EP 153 – Shanai Ghosh – CEO Edelweiss General Insurance – The FMCG of Financial Services

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Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Guest
Shanai Ghosh

Shanai spearheads India’s first cloud native and one of the fastest growing insurers, Edelweiss General Insurance (EGI). She has been with EGI since its inception and has been closely involved in setting up and launching of the business. She took over as the Executive Director & CEO of the company in May 2019. Shanai has always been an advocate of the power of technology to transform businesses and believes that the Indian Insurance market is at the cusp of that transformation. To her, the GI industry is the FMCG of financial services, offering companies many moments of truth, and only cust

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The Asia InsurTech Podcast spoke with Shanai Ghosh, the CEO and Executive Director at Edelweiss General Insurance, about how insurance can become easier, friendlier and more transparent and how digital has helped the company thrive during the pandemic.

FInd the transcript of our conversation here:

Michael Waitze
Okay, we’re on. Hi, this is Michael Waitze, and welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. This is the only podcast in Asia focused on insurance that gives entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and investors a platform to discuss how technology is reshaping the insurance industry globally. We are excited to be joined by Shanai Ghosh, the CEO and Executive Director at Edelweiss General Insurance. It’s great to have you on the show. How are you doing?

Shanai Ghosh
I’m doing good, Michael, all things considered right now. You know, things going crazy in India with the COVID surge happening again. So how are things at your end?

Michael Waitze
They are pretty good. I really only go, as boring as it sounds, I really only go from my condo, which is in the same complex as my studio just back and forth. From my condo into my desk here, it’s eight minutes. And I don’t see anybody else, generally. I don’t really talk to anybody else except virtually like this. So for me, I feel safe. Before every now and then I feel like you know, could get worse.

Shanai Ghosh
I think people in India were just starting, not just starting, I think they had really kind of gone out people were back in offices, quite a lot of them and back socializing. But they’re having to pull back again, I think that’s a bit of a change. But the stop and start, I guess, is part and parcel of life ahead. So we have to just get used to it.

Michael Waitze
I do feel like you’re right there. I feel like this is never going to go away. Maybe the strains just get weaker and weaker over time, hopefully. But let’s see what happens. Right?

Shanai Ghosh
Yeah, well, hopefully get to get over soon, like South Africa is done.

Michael Waitze
Yeah, exactly. At least we can look at something and say it’s better there. Hopefully, it’ll get better here as well. Okay, what do you think let’s get back to the main topic here for a second, what do you think is the biggest trend in InsurTech in India, and by extension, the rest of Asia.

Shanai Ghosh
So I think even now, the biggest trend in InsurTech, is how distribution is migrating to technology. I think that’s still the biggest trend. Although I think in other parts of the world, especially in the US or in Europe, I think claims and b2b InsurTech is becoming very big. One trend that, you know, I see in the rest of the world, which is not really come to India is usage based insurance. So that’s something that we are kind of piloting in India, and we hope that will come bigger, especially with a section of the audience that wants to control their insurance, you know, the digital savvy, or the millennials or the Gen Z, whatever you want to call them. But the one thing, so this is all happening, the current focus in Asia is around distribution. But what I think will come is one is I feel that usage based insurance will come more on demand insurance. And the second big thing is, you know, working collabs with b2b InsurTechs and insurers in transforming the experience related to claims and adjacent services, especially in the aftermath of COVID. You know, a lot of insurers, rightfully so have started understanding that their role is not just about, you know, paying a claim. Their role, if they want to be more deeply engaged in the lives of the consumers, they need to extend their participation in their lives. And the only way to do it, is to move from protection to prevention, and to really do it in a really engaging manner. Because let’s face it, nobody really wants to talk about insurance, we have to find a way of making it at least nice to talk about. And, you know, that’s one of the things in our purpose, because as an InsurTech. We have we were the 33rd insurer, right? We had to find a reason to come in. And you know, just a 33rd insurer is not going to make a difference. And we found that reason, in the feedback that we got for consumers that insurance experience was broken, no one trusted it, people still find that insurers don’t want to pay. And they just find insurers, intimidating, officials, pumpers, whatever you want to call them. So we said okay, our purpose is to make insurance really easy, friendly, and transparent. Now, these are three adjectives you’ll never find associated with insurance.

