Dr. Sunaina Singh, Senior Consultant, Transformational Health Practice, Frost & Sullivan had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Mr. Richard Leftley, Founder & CEO, MicroEnsure. The Company recently won the 2017 India Emerging Insure-Tech Company of the Year Award
MicroEnsure is dedicated to creating, distributing and operating products that help uninsured people in emerging markets to mitigate the risks they face each day. By understanding our customers, providing innovative solutions and pushing ourselves to do everything better, our Company creates significant value for customers, employees, business partners and investors.
MicroEnsure continues to expand and grow through 2017 and beyond, with a goal to reach over 100 million registered customers by 2025. The Company’s growth strategy focuses on maximizing and empowering its potential through MNOs, financial institutions and other distribution partners. MicroEnsure has taken the necessary steps in researching, assessing and implementing innovative digital platforms to deliver products directly to emerging consumers.
1. Congratulations on having won the Frost and Sullivan 2017 India Emerging insure-Tech Company of the Year Award.
What are your thoughts on MicroEnsure’s achievement and what does this award mean to you?
We are delighted to receive this prestigious award. It reflects the teamwork and collaboration between MicroEnsure, Telenor India and Shriram. We have been able to successfully design and deliver an innovative mass market insure-tech solution, which is simple and easy to access for Telenor customers – from enrolment via mobile phones to a rapid claims process, providing a safety net to millions of Indian families. This award means so much to me as it recognizes when MicroEnsure collaborates successfully with a partner there is a huge potential to not only meet and exceed the business goals of both parties, but to make a significant impact on the lives of those currently underserved in terms of insurance against the risks they face, and that is why, after all, I founded MicroEnsure in the first place.
2. What is the dream/vision behind developing this insurance model in emerging markets and what motivated MicroEnsure to venture in India?
About 80% of the Indian population is not covered under insurance of any type. MicroEnsure has grown and expanded by listening to customers in Asia and Africa who describe their lives, habits, and how they cope with the risks they face. Through this process, we identified that the demand for insurance is high where the risk exposure is high, and therefore, we developed simple, easy to understand products that meet the needs of these customers. Our core ideal lies in providing accessible, affordable and effective insurance to emerging customers by keeping the per-client-per month premium between 13 INR and 64 INR ($0.2 and $1). This is achieved through innovative steps such as SMS-based insurance application and claims processes.
MicroEnsure ambition to venture into India was based on the recognition of two key observations: India is a huge market with massive potential, but there is a huge diversity within its population. This not only presents India as commercially attractive but also provides an opportunity to make a very definite difference to the low income consumers facing challenges in accessing affordable, simple insurance products to cover them and their families for possible tragic life events.
3. MicroEnsure in association with Telenor India launched Telenor Suraksha. By early 2016, the product had more than 20 million customers enrolled for life insurance, and more than 90% of whom had never been insured. What were the key success factors of this achievement?
The target consumer segment for Telenor India has always been the low-and middle-income individuals belonging to the bottom of the pyramid who seek value for money. The Telenor brand represents this ‘value for money’ promising ‘full extraction for every penny spent’ and for providing the best value offerings. Telenor Life Insurance was a “Full Paisa Vasool” or “Best Value for Money” proposition for our customers to secure their lives.
One of the key success factors was people’s trust in the Telco brand providing mobile services to them. This further led to the trust in the insurance service offered through the Telco. By partnering with a trusted MNO brand we were able to create a marketing strategy that had a multitude of benefits: increased SIM sale; increased ARPU via targets and a strengthened Telco brand. The resulting factor was a development of trust in the insurance products, which ultimately led to an increase in insurance penetration.
A further key success factor influencing this achievement was the simplicity of the product; the simple enrolment, top up and claim procedures created a frictionless and end-to-end proposition for both the Telco and the customer made the ease of delivering the insurance product a reality.
We expect the success of our products and the introduction of insurance in these emerging markets will encourage more competitors and traditional insurers to enter the market addressing those at the bottom of the pyramid. The ultimate aim of providing affordable insurance products to billions of under-served and uninsured population.
4. What have been your biggest business challenges in India and how have you met those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges we face is to educate the mass market regarding insurance. There is a general distrust on traditional insurance companies and products as claims are dependent on complex exclusions and lengthy claim processing periods. Although MicroEnsure countered this perception by minimizing or having no exclusions in the policies and paying claims within days, there is still a long path to travel to change the perception about insurance. With low per capita income, low literacy and even lower awareness levels, insurance has always taken a back seat when it comes to spending any money on such covers.
