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ICICI Lombard sets up in-house digital arm to tap growing internet market

The act of setting up a separate digital arm is the first in the domestic insurance industry

Advait Rao Palepu  |  Mumbai 

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General Insurance (ICICI-GI) has set up a 'virtual company' called Digital within the company to spearhead insurance services through a purely digital platform. Digital will be a specialised digital arm that cuts across the entire value-chain and leverages partnerships throughout the modern-day internet-ecosystem.

"We felt this necessitates a differentiated approach, which will help us to leverage emerging opportunities. Conventionally, our digital team was primarily a sales channel and it used to work with central departments. In the new setup, will have a separate underwriter, actuary, technology, legal and compliance teams, in addition to the business team," said Sanjeev Mantri, executive director at ICICI-GI.

Inspired by the start-up culture and the wider integration of large established financial services with fintechs, Mantri told Business Standard that the aim of the digital arm would be to work with and app-based start-up service providers, which could help "create many unconventional products to cater to this segment".

For instance, in the past few months, ICICI-GI partnered with Ola Cabs to provide a travel insurance policy for the customer's journey. For Re 1, the customer can insure their 'trip' in case of the risk of an accident or if heavy traffic causes the customer to miss a flight.

Other partnerships that ICICI-GI is working on include RedBus, Mobikwik, Happy Loans and Uber.

"To operate in the new environment, to sell products on the fly and in sachet like formats, like us need to create the ability to sell products at any time, from anywhere, at the right price," he said.

The general insurer has appointed Vivek Narayanan, formerly of Lenskart, to head ICICI Lombard Digital. It will be governed by a cross-functional board, alongside ICICI-GI.

The last piece of the transition plan is to begin working at different premises, away from ICICI-GI's current head-office in Prabhadevi, Mumbai.

"Today, more than 90 per cent of our policies are processed without any paper entering our office, claims are settled through digital tools and our agents have apps for them to sell policies, but this new platform aims to improve the entire purchase journey for the B2C customer," Mantri said.

The digital transformation of ICICI-GI has taken various forms and shapes over the past ten years, from being one of the first-movers in launching online sales, email- or mobile-based customer services, chatbots and even claims settlement through apps.

But the act of setting up a separate digital arm is the first in the domestic insurance industry.

"We had to create this structure to ensure that we stand committed to our new digital partners, deliver affordable and innovative policies while ensuring the speed of delivery is much faster. We need to have a far more committed and concrete approach to our digital business. It required a re-boot of our mindset," says Mantri.

The digital arm will essentially operate as an in-house but independent insurance company underwriting policies and managing the entire customer-services through digital tools, throughout the policy term.

But, for now, the former aims to utilise the wealth of historical information available with the general insurer to improve underwriting standards and improve on simple, innovative and convenient product offerings.

First Published: Tue, December 04 2018. 14:42 IST
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