The year 2020 was one to remember. It highlighted the vulnerability of human life and the strength of human spirit. One of the outcomes of COVID-19 has been the acceleration of insurance as a security tool. At the advent of the pandemic, the situation was profoundly unsettling. It highlighted the critical role of insurance in ensuring that people and households can mitigate unexpected financial shocks. In many ways, the pandemic served as a catalyst to reshape the insurance industry. Consumer behavior evolved during this time, giving insurance companies a chance to innovate with growing demands. One of the youngest insurance companies, IndiaFirst Life sort out to do the same successfully!
IndiaFirst Life’s Road to Eminence
Promoted by Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India and Warburg Pincus, IndiaFirst Life has been securing lives and creating value for India since 2009. In November 2009, IndiaFirst Life became the 22nd entrant among private sector insurers in India. Keen on making insurance available to the last mile customer a sustainable reality, the organisation leveraged technology to ramp-up operations and build critical mass to maintain economies of scale, while offering simple products and solutions across all touchpoints.
The infrastructure readiness coupled with adoption of some of the best industry practices has enabled IndiaFirst Life as a trailblazer in the insurance industry. It has continued to enhance customer journeys, adopt fast digitalization during Covid-19. The new-age tech innovations bolstered IndiaFirst Life further as a trusted brand among customers and other stakeholders alike. Despite the challenging Covid-19 situation, the organisation reported a 25% growth in individual APE in FY-20. Over the years, their mission of making insurance a reality for all coupled with the company’s #EmployeeFirst and #CustomerFirst philosophies have not only made them one of the pioneers in the Insurance industry but has earned them unmatched respect among their loyal customers and competitors alike.
Rushabh Gandhi: The Man Behind the Momentum of IndiaFirst Life!
The success of a company can be anchored to a good leader who steers everyone towards clear organisational goals and objectives. Rushabh Gandhi, Deputy CEO, IndiaFirst Life has been one of the key driving forces in this growth story.
Rushabh is not only a strategic thinker, who is high on delivery but also an integral part of the organisation’s growth story. A prodigious financial services leader, with an illustrious track record of 25 years across national and international markets, Rushabh enjoys questioning the conventional and looking at challenges from an opportunity lens. He is also a Director on the Board of CSC E-Governance Services India Limited (promoted by Government of India).
With his experience and expertise, Rushabh has progressively steered IndiaFirst Life on its growth path. He’s been a part of the organisation since 2015 and has been consistently delivering the organisation’s annual operating plans by implementing the best-in-class Bancassurance business and successfully adopting the Multichannel Distribution strategy. His sharp business acumen and deep understanding of the insurance sector has helped IndiaFirst Life grow at a five-year CAGR of 40%. In addition to Sales and Distribution, Rushabh oversees Marketing, Products, Customer Experience, Strategy, Change Management and Human Capital. In his over half a decade long journey at IndiaFirst Life, Rushabh has contributed significantly in elevating the organisation’s rank to 12th in retail business amongst private insurers while clocking a CAGR of 40% in the past 5 years, with more than INR 15,000 crore of AUM!
As a visionary leader, a sales innovator, and an assertive implementer, Rushabh has a clear prescience in anticipating business trends and opportunities. This has brought him stupendous success. In his earlier role, he spearheaded IndiaFirst Life’s Sales & Marketing function.
Under his aegis, IndiaFirst Life has won a multitude of prominent industry accolades including “India’s Best Workplaces in BFSI” by Great Place to Work® Institute (2019 & 2020), “India’s Most Admirable Brands 2019-20” (NDTV), IndiaFirst Life featuring on CNN News18 as “India’s Admired Brand 2019”, The Economic Times “Best Brands 2018” award for Excellence in BFSI and “Bancassurance Leader of the Year” at National Awards for Insurance Excellence ’17, among others.
Prior to this stint, Rushabh served at Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance, Aviva Life Insurance and Birla Sun Life Insurance. As a people’s person who is driven by passion and processes, he played a pivotal role in setting up Aviva Life’s retail life insurance business in Indonesia.
Rushabh has completed the Group Developmental Programme, especially curated for global leaders, at INSEAD, Fontainebleau. He also is a Post-Graduate in Management Studies from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS).
The Big Picture: A Multi-Regional Strategy
A more inclusive, encouraging, and collaborative approach also requires a firm hand. Understanding this need, Rushabh has weaved the same success story for IndiaFirst Life like that in his previous stints.
