Blog: Seven Indian insurtech start-ups to watch in 2017 and beyond

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Insurtech is gaining traction in India with multiple start-ups and significant investment

Incisive Insight Insurance Division content director and chair of the Post Digital Insurance Collective Jonathan Swift looks at the burgeoning insurtech scene in India and highlights a few start-ups to keep an eye on.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog spotlighting seven Asian insurtech start-ups worth keeping tabs on based in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

At the time I was contacted by several firms based in India, and settled on the idea that there was so much going on - the country was worthy its own article.

There are already some notable insurtech successes such as Mumbai-based Coverfox, which has secured over $14m (£10.8m) from investors including Accel Partners, SAIF Partners and Catamaran Ventures, the private investment arm of Infosys’ co-founder NR Narayana Murthy; and PolicyBazaar, which is planning a $100m Nasdaq IPO and last year raised around $40m in its Series D round of funding from PremjiInvest, the personal investment vehicle of Wipro chairman Azim Premji, and other investors including Tiger Global.

On a smaller scale rural insurance specialist GramCover raised around $0.9m from Venture capital firm Omnivore Capital and Easypolicy, raised about $2.2m funding led by Unilazer Ventures.

I could have probably featured twice the number of start-ups as we have highlighted here, but here are seven to start.

 

121 Policy (Kolkota)

The pitch: “Trustable health insurance plans, as per your need.”

What we know:

A new venture launched this year by broker Ideal Insurance. The primary focus is health insurance, although it does offer a wider portfolio including motor and household. It was reportedly backed to an undisclosed sum from by Just Dial chief technology officer Sandipan Chattopadhyay’s technology incubator Xelpmoc.

Rahul Agarwal, founder and director of Ideal Insurance [moniker: “The Idea Manager], told Techcircle: “Health is the space where we want to create our niche. There is a huge requirement and demand for health insurance. We are a very strong player offline, our claim settlement is fantastic and we want to capitalise our offline experience and expertise online.”

He added: “Most of the online companies sell a lot of motor insurance which is a low-hanging fruit. We are taking a little more of a long-term approach. We see huge growth potential for health insurance.”

As well as a stake, Xelpmoc will also reportedly maintain the technology infrastructure 121 Policy is using. The business is being ran by Ideal’s COO Rahul Mohata (moniker: “The Crisis Manager”) who is described as “a strong administrator and “great data analyst” who has been key in improving the broker’s customer satisfaction scores.

 

Bimadirect (Hyderabad)

The pitch:

“Bimadirect is a state of the art internet based comparison and retail program for distribution of individual and group insurance products to customers in India.”

What we know:

"Bima" in most Indian languages apparently means insurance, rendering this business’ brand pretty self-explanatory.

Founded in 2012 by Amit Pandey an entrepreneur with a background in insurance and outsourcing, and fellow Coretree Solutions alumni Atul Pandey, the business is one of the newest of slew of price comparison businesses which have launched in India. These include My Insurance Club (2009), Policymantra (2010) and BuySmartPolicy (2012).

Amit remains in the board, but now lists Chicago-based advisory firm New Jove as his primary concern.

 

ET Insure [Gurugram, Haryana]

The pitch:

“Three words that define us – helpful, trustful and truthful. If our platform does that for you, makes you feel satisfied with your policy purchase and secure about your future – we’ve done our part.”

What we know:

Launched in February this year, offering insurance for cars and motorbikes, with other lines promised, ETInsure.com claims to position itself as “a group of passionate entrepreneurs, IITians, designers and management professionals with deep expertise in technology, mobile and financial services."

The firm adds: “The insurance buying and servicing journey is broken and it is full of friction, grey areas, poor awareness and rampant mis-selling. We believe it’s a problem worth tackling and in the process, we’ll work to build a world-class, customer-centric platform to help consumers buy and manage their insurance policies seamlessly."

The business certainly has significant backing in the shape of Times Internet, India's self -proclaimed “largest premier digital product company and the digital arm of The Times of India Group."

Shankar Nath, principal officer & head, ETInsure.com, told the Economic Times earlier in 2017: “We have redesigned and re-engineered the entire insurance stack from the ground up. We are excited to empower our consumers to make informed decisions about their insurance needs, so that they feel positive about their future -- as they are well-covered.”