Michael Waitze
Three years ago, and we started doing this show, right? People would say to me, Oh, I’m in the insurance industry. I’ve been in the insurance industry for 20 years or 25 years. Insurance isn’t sexy, right? And nobody wants to talk about it. But in the past three years, I feel like something’s changed. At least in the conversations that I’ve been having. And one of them is that like more money and we can talk about this too, but more money in 2021 during COVID harder to raise money, all this type of stuff. More money was raised in 2021 for InsurTechs then all of 18 and 19 combined and it wasn’t even close. Right? So I think the conversations changing, do you feel like it’s changed? Like, how long have you been in the insurance industry?

Shanai Ghosh
I’ve been in insurance for almost 20 years now. It has definitely changed. In fact, I would say, it was very good coincidence, when we started out Edelweiss General Insurance around the beginning of 2018. That’s the time I think it’s in the last three, three and a half years, four years, maybe the conversation has really changed. And you’re absolutely right, in 2020, and 2021, you place much more money in InsurTech than it’s ever been done before. So clearly, it’s becoming sexier for investors. But I think the Holy Grail is for not to make it sexy, but to at least have consumers talking about it. Because you know, in India, if you look at it in India, our insurance penetration is really low. It’s much lower than the world, right? So the runway for growth is huge. But still people don’t wake up wanting to buy insurance, right? And fine. I don’t think anyone does. But even when they want to do that, they don’t want to be like, Oh my God, that’s the necessary evil I have to do. So it we should at least move to saying that Oh, my God. Okay. That’s the necessary thing. Okay. No, cool. I’ll just go and just get it all. I’ll just go and claim it. You’ll be surprised. There are so many people in India who have car insurance policies, but and have had accidents. But I’ve never claimed. Good for the insurer.

Michael Waitze
Great for the insurer, great for insurance margins, right. But why do you think people haven’t claimed?

Shanai Ghosh
They just don’t want to go through the process. They just don’t want to go through the process. And of course, there are enough of those who pass off scratches as accidents also. But there are a lot of genuine customers who should have claimed and haven’t because they’re just so intimidated by the process. And they’re like, Okay, this, this is too small, it doesn’t it’s not worth my effort. Now, while you know, one part of the industry would say good, you know, they didn’t claim it’s good for the insurer. But I really think that contributes and amplifies the trust deficit that exists. We just need to get those people and tell them that it’s super simple to have a claim done, we chase people to take claims. Now, we tell them those pots settlement because we want to break that myth all started with, but we want to kind of transform that perception.

Michael Waitze
How do you use technology? And I love these three terms, it’s very easy to understand, easy, friendly, transparent, and in a way, you just have to keep repeating it so people believe it right? How do you use technology? To make those three things true? I think people do worry, right? This is way too hard for me, I’m just not going to do it or, you know, doesn’t seem like my agent cares about what I’m doing. And I just don’t understand the policy that transparency is bad. So how do you fix this with technology?

Shanai Ghosh
So a few things. And let me give you a few examples of what we’ve done and how we’ve tried to make it easy, friendly and transparent. First of all, you know, the entire claims process the entire claims process, you call up someone, then someone will send someone and do a survey, which is not so in India. But I think the adoption that a digital first organization like us can push through it stakeholders, including customers a lot hard hire. So for us for our first go to is that, you know, let’s just do a digital survey of your car. At the pandemic, we were able to convince 60 to 70% of our customers and garages to do a digital survey, which meant that the claims are passed and completed so much faster. So first of all, the experience of digital survey and giving an on the spot settlement is something that makes the process super easy, super friendly, and also transparent. We are telling them online saying this is your claim. These are the damages. And the other thing that we did was we have a tie up with with one of the travel portals, we have a flight cancellation, ticket cancellation kind of inconvenience travel type. You don’t normally what the process for a lot of other insurance, if they have these types is that if you cancel your ticket on that portal, you call up the call center or write an email or whatever, and tell them that have canceled and they’ll ask proof. Okay, tell me how much got canceled, what got deducted and their entire processes there. And unfortunately, sometimes those that process dissuades people from making a claim. Our process was very different. We integrated with, we obviously had an API integration with the travel portal. And the moment it would, they would cancel it on that app instantly from our side, you would get a link to enter your bank details because we know we had a standard grid based on which we know that if you cancel a ticket, this is what it costs. This is the timing of cancellation. So this is what you get so instantly, as soon as you give us the details of your bank or what have a credit card or even phone because we have phone based payments. Also in India, you get a credit instantly. So we weren’t waiting for a person to raise a claim. Now that’s again, super friendly, transparent, simple, easy, you don’t have to raise a claim, not just technology. So this this, this is beyond technology. This is the core purpose of our organization. If you look at the kind of documents that we’ve made, for our customers, one line there is their remote insurance, I really like it, it says the contents of this document are simpler than they look. Because you know, you have the rearview mirror, it says that, you know, the car is closer than we we’ve got feedback from customers say saying that, hey, that’s witty, I didn’t expect an insurer to be funny. And you know, which is something that cuts across, it does. So we use wit lightly self deprecating weight as a kind of go to card. And it’s cutting through. So it’s easy, friendly. And transparent. is not just about technology. Technology is a great platform, it helps us deliver that. But it has to be much beyond that. It has to be a mindset, it has to be a culture, it has to be the way you say things. And it has to be not just for customers, it has to be for your employees and partners.

