The Asia InsurTech Podcast welcomed Anjana Rao, the Chief Strategy Officer of IndiaFirst Life. IndiaFirst Life’s new-age intuitiveness drives its value through state-of-the-art digitalization initiatives across its value chain.
Some of the topics Anjana covered:
- How the entire ecosystem surrounding insurance is transforming
- The necessity to keep pace with rapidly evolving customer expectations and tastes
- How to find a place within a potential customer’s preferred ecosystem
- Generational differences and the fundamentals of change management
- The places in the insurance value chain where AI is already being employed
- How technology has and will continue to change distribution
Other titles we momentarily considered for this episode:
- It Comes from a Place of Passion
- How Can the Experience Be Redefined?
- The Customer Has a Preferred Ecosystem in Place
Please read the best-efforts transcript below:
Michael Waitze 0:08
Okay, let’s start. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. Today we are joined by Anjana Rao, the Chief Strategy Officer of IndiaFirst Life. That’s the greatest reaction ever. Anjana, it’s great to have you on the show. How are you doing today?
Anjana Rao 0:29
I’m doing good. Michael, thank you for having me here. I feel privileged to be a part of this podcast.
Michael Waitze 0:36
The pleasure is all mine. And you know that. Look, before we get into the main part of the conversation, we like to ask our guests what they think one of the biggest trends is, or some of the biggest trends are emerging trends are in insurance and InsurTech. Because you’re in India, we’ll ask you about India, but by extension for the rest of the world, where do you think we’re going? What’s the biggest trend?
Anjana Rao 0:56
The whole, I would say the entire, the entire ecosystem in which an insurance company operates is transforming. It’s transforming at a pace you know, because not just the companies are transforming even the customers are transforming the other way they are interacting or experiencing the evolution of 5g 6g. Now we are talking about and they are all open ly embracing and adopting the technology at a rate faster than the enterprise’s skins. So the whole attempt is to match up with the customer expectation. And that is driving this transformation, where it’s forcing the carrier’s not just to get everybody to move on and match up with the catch up with the customers experiences customers evolving taste, because of digital adoption, and how the experience can be redefined. You know, that’s the whole. That’s the whole mantra. That’s what I feel. And that’s where we all are working as to how do we, how do we beat innovation in products, be the innovation in outreach, be the innovation in the way we service be the innovation in the touchpoints, everything is seeing evolution. That’s like going back to your, you know, drawing board and rewriting the story.
Michael Waitze 2:20
There’s so much to uncover here. And before we do that, too, can we get a little bit of your background so we can understand how you got to here. And then I want to go back and address a couple of things you talked about, about the transforming customers and all that other stuff, too, because it’s fascinating to me. Go ahead, please.
Anjana Rao 2:34
Sure. So I have spent more than 20, 21 years now, with insurance. So I have seen all the facets of insurances what I can say, I have been a part of, I started my career as an end user, IT manager for insurance companies, then I got into setting up the it, you know, applications and infrastructure for startup insurance companies. And then I moved into transformation consulting. And now I’m here. Yeah. So this has been my evolution. So I’ve seen I’ve seen I’ve been with the insurance carriers. I’ve been with the consulting firms. I have been life and non life. You know, in India, we have, you know, a different setup and slightly different licenses that work. So, yes, I think I’m pretty bold.
Michael Waitze 3:25
When I first started at Morgan Stanley, and I’m going to date myself here deeply in 1987, we had a department that we called management information systems actually called it MIS. And it was not a cool place to be. But then we changed it in the middle of my career. So ended up being we called it so information technology, it still wasn’t super cool. But I would say this in the past 10 years, I feel like that’s completely flipped. And that now if you’re involved in like the development, the implementation, the application, the innovation around technology, like that’s the cool kids table now, do you know thing? I feel like it’s changed a lot. Do you feel the same way? Of course,
Anjana Rao 4:02
yes. And you’ll feel less privileged if you don’t have these tags associated with right.
Michael Waitze 4:07
Whereas like, if you’re the person over there who like doesn’t understand technology, now you’re the person on the outs, whereas before you were the person, like if you did understand, you’re like, oh, I don’t want to talk to those people, because I don’t know what they’re talking about. And now they’re the cool people, which is what you are Yeah. Is that fair?
