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Health insurance plans at pharmacies soon

Niladri Bhattacharya  |  Mumbai 

Soon, you would be able to buy a plan from a neighbourhood pharmacy, or be advised on such a plan by your general physician. Cigna TTK Health, the most recent entrant in the Indian space, plans to set up an innovative distribution network through which simple products would be sold over the counter.

“It will be a box product, and the buyer would be able to get a policy kit across the counter. These might be simple products for which medical tests are not essential, and the documents needed may be submitted online, once the customer reaches home,” said T T Jagannathan, chairman, TTK Group.

The company plans to leverage its network of pharmacies and physicians to sell its plans. “We have active business relationship, with more 100,000 pharmacies and an equal number of physicians across the country. We are already in talks with some of them regarding this concept,” Jagannathan said.

However, for complex products, these outlets would collect the data and information from interested customers and generate the lead for the company for follow-up procedure.

“Being a late entrant, we must have an innovative direct distribution channel, apart from traditional ones, to make a mark,” said Sandeep Patel, managing director, Cigna Health Solutions, India.

Cigna TTK Company is a joint venture between US-based Cigna Corporation and India’s TTK Group.

Cigna has 26 per cent stake in the company, while the Indian partner holds 74 per cent.

Bangalore-based TTK Group, which operates across several segments, including consumer durables, pharmaceuticals and supplements, bio-medical devices and healthcare services, also plans to leverage its 400 ‘Prestige’ outlets to sell products.

Selling and marketing products at a retail level has been under consideration for a long time. The Regulatory and Development Authority is finalising the guidelines to facilitate ‘monoline’ agents — agents who would be authorised to sell only a single type of an policy, for which they would be trained. The move is aimed at taking products to the doorsteps of customers.

Pharmacies are allowed to sell products in most developed markets, including the US, the UK and Japan. “We already have experience in selling products through pharmacy chains in the United States, and we would bring that expertise to India,” said David M Cordani, president and chief executive, Cigna Corporation.

Some companies have marketing tie-ups with pharmacy chains, through which product information and brochures are available. However, these counters do not sell products.

According to industry estimates, the business constitutes more than 25 per cent of the general industry, and over the last year, premiums rose 25 per cent. During the April-September period of the current financial year, premium collection rose 21.3 per cent to Rs 6,721.53 crore from Rs 5,540.34 crore in the year-ago period.

First Published: Wed, January 18 2012. 00:08 IST