Michael Waitze
I was gonna say there’s a bank, a neobank actually in the Philippines called Tonic Bank. You should look it up actually run by a guy named Greg Krasnoff. And if you look at their website, the whole thing is tongue in cheek. It’s just really because they’ve made this decision that if people are going to interact with us on a daily basis, that interaction should be fun, but not non serious, right? But it should be fun. I do the same thing. When I’m recording. I’m talking about a serious subject, whether it’s technology or distribution, or innovation, insurance and InsurTech. It’s a serious topic, but I want people to have fun when they’re listening to it. And, you know, like when they talk about interest rates, where I think they’re giving like a 6% interest rate payment. He goes, Hey, by the way, you’re a six, he’s you know, they’re making fun of that whole REITs. Funny, right, you’re laughing. But I think that that does cut through a whole bunch of stuff. You’ve been in the insurance industry for 20 years, what happened in 2018, that made you say, You know what, I’m gonna go out on my own, not my own, obviously be with the team, and go build this thing from scratch. Like you said, there were already plenty of insurance companies. What was like the overriding idea where you thought, I just want to start from zero.

Shanai Ghosh
My experience as a consumer was the motivated consumers of insurance products, right? I have a car insurance, I buy travel insurance, I have health insurance. So there are many such experiences that I had, when I started out my career, computers were kind of just becoming the thing. And we were all computerized. And that was a big thing. And having a personal computer was a big thing. And I started my career as a banker at Citibank. I did five years there. And then there was a sunrise insurance sector, which started in 2000, in India, but I joined it in late 2002. And I joined life insurance. And I was excited by the thought of joining a sunrise sector. Whenever you join a new organization, you get to do a bunch of things. And I like to do a bunch of things, not narrow stuff, I like to do stuff, right. But what really interested me was that that organization that I was talking to was trying to bring direct response advertising to financial services. Now in early 2000s, or early decade of 2000. It wasn’t common for people to buy on the phone, or even to, you know, call up seeing an ad in India, that was all face to face. Yeah, it was all face to face. So I launched that entire mode of acquisition for life insurance in India. And we created a whole bunch of documents, including white papers, that would be you know, quite useful for regulations to come up in that sector. And we didn’t end in India, and even internationally, you know, selling life insurance that way was unheard of, especially the savings products and almond products that we had in India. But we did that. And we didn’t just do this direct response advertising, we got SMS or at the time short messaging service into the entire thing. And we had this concept of instant calling the moment you’d SMS, you’d get an instant call out.

Michael Waitze
When you propose this to this company where you were working. Did they think, no, no. Back then when you started doing all this stuff, you started innovating. When you start proposing these ideas, were they like, wait a second, this is insane. This is never gonna work. And then it did. And they were like, we now have a genius on board or they just like go for it.