Anjana Rao 4:26
Thank you. But now again, I’m an I would say now, it is not just limited to the realms of an IP Correct. Departments are all common. everybody here, everybody upskilling everybody trying to understand how do I layer intelligence to the existing operations that already so that my customer experience can be revamped?
Michael Waitze 4:51
Yeah, I feel like we could have a whole conversation on how I don’t even want to use the pandemic as a cut off point. But sometime around five years ago, people say If I’m not involved in the digital transformation and the digitalization of my company in any industry, then I’m gonna get left behind. And I want to talk about this idea that you’ve raised because no one said it actually, to me in the same way that you have, that enterprises are rushing, not rushing, but are speeding up their innovation, to try to keep up with their own customers who are coming to them and saying something and maybe something like, I can do it in an E commerce space, how come? I can’t do it here? Can you talk a little bit about this feeling of inside of an institutional business saying, how do we keep up with the demands of our clients, and now that they have passed us in this digital transformation journey, we need to catch up to them? You talk about that a little bit, please.
Anjana Rao 5:44
So essentially, pandemic was one of the primary reasons, I would say for digital acceleration within the enterprises, because the customers had caught up a bit earlier. So now, the question the question with the insurance, let me let me talk about the insurances. You know, okay, fine. When there is, there is a customer who has a preferred Ecosystm already in place, he transacts, you know, at least one or two RC spends, you know, in a day or in a week or in a month, couple of hours are being spent in that ecosystem, which is a digital ecosystem, which the customer has already built for all the day to day activities, which he or she carries out. Now, how are you going to find a place within that Ecosystm has gone are the days, this is what I feel, Michael, I feel I’m in no longer, you know, you can tell the customer look, I have a website www, you know, you go to my website, you know, and what I have self service options for you. Or you see, I have a bot, but you have to come to my site and access that bot, you know, no, the customer would prefer to be, you know, to have all those options available where he is. So in an ecosystem where he or she is participating in the challenge for the insurers or, you know, is okay, how do I make myself available where my customer
Michael Waitze 7:10
is, right? So but this is key, right? Because you use the word Ecosystm. And you’re right, I don’t want to go to www.my favorite insurance company.com. I just don’t want to go there, because I’m already interacting in an ecosystem. But here’s where it gets really complicated. And I’m curious about your view on this. Not every customer is in the same ecosystem, mine could be completely different from yours, even if I’m your brother. So how do you manage around that complexity? And then maybe first talk about that complexity, but then how do you manage around it and get yourself to be part of not all but most of the ecosystems where your customers are already interacting? Yeah.
Anjana Rao 7:46
Yeah. So I will say, you know, let’s look at you know, something as simple as WhatsApp. Okay. Okay. So everybody had a chat bot before the pandemic, post pandemic, everybody has, you know, all their policy servicing options on WhatsApp? Sure, you know, document submission. So everybody wanted a contactless process, right? So be document acceptance, customer submitting the documents, everything started happening through WhatsApp, and WhatsApp was there since ever? Right? Right. Right. It was there for Alaska? Well, you know, the, we saw a big shift happening, because that’s when a customer is. So I mean, these are the popular mediums, which one needs to identify and enable, you know, the options to the customer even to buy, even to, you know, to serve servicing, even to you know, acquire more information.
Michael Waitze 8:40
Can I ask you this, though, because I run into this as well. And let’s just use tick tock as an example, because I don’t interact with it. But I can’t deny that it’s there that it’s growing and that it’s significant. But I feel like every three to five years, there’s a new platform. And again, I want to differentiate between platforms and ecosystems, because an ecosystem is something that I myself build around me, I use this and this and this in conjunction, and I want you to be able to give me access to your things where I am, I don’t want to have to go to you. You know, because in three years from now, Tik Tok might be nothing. Facebook is going away, let’s say, Sure, everybody’s on WhatsApp, but like, how do you keep up with just what the thing is you have to build for next? You know what I mean? Because you’re I feel like it’s an unending race in a way.
