“Technology is all pervasive across various business sections of a company,” says Mohit Rochlani, head of technology at IndiaFirst Insurance, a life insurance company in India. Rochlani is the right person to make the assessment. After all, he heads two departments of IT and marketing.
He is used to consider the needs of salesforce while choosing the right technology and vice-versa. “Having been on both the sides, I can figure out customer requirements better,” Rochlani says while commenting on the two departments that he heads. Armed with an engineering degree with a Masters in Finance, Rochlani brings in a dual expertise to his job roles as a chief marketing officer and IT department head.
Paperless policy sales
Rochlani kicked off the automation process at IndiaFirst by empowering the sales team a year ago. The insurer built architecture in SaaS as it was his endeavor to cater to the demands of the sales department. The architecture was designed to suit both sales teams and customers.
His experience with revenue side of the business gives him the much needed commercial understanding to every IT project that he leads. IndiaFirst inaugurated a new project in partnership with government’s Common Service Centers (CSCs) in 2014. The insurer uses the CSC network to sell micro insurance products in rural areas where KYC documentation for every customer is completed via an iris scan or thumb prints. The identity of the insured is established by matching this data with Aadhaar details from the e-repository maintained by Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR), Government of India.
“We use the system created by Aadhaar to simplify our KYC compliance work. With more and more people covered under Aadhaar, this method will become significant going forward where no physical documents will be required to purchase insurance products,” says Rochlani.
The project entailed eight months of training prior to its commencement and came with a few challenges for IndiaFirst. Integration with Aadhaar database involved tremendous co-ordination at the ground level with government agencies besides working on the technical back-end.
IndiaFirst also had to train Rural Authorized Persons (RAPs) to use the hardware and sell its policies. The hardware and its ecosystem continue to evolve with IndiaFirst’s effort being on making the systems easy to use, Rochlani informs.
Around 2,500 policies were sold through CSCs primarily in the rural areas till date. The same ecosystem, according to Rochlani, can also be used to sell policies in urban areas. “CSCs have more than one lakh trained people. What we have touched is just about 6,000 of them. Our target is to reach out to at least 50,000,” Rochlani says. He predicts that a lot more commercial activities, besides selling insurance products, will be possible with the help of e-repositories going forward.
A touch of online
In the recent past, IndiaFirst empowered its sales workforce with tablets. The insurer designed a sales application for Android tablets so that its sales representatives could sell policies using a tablet.
“The idea is to speed up the sales process,” Rochlani comments. As soon as the financial information of a customer is entered into the system, it goes to team of underwriters at the back end. The premium details of the policy are relayed back to the customer while the meeting with the customer is going on.
IndiaFirst also uses an online platform to keep a tab on incoming requests from customers, sales teams, and agents. “We receive requests from potential customers and work on these at the backend.” Apart from this, the insurer also uses data analytics for automated underwriting.
Impact of technology
IndiaFirst has already received positive customer feedback for its technology initiatives. The insurer claims to have witnessed 10 percent to 15 percent improvement in cost efficiency with the use of tablets for sales. The company plans to extend this feature to mobile phones and to its agency distribution channels. The company hopes that the new system will help its agents to increase their productivity besides improving sales.
The digitally savvy consumers
Rochlani says that consumers of today are becoming digitally savvy and need to be engaged by the online medium as well. This may include payments or renewals or giving them a facility to access their documents online. Most insurance companies are looking to develop a system where a customer need not have or store a physical copy of the policy document. He will be able to access it online.
Online sales of insurance products have however not yet picked up so far according to Rochlani. “Online sales, that currently constitute about three to five percent of total sales, are for informed customers only. Not all products can be sold online. We have to design products specifically for online,” he says. At the moment it’s the term-insurance plans that are sold online. ULIPs are fast catching up in sales online. The primary source of policy sales for IndiaFirst however remains bancassurance, he informs.
Commenting on the latest trends in the industry, Rochlani says: “Companies are now appointing chief digital officers. The departmental silos are also disappearing fast. Earlier, IT had to push technology to business. But today business heads approach the CIO for demonstration of new technologies they want.”
Fortunately for Rochlani, the promoters of his company—Bank of Baroda, Andhra Bank and the UK-based Legal & General are extremely tech savvy. His team is currently evaluating how cloud can help IndiaFirst’s business to improve efficiency and speed as opposed to having dedicated servers, on-premise.
IndiaFirst is also looking at improving its call center technology to connect with customers. “With a CRM backend, we are exploring the best and fastest way to service our customers whenever a query gets lodged,” Rochlani says.