Shanai Ghosh
The company is AIG it had a tie up in India called Tata, AIG. They had direct response advertising internationally. So they had you know, call this number 1800. Or what they didn’t have is calling a 1800 for a life insurance product. So they said it’s never gonna sell. It’s never gonna sell. It’s not gonna happen. sell this product. They had a product that they want To sell, and I said in the cultural context of India will never work right. So I finally had to go back to the consumer. So it was more about the product first, the entire, you know, debate and convincing required was around the product. Because, you know, I said this is the product which will sell in India, of course, they weren’t just convinced by me telling them. So I said, Okay, let’s go back to the consumer. So we did a whole lot of focus groups use that to convince them. And then of course, we piloted a few, we advertise we piloted we did a few campaigns, we created the entire infrastructure, you know, in immediate response, management, all of that. And then beyond calling, you know, if you get we went on to TV, now, if you go onto TV, you have speaking of responses, they come in a bunch of about few minutes, 30 seconds here, and there, you can’t capacities for that in your response management. So we said for us to manage, let’s have us call them out. So we integrated the dialer, with the SMS server, so that instantly you could message your response, and you would get a call out, and maybe it would be spaced out a little bit over half an hour, but you would get a call. So that was something that was very difficult for people to convince people that no, you have to have a person sitting and taking a call immediately, right, I said, you can’t have 300 people take a call, just because you get 300 calls in one instant around the ad, you can’t have that kind of capacity. So that took a whole lot of convincing. It helped that we had a fair bit of delegation of authority in the Indian business. So we were able to take that decision locally. And credit to both our tiny Ay ay ay ay at that time to think like that. So those are the things that worked, right from then, and I moved on to another place and so on. But right from then I’ve been very excited about the possibility of using technology to transform businesses. And in every part of my role I’ve been, maybe it’s just surrender, pity. But I have been, even in more traditional organizations, I have been part of units that have been at the interplay of technology and business. And through this when I came here, or when when I started thinking about the space of insurance. Of course, the nonlife space, which is not live space was very exciting, because I always felt that, you know, we call it the FMCG, or financial services, because we feel that it’s so yeah, because it’s fast moving, you make a decision, you move on, you revisit the decision every year, you get a chance to it’s quite a level playing field, in some ways, you get a chance to win the customer every year. Right? And and you can’t rest on your laurels. You can’t say, oh, I’ve got it, he will pay me for life. No, you have to win win him or her every year, you buy so many products, you buy insurance for every car, every year you travel, you buy health, and now you have different kinds of health insurance, you buy a mobile, you buy insurance. So it’s really interactions are pretty frequent. And you end up interacting with the customer for claims in a pretty intense manner. Right? So you know, the engagement should be higher. Ironically, the engagement is really low. Because we treat the entire process of insurance, unfortunately, in the industry, I think earlier, we should treat it as a transaction.

Michael Waitze
What do you do from an engagement standpoint, this is something that I hear a lot about from insurance companies and InsurTech. And one of the things that they said getting back to the banking was banking is something that you do every day. And insurance is something you do maybe like once a quarter or once every six months. But it’s you go to a bank and you take money out you use your bank account to pay for this and pay for that. How do you keep engaged with the policyholders new potential clients so that it feels like it’s an everyday thing? And it’s less scary?

Shanai Ghosh
Exactly. So you have to go beyond paying a claim or buying a policy? Yeah. So in in India, for instance, if we look at the two biggest categories of motor and health insurance, in motor insurance, it’s about, you know, we are piloting we launched a product called Switch last year, yes, under the sandbox regulations, where we told the customer actually we responded to consumer feedback, which said that, you know, I don’t drive my car 24 by seven are 365 days a year? Why should I pay insurance, you know, 365 days a year. So we actually created this product where the core proposition was very simply don’t use don’t pay, right. And this one would simply one would say that, Oh, it’s a product which is used it bases insurance, but it’s also a way of engaging with consumer. motor insurance is a notoriously boring category. People don’t engage, they look at price they want to buy and move on. But here by telling the customer you have control over your policy, so if you don’t use it, switch it out. We were engaging the consumer, he was seeing his phone every month saying oh, how many days did I use last month? Right? So we were making a product from a low engagement to a reasonable engagement.

Michael Waitze
Did you find that people stopped turning off their insurance? Because they preferred it to be on? Do you understand what I mean?

Shanai Ghosh
I know, I know, I get what you mean, they just didn’t want to take any chances. We actually found the reverse happening.

Michael Waitze
Left it off?