Anjana Rao 9:26
So so the way I look at it, see, tick tock is already kind of nine if I’m not wrong in India. Yeah. So now, but yes, it’s a very powerful platform. So bytedance Tick tock, these other mediums, which so many companies are using, not just for entertainment, but to influence to influence folks. I mean, there are so many, they’re being used as a content platform, right. So I’m sure you know, there’s going to be an evolution in the content platform in some form or the other for sure. Now, how are you going to tap which one is the right one? You Look at your your existing customer base and you look at the new customers, the young Gen, which is evolving, they know all their influences, they know the top 10 influencers, it knows, top 100 influencers and those influencers have their own platforms, you know, every prominent platform has an influence so so that is how you so you need to unlearn and try to figure out where these this young Gen, you know, you call it alpha equals millennials, you call it whatever, whatever they were even even for even something as basic as Roblox. There are kids who are spending two and a half hours daily over there, you know, so does that become a medium for us to focus upon? I really don’t know. But yeah,
Michael Waitze 10:46
yeah, I mean, Roblox is a really interesting thing. And I would bet I would bet at some level. Because, you know, Roblox is like, it’s not part of my father’s insurance company, as we used to say, right, and it’s probably not part of your parent’s insurance company, either. But the point is like, it’s there. And it’s a massive platform as well. I mean, Discord could be a distribution mechanism for insurance, right? In the old days used to it didn’t. You had way more time to react? I feel like everything that was kind of instantaneous. It’s like, what’s your Twitch strategy? What’s your Roblox strategy? What’s your Metaverse strategy? But all these things? Are you constantly thinking about this too? Do you know what I mean?
Anjana Rao 11:24
Yes, my dad was strategy is something which is a distant dream. But yes, I’m and we’re trying to figure. So this is again, very personal. So what are the use cases which are relevant? As an insurer? What are the relevant use cases? So something which is like very one can scratch the surface is how can I in this world, which is a hybrid world where folks don’t even come to the, you know, they don’t come to know what an enterprise which organization they have joined? You know, typically the the physical framework, so can they get an immersive experience?
Michael Waitze 12:00
Yeah, this is so key. Sorry, this is key to me. Go ahead.
Anjana Rao 12:04
Yeah. So I mean, can we can we render them the immersive experience, every time we are inducting? Somebody, every time we are? You know, every time we are doing some leadership connect with the employees, which happens, you know, it could be it could be those conversations with the performers. It could be you know, any of the any of the leadership connects, you know, can we provide an immersive experience using these evolving technologies for the employees, that is my immediate use use case, which I can think of, and you asked me about metaphors, that it will evolve. And maybe there will be journeys for metaphors that will be journeys, you know, Customer Self Service journeys, which may come up for Metaverse, there will be you know, so I mean, I’m not getting into that space. But yes, it’s a very exciting place to be right now, if I think of, but it will, it has to wait for it to evolve. The regulations also need to evolve, you know, like in India, you need clarity as to how do you transact with because, you know, if you have to be there, then how are you going to transact in that particular universe is something you need to have lots of clarity on?
Michael Waitze 13:14
So you mentioned something as well, that’s very important. As the business evolves, right, and you mentioned, employees, how do you take new employees, incorporate them with the more traditional employees, and get everybody on board internally to understand that this new digital world is fast paced and moving and try to eliminate any kind of tension that may exist between, as you said, the younger generation and existing generation to understand how important this digital transformation is?
