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Health insurance is still not a part of individual's buying pattern: Arun Balakrishnan

Q&A with CEO, Berkshire Insurance

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Understanding a customer's need who comes online for buying insurance plans, entering the life insurance and expanding in the general insurance space is helping Berkshire Insurance, corporate agent to Bajaj Allianz, slowly increase customer base in India. The company's says that 15 of every 100 online buyer comes to his website directly. Excerpts from a conversation Arun Balakrishnan had with Neha Pandey Deoras -

Which is the highest selling product on your portal? What has been your sales growth?

Insurance for four-wheelers is the highest selling product on out portal. The growth has been good and there has been continuous month-on-month increase in sales and premium figures.

In the online space people like comparing and finally settle for wherever a product is attractively priced. What is the ratio of those buying through your portal is to those only doing home work on your site?

People like to compare and look for different price range. But this has changed. Earlier individuals would compare different sites for premiums and based on the premium take a final decision. In the past two years, people have understood that looking at only premiums does not matter especially when it comes to may be add-on covers. Now, they enquire about extra product features or what else is given with the product, say what kind of add-ons are available.

Of every 100 people who visit our website, 25 per cent is a pure-play customer or direct customer. Each time a customer comes to our website, we call them back and ask their requirement. Many times that is when the discussion happens and eventually the purchase takes place.

Berkshire brand was expected to give you good customer base in India and in turn help Bajaj Allianz. To what extent has that happened? Have you met your target?

Berkshire brand did not have any customer base in India, it is new in India. It is predominant in the US. In India, we did not bring any preconceived notions and started our operations with the intent of building a customer base and understanding the dynamics of the Indian online insurance market. Given that we have a know how about technology, we have and are looking to refining the process of online insurance sale as per the customer needs. We constantly want to understand the needs of an online India customer.

There were reports of Berkshire Insurance entering life insurance business. When is that likely? Are you in talks with any insurance company?

We want to enter the life insurance space. But, right now we've just launched the tele sales service for life insurance to understand customers' needs. We get enquiries and as this platform takes shape, we will take it to the online medium.

In the general insurance side, what are your expansion plans?

We are already present in the health, travel and motor insurance space. We are exploring the home insurance segment as it is not bought by many in India but can be conducive. But, we first want to understand the demand for this product in India.

At present a corporate agent can work for only one insurer. But are you open to partnering some other insurance companies once the guidelines are in place?

Bajaj Allianz is one of the top private insurers in the Indian market and we believe that it is a good meeting of the minds. We are extremely happy with our partner and we haven't thought about any new relationship.

What are the trends in health, travel and motor insurance space?

Travel insurance space is most online and dominated by ticketing sites. Those going for shorter trip get a cover at the time of ticketing. But those taking longer trips or where larger premium are involved is being bought online through insurance companies or agents' sites.

On the health side, we are seeing many more queries that a year ago. This is also more than the queries in the motor insurance space. However, is still not a part of ones buying pattern. And very few people buy health insurance online. We might see increase in online motor insurance sale going forward.

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