Before taking up his role with ETInsure, Nath – who claims to be “a novelist in making” and “Chelsea FC at heart” according to his Twitter profile – was head of digital business and telesales at Bharti Axa General Insurance and associate vice president – digital partnerships at HDFC Standard Life, so he comes with good pedigree.

 

Gibl.in (Kolkota)

The pitch: “We compare 25 insurers to give you the best insurance plans in India. Get the lowest policy prices and buy insurance online in two minutes.”

What we know:

One of the elder statesman on this list and another that was born out of a broker [in this case Green Life Insurance Broking]. Gibl.in has developed what it claims is an easy “web and mobile app based marketplace that makes insurance policy discovery and procurement effortless”. Among the services it boasts it offers are one click renewal and claims tracking.

The business was founded by managing director Subir Mukherjee, who as a self-confessed “serial entrepreneur” might not seem too different to any number of people in this article.

However his journey begun – unlike many here – in Ireland where in 2000 he claims to have arrived with $50 in his pocket to later launch a software company from his own bedroom in 2002. This firm, e-Celtic, now has offices in Kolkata and Dublin and names Bank of Ireland, Guinness and Aviva among its clients.

Mukherjee, who is also “an active preacher of green technology and reducing the carbon footprint” according to his biography, is supported by chief operating officer Santosh Sahoo and chief mentor Bhaskor Ghose. The latter described as a past “poster boy of the insurance industry in the eastern region,” having worked for Eagle Star and Oriental Insurance.

 

Insure First (Kolkata)

The pitch: “We are a team of dedicated professionals with over 40 years of financial services exposure all set to redefine customer experience. There are companies and there's Insure First where customers come first always.”

What we know:

Having secured its operating license in November 2016 Insure First is presently a limited liability partnership, although it aims to transform itself into a privately held limited company within the next 36 months.

The business describes itself as a “SEE” company (simple, easy, effective) and has five core values in judgment, communication, impact, courage and passion.

Its founding team include Aparajit Bhattacharya, principal officer, financial products distribution, who returned from a spell with Ensure in Nigeria, to start the business; Rohit Dey, head of sales and marketing, and Khetan Pankaj, COO.

Self-described serial entrepreneur Krishna Kyal is also listed as a founding partner having built businesses in sectors such as real estate, media production, hotels and infrastructure projects.

 

Renew Buy (Gurgaon, Haryana

The pitch:  “We are motor insurance specialists. Backed by our proprietary technology, we are fast getting established as India’s premier online auto insurance comparison platform.” 

What we know:

Launched in April 2015 Renew Buy is owned by D2C Consulting Services - which has a broking license - and is headed by CEO Balachander Sekhar, a “seasoned insurance and financial services professional with 18 years experience” including roles at MetLife, Reliance Retail Insurance and ABN AMRO.

Within five months of launch the business was reporting 200 transactions a month, doubling to 400 by October 2015. It boasts it is adding 5000 new customers a month and is aiming to have completed more than two million transactions within five years based on its projected growth curve.

To help it on its way Renew Buy reportedly raised $0.5m worth of funding from Singapore Mount Nathan Advisors last year, planning to invest the money on innovative solutions – including for claims - so that it can serve their customers better.

 

Turtlemint (Mumbai)

The Pitch: “Buy insurance, the smart way”

What we know:

On its website this start-up notes that a “turtle shell is a metaphor for security and safety” and “that's what insurance is all about”, whilst mint stands “for a fresh approach to help people achieve financial freedom."

Added together Turtlemint says its intent is to “demystify” insurance by “explaining  jargon in a simple way and providing smart tools to help a user make the right choice."

Founders Anand Prabhudesai, Dhirendra Mahyavanshi and Kunal Shah all previously worked for Indian classified advertising platform Quikr. In 2016 Turtlemint – which is a subsidiary of Invictus Insurance Broking Services - completed an investment round led by Nexus Venture Partners with participation from Blume Ventures.

 

Mumbai Insurance Club - Preparing for tomorrow

Insurtech - alongside developing professional/technical skills, improving service standards and foreign investment - will be among the subjects covered during an upcoming Post event on the 15 June in Mumbai in association with the Chartered Insurance Institute. For more details click here

 

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