How do you plan to face this challenge? Any strategy has been devised to fight this challenge?

It is a fact that a large part of the insurance business comes via the agent or bank channels. I feel that considering the ongoing pandemic situation – which is here to stay for a while – the tide is now shifting to online. Online channels for insurance are going to be the go-to place for people to buy insurance as the offline modes will remain curtailed for a period of time. We have already seen this surge over the past two months. There is definitely a change that is taking place in the insurance industry as the insurers have digitised various processes including insurance buying, claims management, accepting support documents online and allowing customers to use self-service options with the help of digital bots and AI-driven Interactive Voice Response. The present crisis has certainly led to several innovations in the Insurance Industry, and these are key drivers for the further growth of the online platforms that are totally geared to serve consumers better in a world where getting things done without contact and social distancing is going to be a way of life for some time to come.


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