Anjana Rao 13:47
Because obviously, you’re touching the fundamentals of change management, right? So you have to coexist with a generation, which has certain biases towards change. And then there is a generation who who would like to challenge every new thing that you accept them, right. So and that also becomes a very important ingredient when you are rolling out an initiative, whether that initiative is going to fetch you the value further back, you know, unless it’s not accepted and adopted. So the way we plan our rollouts also involves making sure that these guys, everybody, everybody who’s there in the value chain, understand why so the end purpose, the end, why if we understand that this is the end objective, which we are going to meet, and this is going to be the impact on everyone’s life, right? So if we start with that, why and the impact it is going to create on each one, you know, and that is how at least we have a framework where we start off and this is how this initiative is going to impact a particular end user. And this is going to be the x y See benefit in the life of that individual? Now, when we roll it out, we start measuring. So there is a baseline which happens, and now you start measuring. Okay, fine. If there isn’t an adoption, is that adoption really leading to an impact on the matrices which we had identified? will get impacted because of this change? If yes, you know, then the numbers then the monster that look, you know, but yeah, it’s not easy. It’s not easy. It requires lots of planning, you don’t plan just for rolling out an initiative, you plan, how to make an adoption, the adoption strategy gets laid out. And then keeping in mind, the stakeholders, you know, what kind of levers do you need to press? Yeah, I mean, so there’s lots of, there’s lots of deliberation, which happens when we are rolling it out so that we understand that each and every individual who’s involved in the value chain adopts to the new thing.
Michael Waitze 15:56
I want to get back to this Ecosystm Because I just remembered something right. And Ecosystm itself is, is made up of multiple players and also multiple participants. Yep. And do you use any of them, whether it’s an E commerce company, a payments company, whatever it is, as a reference point, it’s a moving target for sure. But to use those experiences, reference points for things that you’re trying to build, or that the insurance industry itself is trying to build as well, to ensure that your new your existing customers or your new customers are familiar enough with what they need to do, because it looks like something that they’re already using at scale. Does that make sense?
Anjana Rao 16:31
Yes, yes, because there’s a there’s every time you every time a customer is using an ecosystem, as you rightly said, like if it if you talk of a health system, there are, again, multiple providers within that ecosystem, and they are all working, you know, towards a desired goal. And what is happening in this process is the customer now knows a better way to interact a better way to you know, his reputation is on the TAT, his experience expectations or is on the delivery, now, he is going to expect the same stuff for insurance, he wouldn’t want an insurance cover, which is so complicated and so comprehensive, that he has to leave the Ecosystm to be somewhere, fill that entire form. So he would prefer this something like a continuous underwriting, he would prefer something which is small, simple. And that’s where I see the change and the demand changing for insurance to have small sachet products, easy to underwrite or do continuous underwriting because he’s a part of the health ecosystem and healthy ecosystem, he is there for an objective, the objective is to improvise and reach the end state which is of fit and fine human being. And for that, if he is sweating, why can’t my why can’t my premium rates vary based on my health vitals, so I joined it gives baseline at a certain so there are I would say there are experiments happening in the industry where we are trying to link it with the health vitals of an individual. So that continuous underwriting can say enabled with IoT is is something which the industry is steering towards us what I feel
Michael Waitze 18:14
Can you take a little bit deeper into this idea of continuous underwriting for people that may not understand it because it’s a very interesting concept. Yeah.
Anjana Rao 18:22
So again, okay, let me let me as an individual who is trying too hard to talk or losing weight, you know, I’m like, Okay, I baseline myself like, this is where you are, this is these are your vitals. Now if you improvise, you engage into let’s say, you subscribe for a healthy for me or whatever, some health plan, you’re working on a daily basis and if if my insurance carrier tells me like, you know, until you reach this level, and you know, the rate of which I have given to without charged you will become half of it, you reach this level, and the rate at which are charged for you becomes zero, if you are at that level for at least some continuous period. And that’s a wow for me, but how do you track it right you track it grows IoT devices, there are so many choices available, you know, which So, which which are providing the proxies, which are providing the inputs to the insurers, which can provide inputs to the insurers, if they are keen to you know, take these as an input, apply them to the underwriting and keep telling Anna, you’re improvising basis, your improvement on this Ecosystm This is your rate revives rate. If
Michael Waitze 19:35
I want this so badly, I want to be able to wear an aura ring or a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. And I want to feed that information. I don’t care right about the privacy. I’m willing to give that up to my insurance company, because there’s a 57 year old who runs four times a week and who lifts weights and weighs what I weighed when I was in high school. And who’s lost like almost 30 pounds in the last year. I 15 kilos Yeah. 50 kinkiness I want to be compensated for that. It’s hard work, but I want to be compensated for that. Because my heart’s in better shape. I’m not the normal risk for a 57 year old person. So if that’s what continuous underwriting is, I want to be involved. And frankly, I’ll share a story with you. When my dad was in his 40s, he was smoking like two packs of cigarettes a day. And this is a true story. And there was a bet in his office. Okay, we’re all stopping smoking today. And whoever starts smoking first, almost, let’s say like, $1,000, I can’t remember the exact number. My dad didn’t have a granny couldn’t afford to lose. He hasn’t smoked since. Now, the bet ended a long time ago. Right? But the point is that, like, if I’m wearing that aura ring, and I’m thinking my premiums gonna go up, but even more importantly, I just want to maintain my health, and this is helping me do it, I should get some kind of benefit from the insurance company cuz my risk profile goes down, right?
