Leader Speak

We focus on adding value, not merely generating revenue: Alok Bansal

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Policybazaar is a homegrown brand that solves a problem unique to India. Barely 15 years old, this InsurTech has been an inspiration to budding entrepreneurs across the country. Recently Alok Bansal, one of Policybazaar’s founding members and now the Whole-time Director and CFO, PB Fintech Limited, attended the 2022 annual conclave held by AIMA (All India Management Association). At the event, Bansal talked about the journey of the brand sharing some of the lessons learnt by him and the team during the course. 

Bansal was a panelist at the session titled, “Breeding unicorns: Sustaining startup momentum.” He was joined by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Seth, co-founders of Dream11 and Dream Sports.  This was moderated by Economic Analyst Pranjal Sharma. 

Talking about the initial years of Policybazaar, Bansal explained that like most startups this one too put survival over revenue. At that time, he said, there are so many ups and downs that “keeping the team motivated is a challenge, so the focus is more on the immediate future.” Elaborating on what makes a startup stick, he added that they “never had a number in mind” in terms of generating revenue or becoming a unicorn. PB’s founding team of 14 members had simply identified a problem in the way India understood insurance. Bansal said that the only thing on their mind was “Can we solve this problem? Can we become meaningful players in the industry?”

Bansal shared that the founding members had little to zero experience in the insurance industry,or even in the allied financial industries. They were simply driven by a common vision that went way beyond revenue. What worked for PB, he said, is that “we were never scared to ask stupid questions and disrupt the status quo.” Even today, Bansal mentioned, we have the startup-like quality of “not having a fear of failure.”

Commenting on the work culture in startups, Bansal explained that a company's investors and Board play a key role in setting the right tone for an emerging company. Explaining how the current state isn’t ideal, he said, “In the past one year, we would  have talked to maybe 300 investors.Only in 2 meetings, we were asked about culture and attrition at senior level. If you don’t have the Board or investors to ask you these questions, how do you expect young entrepreneurs to pay attention to it right at the beginning.”

Talking about how team PB has been lucky in terms of investors, he added, “InfoEdge was our first investor. Sanjeev (Bikhchandani) was of the view that the first slide which goes out for review every month has to have only 2 numbers - collections and cash burns. Because at an early stage if you don't control these two, you are dead. This has stuck with us till date.”

Responding to the moderator’s question on whether or not PB fears being disrupted, he said, “Not only have we gained customer trust, we also keep disrupting ourselves. We keep rethinking our own business model to identify and eliminate the weak points before someone else does.”

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