Shanai Ghosh
We found people forgetting to turn it on? Yeah. So because, you know, we launched it last year, in the midst of like May, when the COVID had happened, right, people are more likely not to drive them to drive. So that is why this year, what we’ve done is we are we kind of launching a new version called Switch 2.0. In a couple of months to three months, the app recognizes movement and nudges you to switch on and off. And we are incorporating driving score. So we engaging it further, we say you know, that trip wasn’t good. River, we are trying creating rewards, programs around it. So that’s one way of engaging unhealth honestly, there are many, many opportunities. And I, I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface health, there’s so much going on around wellness, and on general fitness and well being that as an insurer, it’s a very natural and organic fit, we can’t solve, but it’s important for us to recognize where our core strengths are. So I don’t claim that we will become a wellness solution provider but we have to find a partner, right we have to sort so so we finding partners who will work with us on wellness, who will work was with us on fitness who will work with us on on an teleconsultation. So we again we are trans we are kind of piloting another product called Digital OPD, which is basically digital tele consoles, e pharmacy diagnostics. So these are things that you either use or do far more frequently than you know, buying in claiming insurance. So making it a lot more part of your life. People are so focused on wellness today that would you know, immediately take you want to that. But you know, one thing I would like to say here is that these are all buzzwords, okay. It’s very easy for an insurer to you’re laughing or smiling. Okay, these are all buzzwords, it’s very easy for an insurer to come and say, Okay, I’ve got two diagnostics, I’ve got wellness, I’ve got well, fitness, I’ve got everything, I’ve ticked off every box that needs to be ticked off. But it has to be meaningful, relevant, you just do it. There are many things to do, right. And I told my team that we have to prioritize. So they said no, no, let’s do let’s do maternity lesson. I said, Let in India, and let me let me look at my consumer base. What are the typical lifestyle problems that people have? Right? People have the biggest problem is diabetes, okay. In India, in Asia, there’s another big problem of hypertension. So I said, if I have to do lifestyle management, I would focus on people who might have these to actually try and do stuff that will help them cope with these. And that would be meaningful and relevant to my customers, rather than saying that, okay, let me give you gym membership, for instance. Okay, anyone can give him a gym membership. So I’m trying to we have to go by go by the relevance and fitment and meaningfulness of what we are offering, I definitely don’t want to just check off the box saying that, Oh, as an insurer, I’ve got this entire set of 20 services that you can get on my platform. No, that’s not what we are about. We are about making it very meaningful for our customers.

Michael Waitze
I wanted to explain to you why I was smiling and definitely not laughing. And I want to get back to this idea that he introduced at the beginning that everybody that I talked to does that is that talking about insurance is boring. You sound you could not sound more excited about this. And it’s making me smile. That’s the only thing and you know, you mentioned this, looking for partners, and you’re talking about motor insurance, it’s really boring. motor insurance tends to be boring, but probably because there haven’t been many changes done to it in years. But you talked about like, scoring, driving and I talked to I do another podcast called data driven. And I talked to a company based in Singapore in in London. It’s called jam and they install cameras at the request of drivers, and gamify. The driving to help them score the driving. It’s a really interesting idea. It’s not directly related to insurance, but they partner with insurers to do things like this. And they make it fun so that when you’re done driving, it says like, oh, maybe you shouldn’t have gone so far to lift whatever it is, and tries to help them improve their driving stuff made me smile, because it reminded me of them. And those were two really great guys that I talked to. Obviously you made a ton of decisions when you first started, it’ll wise, but two of them I think are really important. And I want to understand why. One of them is being cloud native. I want people to really understand why this matters. But also building a set of API’s. You talked about connecting to somebody else’s API’s before but I’m presuming you’ve also done the same thing before Your business. And these are game changers for any business for reasons that I’m curious, why would you think about that?

