, India

How InsurSaathi is fast-tracking onboarding of new agents in rural India

InsurSaathi comes with an in-built insurance training module, all done remotely.

There’s over a million insurance agents active in India, yet most of its population remains underinsured. The biggest firms’ success is mostly dependent on the influence of their on-ground agents, who often tap into their circle of friends and well-wishers to build up their customer base.

Two factors may help increase the number of insured in India: offering microinsurance products, and having more agents to offer these to the public. But building a vast-enough network may be a challenge even for the biggest insurers. India’s biggest insurer, for example, boasts of a network of over a million agents, yet penetration remains conservative.

“All insurance providers across Asia have deep agency channels, some running into several thousands of field agents. However, the challenge, when it comes to selling or buying insurance in remote geographies [such as rural India] is the distribution mechanism and delivery costs,” said Edwin David, vice president for sales & marketing for the India-based insurance technology firm AccelTree.

This exact conundrum became the inspiration for AccelTree and its CEO, Vivek Mannige, to launch the InsurSaathi platform, which is a platform aimed specifically at simplifying the onboarding of new agents focused on microinsurance and rural insurance products.

InsurSaathi comes with an in-built insurance training module. The training programs are short and easy to complete and are all online.

“The agents select an insurer they wish to represent, complete the required training and thereafter, the application enables the insurer to issue a license as against the certification,” David told Insurance Asia. “The relevant insurance products of the selected insurer are made available to the agent on the mobile phone and the selling process is then initiated.”

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This offers insurance providers the ease with which new agents are onboarded and trained. It also offers low cost of distribution, since onboarding of new customers will also be remote, David added.

“InsurSaathi helps enlist, train, certify and license new agents. It thereafter allows an agent to sell insurance policies with the help of a simple smartphone. It also allows for policy issuance either in printed format or via a digital copy shared instantly,” he said.

Data from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India revealed that out of 24 life insurers it polled, only seven had any micro insurance products.
Reasons for low exposure include the high cost of distribution, and poor awareness amongst locals about the importance of insurance.

“The opening of the sector to private insurers some twenty years ago [has left] a noticeable impact, but this has been restricted to the urbanised regions whereas much of rural India is underinsured,” David noted.

The National Insurance Academy further supports this, noting in a 2020 study of micro insurance in India that less than 15% of the insurable population was covered under microinsurance.

David and AccelTree believe that awareness is key. The InsurSaathi app contains a comprehensive section on the importance of insurance, and this is delivered by a voice enabled chatbot, in local languages.

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“Until the need for risk protection is understood, technology will only wait in the wings. InsurSaathi promises a clear departure from insurance being sold to insurance being bought. It is a customer cum agent facing application which allows for easy purchase of a low-ticket sized insurance cover,” David said.
In the future, AccelTree is eyeing more partnerships with micro finance institutions and small finance banks in India to offer InsurSaathi as an extension of these firms’ microcredit risk protection offerings.

David also floated their interest in group life insurance and said that AccelTree is working on a technology solution that will issue insurance policies to large volumes of loanees.

As for the insurance industry as a whole, David said that AccelTree plans to continue enlisting a mix of technology and the human element in their future offerings.

“The insurance industry, not just in India, but in the APAC region, is growing at a frenetic pace and technology is the enabler,” David said. “But let us also understand that the human element in traditional markets such as Asia cannot be easily replaced. Trust lies at the root of every relationship and technology can only complement this equation.”

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