Building Multi-Channel Capabilities: Bancassurance and adopting multichannel distribution has always been the key focus for Rushabh. Under his leadership, the combined prowess of Bank of Baroda and the newly amalgamated Union Bank of India has significantly expanded IndiaFirst Life’s Bancassurance distribution potential. With over 9646 branches of Union Bank of India and 9288 plus branches of Bank of Baroda, IndiaFirst Life has now more power to realise its dream of making insurance available to the last mile customer. While Bancassurance continues to be trademark area of IndiaFirst Life’s performance, it is the leadership’s direction that has also let to the widening of Alternate Channels’ share in the company’s retail business share.
Strategically Scaling Distribution Touch Points: The company widened its net to have a sophisticated, multi-channel presence, in over a decade of its existence. Further, entering into Strategic Alliances with strong partners has helped them in their growth journey. Their tie-ups with Impact Guru, InsureNearby, BoB Financial, Turtlemint, GramCover, Riskcovry, Toffee Insurance, IFMR Rural Channels, VIMO SEVA, Cointab, Paytm, Oxigen, Tata Motors Finance have enabled them to reach customers who need insurance the most. They ensured offerings for a versatile mix of consumers accessible via channels such as Agency, Brokers, Microinsurance, RRBs, Tele-assurance, Digital, Direct Sales and Easy Life (company’s worksite marketing model). Additionally, the tie-up with the 350,000+ network of Common Service Centres (CSC) e-governance services, to reach out to the masses and underserved consumers via easy-to-understand products, offering greater access to risk management solutions.
Enabling Micro – Agri – Rural Reach for Life Insurance: With the objective of offering micro insurance plans to customers especially in rural areas and securing their lives, IndiaFirst Life tied up with a number of players catering to this segment like Annapurna Finance, Samasta Micro Finance, Bhartiya Woman Development Corporation, Velichem Finance Pvt Ltd & Vemo SEWA and Gramcover.
But like every successful company’s journey, the path to success presented its own set of challenges. IndiaFirst Life and its team’s story is one such apotheosis, making them role models in the insurance industry.
- Building from ground zero: As the industry already had decade-old players with extensive industry knowledge and experience, IndiaFirst Life had to scale quickly while gaining momentum and increasing awareness in hand with enabling economies of scale. They enabled self-service and centralised operations to support customers wherever they were.
- Lack of recognition: Brand recognition and recall was a prime challenge due to limited marketing budgets for a small company. To build brand value, at that time, they did a lot of focused marketing for their customers who visited bank branches and ensured brand recall.
Keeping Digitization at The Heart: IndiaFirst Life consistently integrates intelligence into business,delivering excellent customer satisfaction through exploratory analysis and predictive analytics through Fraud Prediction Model, Propensity to Buy Model in Bancassurance, Surrender Prediction Model and Real-time Policy IRR. By leveraging technological tools, it has:
- Digital First to ensure ‘Customer First’: Competitive advantage is new-age intuitiveness coupled with analytics; 95% of the business is now completely digitised.
- One of the first insurance organisations to implement chatbot – IRIS.
- Award-winning ‘Artificial Intelligence’ enabled IVR.
- Self-service portal for online renewal payments among other services.
- A multilingual – Hindi, Telugu and Gujarati – website offering enhanced and intuitive user experience. Also, the introduction the WhatsApp BOT for 24/7 assistance.
- Additionally, for its employees, the IndiaFirst Life Integrated Insurance Sales Platform (IIISP) has revolutionised the insurance sales process to a fully digitalised process with paper-based processing reduced by 95%. The platform includes:
- Actify – A smart sales assistant for field sales enabling lead capture and management
- Connectify – enabling dissemination of product-related collaterals
- Wealthify – facilitating need-analysis and suggests plans most suited to help customers fulfil their goals
- RAPID (stands for Read, Apply, Pay, Interact and Download) – an all-encompassing app that helps the field sales team to make instant decisions by giving them access to the entire database of products, FAQs, policy statements etc. Aadhar-based e-KYC, integrated with IIISP’s RAPID application helps avoid hassles of capturing verification documents from the customer. Effectively, this part ensures that select policies get issued without having to collect any supporting documentation (in terms of age proof and KYC) from the customer.