Shanai Ghosh
Okay, let me back up a bit, I told you what our purpose was. And a lot of it was the genesis or the inspiration came from our own personal experiences, which were pretty broken. And then we went to consumers. And we found that, you know, this kind of resonated across the board. And when you have an industry that is got such huge growth potential, and yet has so many gaps, it’s very exciting, right? So like, Oh, my God, there’s so much because, you know, people are asking, What will a 33rd player do? I’m like, you know, a 33rd. Player, you 32 People haven’t fixed this, right, so the 30/33 player who can come, and you know, it’s great for a new player to come and say this, the older players are also trying to do it in in India, honestly, I don’t think any of the older insurers are sitting saying, Oh, we’ve got it all covered. But this messaging coming from their them is tougher to swallow, then for a new player like us to come and say, Hey, we are all very different, right? Insurance 2.0. So it’s easier for people to believe in your plan. So having said that, for us, when we started thinking like that, one of the things that was obvious for us in 2018, was the way to deliver insurance to point to most effectively and efficiently was a digital platform, there was no other way around it. And as a digital native organization, I think these are the two markers that you need to have. Being cloud native and API driven, microservices driven kind of architecture, cloud native was because we knew that, you know, the pace of growth is going to be a little volatile, we needed to work with a lot of partners, we realize that, you know, we were in insurance, it’s not about partnering with distribution. Insurance is part of an ecosystem health is part of an ecosystem Moto is part of an ecosystem. And we will make clear that to have a really differentiated experience, we would need adjacent services, and we would need to partner. So when the concept of partnerships and collapse come in, you know, API’s become your obvious choice. And in fact, we are not just you know, we don’t just have API’s, we are the first insurer to have an open API gateway, because we realize that, you know, we can’t just say that, Oh, every while we have API’s, get your people to talk to us, and we’ll do something. And over three months, we’ll integrate, we realized that you like, you know, you have open banking now coming up, we need to have open insurance, we put out our API’s, they’re there on a website, people can log in, figure it out UID test cases are their data dictionaries there, all of that is there. So we realize that collaborations require us to have this kind of enterprise architecture open API framework. And cloud native was honestly, it wasn’t even something that we thought we said, you know, it’s an obvious choice. It wasn’t that we really thought of it. In fact, we got even our core ERP, which is SAP to be on the cloud, which was the first I think, in Southeast Asia. And it really helped us Michael, I have to tell you that my last year, God, I’m thinking of 2020,

Michael Waitze
right. Same here, same here,

Shanai Ghosh
2020, March, when we had to shift to work from home overnight. It was business as usual for us, not a single day of disruption. Because we don’t have to consider who’s going to office because we were always on the cloud. Everyone could work from anywhere. Our entire workforce was laptop enabled. Everyone it was PayPal, as we’ve always been in paperless. So I think the transition for digital native organizations would have been super simple. In fact, one of our colleagues used to say, the rest of the world is trying to activate the BCP. And we are in BAU mode.

Michael Waitze
When I talk about cloud native, and when I talk about API’s, I’m very interesting this because I did actually two shows separate shows, with something called the Mac Alliance. The whole idea about this group is that they talk about microservices based API, first cloud native and headless. So you’re doing all these things, right. Except I haven’t asked about the headless part. But I’m sure there is some sort of headless part here as well. It’s just, I get my CTO to talk to you. I’m not gonna ask you about it. But it’s just interesting to me that you made this decision in 2018. That’s why I asked the question, because I think it’s a big differentiator, not only because it was Bau for you, when everybody else was Yeah, going into PCP, or drip, whatever you want to call it. The point is, if you’re already cloud native, not if you’re transferring to the cloud, it gives you so much more flexibility in the micro services you can develop. Because then you can pick and choose the ones you want to use, particularly if you have API connectivity to all of them. Does that make sense?

Shanai Ghosh
Absolutely, absolutely. So our process of creating this open API gateway was really simple. We were all already on AWS and all these cloud providers have a lot of utilities that you can, you know leverage, right. So Whether it’s AWS, who we currently work with, or you know, Microsoft, or whatever, yeah, I think they have everything that you could. So it was super simple for us to actually create an open API gateway, which we leveraged AWS for, it was very simple for us to create a data lake, for instance, you know, earlier on, because we are the cloud, it’s very easy for us to integrate with various partners that we have, and to actually get all the information and data into a data lake. So there are so many things. And as business users people down the line, who probably don’t understand the technicalities, they understood the advantage of being cloud native, I think, post COVID. Yeah, for sure. I have a single we did our financials in the first year. In India, we have March, you’re in closing. Okay, so financial year closing. So it’s a regulated industry. So we had a lot of things to do in April. But I finance and accounting, including auditors could do everything. Because even our core, which is ERP was on the cloud. I want to highlight a point here, Michael, when people say when they’re on the cloud, very often we find a lot of their applications on the cloud, but not everything.

Michael Waitze
But also not cloud natives. They just took stuff that wasn’t built for the cloud, and put them there, which is a complete disadvantage, because their ability then to interact with each other, isn’t there yet. So I get it anyway. Go ahead.

Shanai Ghosh
That’s also the difference. It wasn’t that, oh, something’s on prem, something’s on the cloud, not nothing. Everything’s on the cloud. And that’s why that decision, I think, was, I think, right now, we honestly didn’t think too much. Because for us, for us, it was an obvious choice. But clearly, you you’re saying we did something really right before time in 2018.