Anjana Rao 20:53
Precisely. So be relevant, be relevant to the customer. You know, so this is going to ask. So this is a very challenging time, again, for the insurer, because this is going to push the insurers to think differently. Yeah, the way they’ve been designing products, the way they have been writing the risk, the way, the way we have been conducting a personal
Michael Waitze 21:13
study. I agree. And look, this IoT, what’s the right word? The ubiquity of these devices, though, hasn’t been around really until the last few years, let’s say, right, because even an Apple Watch, or a Fitbit didn’t have like the necessary granularity to be able to feed data into an insurance company that was new. So how we can’t expect insurance companies or any company to react instantaneously to this. But there’s other technology out there as well. Right? So once you get all this information, and look, there’s been so much noise, I don’t know if it’s the right term around artificial intelligence for the past 50 years, frankly, in my life. But now I feel like we’re kind of at a tipping point and tell me if I’m wrong there. But how do you incorporate that type of processing power and intelligence into the IoT devices? And then back into the insurance companies using artificial intelligence? How does that work?
Anjana Rao 22:04
Interesting, I mean, see quite a few, quite a few folks already are doing it right. When you see the lots of examples around us, where we, we see for all claims processing, okay, the drones, the drones doing, you know, the gauging the predicting the the gauging the site, the claim site, and they providing inputs to the claims to the claim settler, the claim settler, then doing instantaneous settlement of claims, you know, this is one area where there’s quite a lot of ingestion of data happening, processing of data happening real time with the IoT. And then, you know, there’s another, there’s a change of hand happening between claim settler and the insurance carrier and the claim being settled similarly, so for claims settlement, you see lots of lots of examples around you know, but when it comes to a new customer acquisition, or when it comes to life insurance, even for motor there are devices, which are now inbuilt, which tracks the driver behavior and, you know, accordingly, you can have different rates for, you know, so it induces a desired behavior as to how well you’re driving directly correlates to your premium right. Now, when it comes to life insurance, or health insurance, that’s where these IoT scan, you know, transform the way things are being done the way the insurance products are being conceived and conceptualized. And that’s where lots of play of sandbox will come into picture, there’s lots of play off, you know, what we talked spoke about variables ation, of premium linked to the health vitals will come into picture. Imagine there are good set of customers, I mean, I think it will also enable us to cover lots of customers, who we don’t who are attached, maybe they have some critical illness, maybe somebody as simple as diabetes, you know, either there’s a rate up or straight away, you know, they are rejected. So IoT is going to help us enable, you know, writing prior devising products for, you know, these entities as well,
Michael Waitze 24:08
because I have a background in processing real time data when I sat on a trading desk, right, I think of, and this is something that would change the way we traded, if we could take real time data off of feed, put it into our analysis tools, we could make decisions faster. And then we could react in the market much faster. And the same thing is happening. I feel like in the IoT space, particularly when it comes to health, but imagine a health goal of let’s say, losing 10 kilos, like that was part of my goal. And if I can maintain that, because, you know, if I step on a scale because I was at one and a half kilos, and I’m 66 and a half, but if I stepped on at 71 and a half, so I hit my goal just for one day, well, I don’t really I don’t really deserve like some kind of reward. But if I maintain that for three months, is there a way to then feed that data in real time into my insurer and then get maybe even just like a parametric it’s not even a claim but a payout it says You did it, you maintained it, we’re lowering your premium and here’s the first like rebate or credit back to you for doing that, do you envision a world where that happens as well?