- Predictify – Helps the salesforce make personalised, need-based recommendations of the apt product, at the price most suited to customers
- Simplify – Sales tools integrated in one app for seamless selling experience for the salesforce
IndiaFirst Life’s Arsenal of Products, Their Initiatives, And Imminent Additions
While distribution channels may form the backbone of a smooth business strategy, IndiaFirst Life’s suit of diverse products gives it a quality edge. It is always exciting to buy a product that offers lifetime guarantee and security for loved ones while being an equally important risk-investment tool. The company offers an industry-leading diversified suite of 40+ need-based products catering to varied customer segments, leveraging multiple distribution capabilities and augmenting various investment options. In all, propositions under the categories of Protection, Assured Savings, Wealth, Pension, Health and Group Funds for Employee Liabilities form a complete suite of offerings that help their customers prepare for the certainties of life. These 40+ products have played a critical role in achieving a CAGR of 40% in retail business in the last five years
Their products are not only easy to understand but also easily accessible via different online platforms such as intelligent IVR, chatbots (IRIS), WhatsApp, etc. which are competitively priced with risk management being one of the core strengths of IndiaFirst Life.
IndiaFirst Life puts its ‘Customer First’ philosophy not just in beliefs but also in practice. It has something to offer to everyone in over 98% of pin codes in India. In FY20 the organisation held 824 camps covering over 2500 bank branches, catering to over 8000 customers across India. Whether it means going the extra mile to protect families with the ‘Ghar Baithe Insurance’ initiative to putting people policies in place or E-Sampark, theVirtual avatar of IndiaFirst Life’s traditional in-branch customer engagement activities.
The pandemic started a wave of new emerging trends in the insurance industry which customers needed. Taking on the responsibility as gatekeepers, IndiaFirst Life set out to help Indians manage risks and ensure that they are comfortably cushioned against potential losses by launching the following to their existing arsenal of products:
- IndiaFirst Life Group Living Benefits Plan – The IndiaFirst Life Group Living Benefits Plan supports the life insured with Fixed Benefit as per the selected Sum Insured option, irrespective of the actual expenses incurred. The plan has 6 cover options. The Master Policyholder/ Member can choose any one or a combination of options at policy commencement. The policy also provides an option of providing health insurance cover to members of a group under family floater basis in the Daily Hospital Cash Benefit (DHCB) cover option).
- IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Benefit Plan – IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Benefit Plan is a non-linked, non-participating, limited premium, endowment life insurance policy which not only provides a shorter pay commitment of 5, 6 or 7 years but also extends savings and protection in a single policy. Customers can accomplish future goals with either Income or Lumpsum option in the product. This income-insurance tool offers maturity benefits, cashback, periodic endowments, and traditional life cover—guaranteed. Not just this, the policy will also ensure the continuation of the life cover benefit even in case you miss to pay one premium, thus protecting the family with a continued life cover for one year.
- IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Protection Plan – The IndiaFirst Life Guaranteed Protection Plan is a non-linked, non-participating, term insurance policy is designed to secure the certainties of life by promising loved ones a financially secured and fulfilled future. The product has been widely admired and in less than 3 months it has secured more than 1700 satisfied customers to date.
- IndiaFirst Life Mahajeevan Plus Plan is a 3-In-1 Plan that offers Protection, Endowment and Moneyback. This non-linked, participating, individual, limited pay, money back endowment life insurance policy ensures security, savings and cash flow are aligned to one’s future financial needs.
Extending beyond offerings and equally assessing the feedback of every customer, they capture the Voice of customer by surveying the customers on NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) at different touchpoints across the journey like Onboarding, Welcome Call/PIVC call, Premium Payment, Service on QRC, Claims, Maturity, Surrender, Premium not paid, Presales to take into account customer feedback.
Sky’s The Limit
IndiaFirst Life ticks a lot of checkboxes that stakeholders would look for in an insurer. Under Rushabh’s guidance, the company has demonstrated clear vision in anticipating business trends and opportunities. He has steadily steered the company towards “meeting customers where they are” objective by consolidating and implementing the best in class Bancassurance channel at IndiaFirst Life. He introduced the Patch Model to systematically optimise branch productivity. Additionally, he also improved channel management, focusing on Alternate Channels. By investing in the broker community, third-party distribution and its already strong agency network the company witnessed profitable growth and optimised operational performance. He has mirrored the same impact for employees. IndiaFirst Life was recently certified as a Great Place to Work (GPTW) for the fourth time, a recognition considered as the gold standard for defining great workplaces across businesses.
This goes on to prove that with Rushabh at the forefront, IndiaFirst Life continually aims to bring more into the risk-protection net for its employees, customers as well as partners. With IndiaFirst Life’s strong mission and success story, the best is yet to come.