Michael Waitze
I think so. What a backup to something you said earlier, you said hiring for the right mindset, right? And when you’re starting from scratch, you kind of get the right to go out and hire any of the people that you want. But how do you ensure that you’re getting the right people with the right mindset into the company? Because even just one bad apple can make it much more difficult from a management perspective, right? What are you trying to find? What are you looking for?

Shanai Ghosh
It is tough, it is tough, Michael, that’s that’s I think getting the right people is one of the toughest things because you need to get the right people and not the best people, honestly, because there’s a difference you would say. Right people for your organization. And when it’s smaller, it’s easier to do because you’re doing it, you know, what you want. So I think a lot of it went by, you know, the a core group of people and being on the same wavelength and having, you know, similar values that and similar aspirations for the organization. Then when we started becoming bigger, we started hiring a little more indiscriminately. And I honestly think we went a little wrong. And we pulled back. Now, critical hiring decisions above a certain level, we decided that because you know, there are a lot of doers and a lot of thinkers. Honestly, sometimes, you need people who are doers, and you need lots of them. But we said beyond for certain roles, and above certain levels, we will have three four people, at least four people from the leadership team meeting. Because for people who are hired by me, were unlikely come to a wrong decision together. So so we started doing that, and that’s helped us. But beyond that, because you know, when you’re growing, you need to institutionalize processes. So what we are doing right now is we are creating an interview guide. And we are kind of process sizing it or you know, creating a framework, where we create an interview guide, have the questions, and plot the answers to understand fitment of the person to the organization. Because as we grow, I think it’s tougher for you to ensure that, you know, everyone is being asked the right set of questions and evaluated the right way. Of course, you would say that, you know, if you hired the right people, they should hire the right people. And that virtuous cycle should continue. Right. But you need to institutionalize stuff. It doesn’t work.

Michael Waitze
You’ve talked about pretty incredible growth over the past few years. So really two things, what is the differentiator that’s fueled that growth? And do you think it was more difficult? Do you think it was helped by the pandemic?

Shanai Ghosh
Pandemic was a tailwind for any digital organization, I wouldn’t make any bones about it. Because for us, we didn’t have any breaking continuously, we were able to go full steam ahead, while others had to recalibrate a little bit. So I would say that, but you know, for us growth has come post pandemic has been very sharp, even before that we were growing, but I wouldn’t, you know, take that into account because you’re a startup you will grow you will write, but post pandemic, we realize that not everyone was growing at the same pace. We were, you know, top three in terms of growth and in the area. years of growth where others were not necessarily growing so much. So for us, I think the things that helped us really were our ability to integrate on distribution or ability to get distribution of pretty good. There were some other things also we did, which really helped us because we said that, you know, customer first always is one of our core values. And we said, everyone says it in my organization, I said, there’s not a single organization that will not say this. But for us, it’s not a buzzword. It is something that we really say Do think all the time. And there are times when you have to make a choice. Those are the times that actually test whether you’re holding true. So the example that I gave you about, you know, where we instantly credit, the cancellation was one of those that people said, Oh, my God, our loss ratios are going to go up. Right, right, saying that, Oh, it’ll be easier to claim. So claims ratios will go up. I said, No, this is a time we are tested. As an organization, who do we really stand? What do we really stand for? If we really stand for making it easy, friendly and transparent, it’s a no brainer. So these are things that are your moral compass, right. And these things, we have a real time digital NPS. So every customer, whenever you buy is claimed renews false anything, they get an instant feedback. And so we have real time every day, we have a dashboard where you can track that motor claims NPS is so much health claims NPS so much and you can drill down and figure out what’s going wrong. So we’ve put our money where our mouth is in various things. So these obviously count in insurance, you know, first, what counts is that you know, you get distribution. That’s first you need to get whether direct or otherwise you need to get and in that, of course, the people that we had, and also the agility with which we could do partnerships, our flexibility, all of that help. But after that, after a couple of years, they also start seeing your service. And they started seeing that experience also occur. So both for us, I think our speed of distribution, expansion, integration, our flexibility, the fact that we had an open API gateway, and then our service experience has really helped us.

Michael Waitze
That’s really great. Okay, I want to let you go. Thank you so much. Shanai Ghosh, the CEO and Executive Director at Edelweiss General Insurance? That was awesome.

Shanai Ghosh
Thanks, Michael. So good to have someone talking only about insurance and technology. Great to talk to you

Episode 215
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