Leader Speak

Agility And Quick Decision Making Helping Us Immensely: Sharat Dhall

Sharat Dhall Chief Operating Officer Policybazaar.com

The Covid-19 crisis is unprecedented for businesses. For Policybazaar, the pandemic has brought along not just a massive spurt in sales but unique learning opportunities as well. This crisis could also be an inflexion point for the insurance sector in India. Insurance, as a category, is marked by consumer procrastination because the benefits of investing in the service are in the distant horizon, and oftentimes not even in the buyer’s lifetime.

But in times of uncertainty and chaos, people seek to create a semblance of order. For many, insurance has now become a step towards order in a chaotic world. “The story of the past 90 days is that the need and relevance of insurance has come to the fore,” said Sharath Dhall, chief operating officer, Policybazaar at a webinar organized by Exchange4Media titled ‘What’s next in Marketing Technology’.

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Given the nature of insurance awareness in India, it is largely purchased at the end of a financial year to extract the tax-saving benefit it offers. However, sales at Policybazaar has grown by almost 80% in the months of April, May and June, typically considered lean season for insurance sales. Policybazaar has consistently focused on expanding the category.

Changing Perceptions Around Insurance

“People started searching on the internet and asking questions on our website about life insurance in a big way since February, when the news of the pandemic started to spread in India. In the last two months, queries about health insurance have dominated with concerns about the extremely high cost of Covid-19 treatment,” said Dhall. Possibly for the first time, insurance in India is looked as a something that can secure your family’s future at a very nominal cost. 

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Even if the circumstances are unique, such a bump in sales cannot accrue in the absence of marketing agility. “We quickly realized that during the lockdown, media consumption had undergone a sea change. Digital media consumption through online platforms and streaming apps had exploded. As people started working from home, day-time television viewing also shot through the roof. We rejigged our advertising spends,” said Dhall.

Policybazaar’s advertising money was directed towards news channels that was being heavily watched as people sought more information. The use of state-run Doordarshan, too, proved to be a big marketing success. Advertising during the rerun of Ramayan on DD helped the company reach the size of audience comparable to IPL, at a fraction of the cost. “We had tremendous learning on agility. We measure returns on advertising investments very closely. It has helped us balance out digital and TV spends,” adds Dhall.

The shift in consumer mindset is no less interesting. A younger demographic is buying into the idea of insurance. Those who have just entered the job market are now more inclined to purchase insurance than invest money in instruments that yield more immediate returns. “Policybazaar has always focused on expanding the category. Our own growth will come with growing awareness and accessibility of insurance products,” said Dhall.

At a time when people are wary of stepping out of home, innovations such as telemedicals and video health checks, in partnership with insurers, have helped Policybazaar sustain the sales momentum.

Breaking Down Complexities 

However, the big challenge of selling insurance online is to make it easy for customers to find products that are best suited for them. It requires product customization of a very high order. As an aggregator, Policybazaar breaks down the complexities of various insurance products and presents the benefits in such a manner that customers can make an informed decision.

In a category such as insurance, customers want messaging that is far more personalized. That cannot happen without great marketing-technology and a strong personalization engine. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Policybazaar analyses millions of conversations consumers have with its executives to understand a plethora of service issues. “For instance, using Whatsapp, we can address queries even if they come at 2 AM. You have to be where your customers are,” says Dhall.

(Inputs and editing by: Sunny Lamba)

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