MicroEnsure has designed a product requiring no documentation, no premiums for the customers to pay, with ease of enrolment supported by 3 Lac Retailers and 2000 exclusive stores. Together with the 24*7 Telenor Customer-care services, educating and offering the customers insurance cover, the product tackles all such hindrances and makes life insurance a highly attractive product for the mass market consumers. We consider the record-breaking uptake of our products demonstrates that our marketing, education and perceived value to the end consumers are all unprecedented in our industry. We focus a significant amount of investment on ensuring customers understand and appreciate the cover they have, as opposed to traditional insurance markets, where consumers are often unaware of the terms of their insurance coverage.
In addition to the problems of perception and education, India is a highly regulated marketplace, and therefore, presents challenges to deliver microinsurance products within such a regulatory framework. MicroEnsure has had to take a collaborative approach, working with the insurance regulator and with trusted insurance partners, in this case Shriram, to find pathways to deliver microinsurance products in conjunction with the regulatory infrastructure.
5. Innovation is a key driving force for MicroEnsure. Can you name a few innovative products that will be launched in the near future?
MicroEnsure continues to evaluate models that add more value to the customer, especially through digital channels. We believe customers want solutions to the risks they face, and while sometimes solution is insurance, in other cases the solution is high-quality education or simple health services. Based on the time we’ve spent working with customers, we are expanding our view of what they need from us – because in the end, we are here for them.
MicroEnsure has developed technology platforms that interface with Mobile Network Operators with capabilities of customer communication though USSD, SMS and IVR, as well as utilising new claims technologies. Through consolidating our learning from over more than a decade of providing technology solutions for microinsurance, and with an eye on preparing for future requirements, MicroEnsure has developed the MicroEnsure Global Product Platform (MGPP) which consolidates the existing technology solutions into a single platform capable of supporting the various enrolment methods, together with policy and claims administration. On a standard implementation of MGPP the API can support in excess of 10,000 real-time enrolments and 500,000 renewals per hour. MicroEnsure has an exciting list of initiatives, including various mobile apps capable of inter-operating with MGPP. One of the exciting opportunities in 2017 has been entering into an agreement with an insurer to provide them with MGPP as the platform to support their MFI business.
6. What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for mass insurance business in future? Where do you envision your company in next 5 to 10 years?
Providing insurance to the emerging low income consumer in the mass market is becoming more widely accepted. MicroEnsure’s closeness to the customer and the careful way in which we take the customer through the claims process, thus delivering a very positive experience, continues to provide trust in insurance. Through this continued positive outlook, more range of products assisted by the development in digitalisation and distribution channels can find innovative ways to market. As the ease of buying increases and there are more readily available products through the accessibility of mobile wallets and mobile banks, the exciting thing for MicroEnsure is the possibility of moving from meeting the immediate needs of the customer such as shelter, life and disability to other areas of daily life, such as insurance on demand as in the case of travel.
Furthermore, through the advances in technology, specifically insure-tech, the potential to combine services to meet more than the basic insurance needs of the customer can be met by delivering solutions to a number of related needs of a customer’s problem and this can then include insurance.
Over the last 3 years, MicroEnsure has seen the number of customers enrolled on MicroEnsure facilitated products grow from around 5 million to 60 million people. It is hoped MicroEnsure continues its efforts in meeting the insurance and related needs of the emerging consumer by delivering insurance products to hundreds of millions of people in key emerging markets across Africa and Asia over the next 5 to 10 years.
7. Any final closing comments for the readers?
MicroEnsure is focussed on building trust with the customer through education of the insurance product, eliminating exclusions to simplify the claims process and working with customers to ensure the claims are paid within days, not weeks or months as is commonplace with traditional insurance. Creating new forms of risk protection derives from our desire to have an ever-increasing impact on emerging consumers such that we can steadily build toward a sustainable safety net, even while public safety nets remain absent in much of the developing world. Traditional insurance alone will not achieve this goal, so MicroEnsure is dedicated to innovation such that we can continually address more and more of our consumers’ needs.
By being recognized as Frost and Sullivan 2017 India Emerging insure-Tech Company of the Year, it is reinforced why MicroEnsure is the partner of choice for delivering innovative and business focussed solutions to the emerging market.