Deepak Yohannan, CEO, MyInsuranceClub.com, started this venture in late 2009. Deepak has worked in major finance MNCs like GE Capital and CitiFinancial. At Citi, he was the product manager for the personal loans division. He was then part of the consumer finance start-up team at Moneyline where he was heading the marketing division which gives him a crucial edge in handling the online marketing business. He is a mechanical engineer and has done his MBA from IIM Calcutta.
MyInsuranceClub.com is an online insurance comparison portal of iGear Financial Services. The Mumbai-based company offers an unbiased and independent search capability and direct visitors to the insurer that best meets their individual requirements. Consumers can compare the price and features of insurance plans with the click of a few buttons, all for free. The company’s goal is to become the wiki of insurance in India.
Speaking to Dolly Mirchandani of IIFL, Deepak Yohannan says, “A life insurance product should not be purchased in a hurry. It is better that the customer spends time in understanding the product and only then should he go in for the plan.”
What should a customer look for while buying a home insurance policy?
There are two basic covers which form part of a home insurance policy. One which covers the structure of the house, while the other covers contents of the house. The customer can choose to cover any one of them or both. In most cases, a customer prefers a cover which insures the contents of the home as the society—where he stay—takes care of insurance of the structure of the house. Contents are usually covered to ensure that the loss is recovered to buy the same contents post depreciation. There really isn't much to choose from and it is a simple policy.
How does MyInsuranceClub.com cater to customers who are not tech savvy, especially senior citizens?
MyInsuranceClub does not do any offline selling. We are a pure insurance comparison portal (classified as web aggregators by the IRDA). We are a pure online platform and hence really don't go after the non-tech savvy customers. We also do not solicit any customers through the offline mechanism and hence all our customers are those who have used our website. Also, there are hardly any non-tech savvy customers anyway! So that is a relief for us.
How do you ensure that customers get real-time assistance and personalised advice?
Again, being an online platform we typically do not talk to our customers directly unless they have visited our site. Once they come to our website, we check the customers’ preference and assist them in making the purchase by connecting them to the insurance companies of their choice. This concept is a relatively new one and I believe that there is a long way to go in making it much more refined.
What steps do you take to ensure that the purchase of an insurance policy is made in a relatively short period of time?
There are two broad categories of insurance products—life and general. A life insurance product should not be purchased in a hurry. It is better that the customer spends time in understanding the product and only then should he go in for the plan. It is a long-term commitment. General insurance plans, like health insurance, car insurance and travel insurance, are standard OTC (over-the-counter) products and don't need the same level of analysis. It is usually a one-year plan which can be changed the next year if found not up to one's expectations.
As a rule, we do not push customers into making any purchase decision. But we have plans which can be purchased online and customers can actually make the purchase in 15 odd minutes if they are decided.
What is your view on the new IRDA guidelines on health insurance?
The health insurance guidelines released by IRDA are excellent. It is a very comprehensive piece of document which caters to almost all aspects of health insurance—from purchase, servicing to claims. The special focus on senior citizens shows that all pain-points are being addressed. It is a very welcome move. I hope all of them become a reality.
Should the insurance ombudsmen be allowed to deal with the grievances of individual consumers involving claims higher than the Rs 20 lakh permitted at present?
The idea is quick resolution. So at least get the smaller tickets cases cleared off soon. Big ticket disputes will take a lot more time and it may just add to the load for other disputes which can be cleared off quickly. Don’t see too much merit in this.
What are some of the ways investors can address their grievances? Should arbitration be used only as a last resort?
The first point of contact should always be the insurance company. A lot of cases, if presented properly with proper documentation can be resolved here itself. Else go to the ombudsman. We also have IRDA's Integrated Grievance Management System which can be accessed online and through phone. It is better to use arbitration as a final resort.
According to the IRDA’s latest circular, policyholders surrendering their pension plans will have to take annuity from the same insurer. Will this help policyholders?
This is a fix to a problem which the industry is facing, whether this solves customers’ problems remains to be seen. LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India) takes in a very large and un-proportional part of the annuity business. This in itself causes a systemic risk. So, I assume this is a measure to force the other insurance companies also to participate proportionally in the annuity business.
On the other hand, consumers lose the option of selecting an insurer of their choice. Pension plans are long-term plans and one cannot be expected to make a choice 15 years in advance.
Many health insurers are in the process of launching insurance policies that cover alternative forms of treatments? What are some of the factors investors should keep in mind while going in for such policies?
This is good news for the consumers. The more the types of treatments that are covered the better it is, as it gives the consumer more choices. There are certain types of treatments let’s say ayurveda which a lot of people find beneficial, but would not be covered in the plain vanilla health plan. All these will come at a cost though.
Please explain to us your company's business model. Brief us on your financials.
Currently, it is based on leads passed on to insurance companies and online conversions happening on the website. We get remunerated for both. The regulator has laid down guidelines for web aggregators and all sources of income are clearly defined. We are betting on online sales of insurance policies picking up for OTC products like car and health insurance in a big way. We are sort of trying to become a makemytrip for the insurance industry.
What are your expansion plans? How would they be funded?
We are focused on the insurance vertical. There is immense potential in this vertical that needs to be tapped before thinking about anything else. We plan to invest heavily in technology and want to present an online face not seen before in the insurance industry in India. As for the funding part, any successful and proven model would not be left wanting for funds there would be partners willing to take the bet.
What is the ownership pattern of your company? Are you looking at selling stake?
No comments on the ownership pattern. To raise funds, we would of course be willing to dilute our current holdings.