Anjana Rao 25:09
Yes, I think that is closer to reality, because I know some players are already into it. And I know that a couple of players who are wanting a sandbox, you know, experiment to be done. So that this particular concept, which is a concept can be you know, then because the the ability of the devices, see where the concerns, comments, you know, how accurate is information, right? Because it’s all game of Risk riding right. So, how accurate is the information and the actuaries or underwriters also want to gauge you know, I mean, like, what is the range of risks, you know, which I, so, there is a learning curve, which is, which is involved, but yes, decision making will get, will, will, will be the decision making will happen based on the data, which you see, and then maybe underwriter initially will say, Okay, fine, I’ll go with the decision or I override this decision, but eventually it will be displaced, the decision making will be by the board, if I can call it a board. And that’s how it will be. Yeah. And we again, it will also have a window for the individual to interact with the board, then in there as to why I have got this rating. Right. And he or she will get an explanation. Yeah, can find
Michael Waitze 26:28
out actually, why what is the biggest challenge you think to distribution? In a market? I mean, even in Southeast Asia, this is true, where the where the penetration of insurance is still relatively low, and how does technology help you solve that problem?
Anjana Rao 26:45
That’s a lovely topic. So, essentially, the main theme change has happened, Michael, how I look at it, five years back, not even five to six years back, we were trying to do away with the paper based processes and equip all our sales folks with a tablet which has, which has an electronic form, then it moves to a smart electronic form, and then it moves to something which is as far as you it has all the validations So, you don’t need a layer of branch underwriters because because that form and that tablet together that entire, so, I think that form has now evolved into something like a enterprise sales system, yeah, which is so smart, you know, it has acier it has OCR, it has that OCR is coupled with AI, it can capture documents, you know, it can read documents, capture information, compare it with whatever is being written in the form and then tell you whether the date of birth matches it doesn’t match you know, whether there is an accuracy of the record, so, that all the work with a branch underwriter, erstwhile used to do is now already relegated to the Smart Form or to this enterprise app, which is working just on a mere tablet right. So, and this tablet now, you know, so, sounds cliche, but it is serving like a branch forever relatively new, you know, insurer or a new insurer who sets up a business in India, he or she may not require as many branches as you know, someone who opened up the offices or the business early 2000s You know, one can do with 2025 branches and all the all the feet on street access your branch, because you can serve as a customer to this to this smart device, you can acquire customers, you can build the intelligence of hyper personalization within these devices those were so, you know, our like depending upon the profile of the customer, what is it that needs to be paid to this customer and as what should be the content, everything is there you providing us an air cover to the feet on Street Challenge was a few years back was also connectivity. So, in India, you will see most of the most of these devices would have online and offline feature we Indians will say like whether it works in an offline mode, because that was an imperative for us, but now, I think we have overcome that challenge with the outreach of the of the mobile network in India and the way we are using you know, the mobile penetration is there. It is humongous and hence now the dependency and offline mode is gone away. I would say I mean instant instant issuance or instant processing of data is what folks are working upon. Because you have you have the data with you the customer data, you can you have enough and more intelligence applied at the point of sale for life insurance. You know point of sale issuance has always been a challenge. But now that could be a possibility with with technology is what I feel. And that is where instant issuance is not limited just for non life or health. Even life insurers now can attempt for instant issuance of policies at the point of sale. And that’s what technology has equipped or provided the insurance but
Michael Waitze 30:27
I’m gonna end with that I love it’s an honor for me to be able to talk to someone like you just so thoughtful about not just the not just the business itself, but how the technology fits in there. I love this idea of the feet on the ground functioning as the branch and being enabled with this technology before was online and offline. Now it’s mostly online because the offline issues have been solved. So interesting to talk to you. Anjana Rao, the Chief Strategy Officer, IndiaFirst Life. That was awesome. Thank you so much for doing that today. I really appreciate your time.
Anjana Rao 30:59
Thank you, Michael. Thank you. Pleasure.