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BW Businessworld

'A Lot of Digital Innovation is Taking Place’

Prakash Chandra Kandpal, Managing Director and CEO, SBI General Insurance shares important learnings from Covid-19 for the insurance industry and how SBI GI was reaching out to rural areas. Excerpts of a conversation with BW Businessworld

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How have the last seven months been personally and professionally?
Somehow the health issue became an economic issue, not only for busi-nesses but also for personal lives. The sudden lockdown changed life completely. People were not pre-pared for the situation.

Some restaurants did not even get time to dispose of their inventory. Those earning daily wages  felt the pinch more than those in regular jobs. Specifically, the manufactur-ing industry and the service indus-try suffered a lot.

Then people began to realise that sitting at home won’t work, and they started coming to office. Over these 200 days, people realised that we have to come back to normalcy as fast as possible.

Tell us, over the next six to twelve months, where is the insurance industry heading?

Traditionally, we think that the best insurance is God. ‘Bhagwan sab thik kar denge.’ We don’t care about protecting unless it is mandatory (for example motor insurance). Covid-19 changed everything. When rich and poor got impacted by Covid-19, people understood the importance of insurance.

The way healthcare costs are increasing, people feel they do not want to suffer if someone from their family suffers from medical conditions. In natural calamities, as when Cyclones Nisarga and Amphan came this year, huge losses of property are incurred, which necessitate protecting assets.

The growth in health insurance in the past six months has been phenomenal.  The Insurance Regulatory and Develop-ment Authority has issued simple health policies with uniform coverage, followed by Covid-19 related products.

Insurance penetration in India is very low with insurance not be-ing mandatory and because people do not have surplus earnings. It de-pends on the economy. As the econ-omy grows, insurance penetration w ill g row.

Times like these spur inno-vation. How has SBI General Insurance (SBI GI) innovated and what are the new prod-ucts that the company has brought in?
The biggest learning during Cov-id-19 is how to reach out to a larger population digitally. A lot of digital innovation is taking place.

We at SBI GI have started study-ing the requirement for protect-ing in rural areas. We did a six months study in tier-3, tier-4 cities to understand what kind of peril we need to cover, and offer them a simple product with affordable prices and make the claim handling simple.

We found two to three things very important. One is protecting their assets – farm equipment, huts, cattle, crops. Then comes simple health issues. They don’t have doctors  on call and are kilometres away from medical support. Rec-ognising this, we came up with two products. The first, the Kutumb Swastha Bima Yojana cover s the entire family and offers them a telemedicine facility. They can call a doctor at anytime and get a diagnosis on teleconsulting mode.

The second product  we created was a simple product for farmers, covering their huts, cattle, equipement. Thirdly, we covered their requirements for treatment – if they are admitted in a hospital, a certain amount will be given to them, called Hospital Daily Cash.