My background has been primarily in the financial services industry (Cards & payments /Insurance). I have worked in both startup and corporate settings across multiple markets, including the US, China, India, and the Middle East. Of late, I have been active in the Dubai entrepreneurial ecosystem as a startup advisor and angel investor. I take on consulting roles with various technology startups, and Symbo is the latest one where I do business development for them in the Middle East markets.
Symbo is an insurtech company built by Insurance & Broking Experts. We have offices in India, Singapore, and Malaysia. Symbo’s platform enables insurance carriers, brokers, and other insurance professionals by offering thoughtful, technology-enabled solutions to modernize insurance products’ alternative distribution.
How much has the consumer sentiments changed in the Insuretech space during 2020, and how will 2021 look?
We have found that the pandemic forced the insurers in Asia to pivot quickly to going digital. The traditional channels of agents were rendered ineffective because of the repeated lockdowns last year.
Besides, the need for health and life insurance has grown in the end customer’s minds. We operate in markets where the insurance penetration is under 4%, and the customer’s ability to pay is not as high as in the developed markets.
We have seen that there has been increased adoption of bite-sized insurance products that are more economical and are for specific needs (such as Dengue cover/women’s health / Covid cover ).
2021 Outlook: With the increased rate of vaccination and slow opening up of the economy, much of the areas that we operate in (Asia /Middle East) should limp back to normalcy by the second half of this year. We are optimistic about our digital solutions’ demand to grow faster than in the last few years.
How much have investments changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
I know from my network that around April-May 2020, the investors were as shellshocked as the rest of us. Significantly few investors were willing to put their money in new ventures. Most of the money was going into supporting their existing investments. During the 3-4th quarter, the situation has changed, and the investments have started flowing for the innovative startups focusing on financial inclusion, remote work, health tech, and green tech. Many of these are investing themes that arose during the pandemic.
Customer experience at Symbo
How does Symbo use customer experience to drive innovation?
Symbo works very closely with the businesses it serves to ensure that they can offer a superior customer experience to their end-users.
We mainly focus on:
1) Fast and frictionless user onboarding: Avoid excessive data entry by the customer and use publicly available data sources where possible.
2) Easy checkout process: Ensure that the insurance purchase is easy and quick using multiple payment systems, with a low need for additional validation.
3) Offer innovative bite-sized products that fit the user’s needs: Ensure that we offer products that are not expensive and yet protect the customer from specific insurable risks
We achieve this by clubbing deep market insight and on-the-ground customer research.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson was not to take things for granted and that the situation can change on a dime. I will be honest, March and April were not great months for me. Somehow, with the help of my family and our brave colleagues, we found the courage to rethink the way we worked and connected with our employees and customers. We ended the year safe and with better financial results than we could ever hope for!
2020 was the year of webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
I was watching several webinars and events last year. Money 2020 was the one that stood out for the content and for the inspirational fintech entrepreneurs who attend it.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should executives gear up to the changing times?
Take it as a blessing in disguise! This is a chance for you to relook at your real estate expenses and allow your employees to balance their work and life. My colleagues have been happier because of the time saved from commuting long distances. On the business development front, we have had the opportunity to talk to customers and investors worldwide simply because video calls have become acceptable for doing business. Many executives will have to move away from the presenteeism culture, which can be found in some companies in this region. This requires a mindset change, in my view.