Being part of disruptive industries should be the headline of Igloo Insurance Chief Commercial Officer Raunak Mehta’s resume. Prior to insurtech, Raunak honed his skills in e-commerce which, as everyone knows, has changed the retail industry for the better.
“The journey started when I joined Flipkart in 2011 — pioneer of India’s e-commerce and startup landscape. The objective was to be part of an idea to revolutionise the retail industry to bring greater value to both existing and new consumers,” he shared with e27.
At first glance then, switching to the insurance industry seemed like a 180-degree shift from e-commerce. After Flipkart and prior to Igloo, Raunak had worked at a Southeast Asian fashion e-commerce company, Zalora. “Fashion is glamorous, provides instant gratification. More often than not, it’s an extension of one’s personality,” he said. “Insurance on the other hand, while necessary, does not have that pull associated with it. At best, it provides peace of mind and provides monetary support in the unlikely occurrence of an unfortunate event,” Raunak noted.
“Selling and marketing insurance is hence driven by completely different supply-demand dynamics compared to most other industries, especially fashion,” he added.
The insurance industry is more complex in the face of heavy regulation and incumbents are unable to address the needs of today’s consumers. Raunak has experienced many brands in fashion that have run aground due to their inability to keep up with consumer trends and he believes the insurance industry is at that inflexion point.
Seizing opportunities to disrupt
The opportunity for disruption in a 300-year-old industry that is still finding it difficult to make its core products and services accessible and affordable is a key reason why Raunak decided to shift lanes to insurtech in 2018 to drive Igloo’s business and insurance partnerships. The Singapore-based regional insurtech player has the mission of making “insurance accessible and affordable using data and technology”.
“A rigid product-based approach catering to downside protection has resulted in unmet demands. A wide swath of the population is uninsured and underinsured in Asia-Pacific,” Raunak pointed out. “There seems to be a generational gap between the customers’ problems and the solutions being offered today in the insurance marketplace and this is where companies like Igloo step in to transition the industry to a more proactive platform, one that is more customer-centric and goal-based, less cookie-cutter.”
Raunak’s swapping of fashion with insurance has a personal side to it as well. “As you move up the career ladder, the potential impact that you can have on society could be quite significant. I find it surprising that even with aggregated household wealth slated to become the highest in the world, insurance is still not mainstream for most of the Asian countries,” Raunak noted. Insurance has the power to grant people peace of mind as discretionary spending increase in asset (house, automobile, gadgets) acquisition, and as longer life expectancy and health take centre stage.
Be it fashion e-commerce or insurtech, Raunak has applied a founder’s mentality — built around bias for action, customer advocacy, and cash management — throughout his career. Raunak can lay claim to taking Flipkart Logistics to more than 100 cities In India, and at Zalora, expanding the fashion category to over $100 million in a short span. ”Growth, when built on first principles and aided by technology, is never short-term nor unsustainable,” says Raunak.
From fashion to insurance, the basics remain but with better tech
Naturally, technology became one of the elements Raunak was keen to carry over from fashion to the insurance industry. Since it relies on forecasting trends, fashion has become a pioneering industry in its use of data and technology. Insurance is at the beginning of using data beyond assessing risks.
“Insurance always had a rich pool of data which had not been utilised in the best way to bring the right set of products and services to the market. There are green shoots in the auto and health space and Igloo is at the frontlines of these changes,” he pointed out.
With Raunak at the helm, Igloo has expanded its operations exponentially. From just a handful of employees and operations in Indonesia and Singapore, Igloo now has commercial, product, marketing, operations, and customer service teams spread across six markets and an engineering hub in Chengdu. The company has grown its employee base by five times since 2018.
It currently works with over 30 partners across Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Australia in the e-commerce, telecommunications, banking, and lifestyle industries to deliver more than 10 product lines to the region. To date, it has facilitated over 100 million policies across Southeast Asia.
Leadership skills are even more critical for Raunak as he leads Igloo. Other than his responsibilities as CCO, Raunak now has the expanded responsibilities of running the day-to-day business as well as managing investors.
“Ownership and accountability are important, as is inculcating an entrepreneurial mindset within the organisation. These serve as foundations for a performance-oriented culture,” he noted, adding that empathy has become key in managing an organisation spread across multiple countries, cultures, functional domains and skill-sets, especially during the pandemic which saw various members on frontline teams get impacted.
At the same time, for people interested in insurtech as a career or investment opportunity, Raunak has advice, “Unlike e-commerce, ride-hailing or any consumer-focused industry, insurance, being one of the oldest, would take longer to disrupt but has profound societal impact compared to others.” Hence, only by having a strategic mindset and ability to chart and support a long term vision would there be a requisite return on effort and investment. “Insurance is not a fad. Insurance is eternal.”
Accelerated adoption rate amidst COVID-19
According to Raunak, the COVID-19 pandemic has also woken people up to the importance of having insurance. This is an encouraging sign for Igloo, who looks to plug the gap in insurance products for low and middle-income households – segments which traditional insurers shy away from due to higher risks.
Another underserved segment of the market is micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), besides independent workers who are more vulnerable to economic shocks given their reliance on informal labour with inadequate social safety nets. Igloo offers insurance products for the gig economy and MSMEs across Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines and plans to double down over the next 3-6 months. He said, “We practice what we preach. We are the only insurtech in the region that gets deep into insurance product design to offer what is really needed and our product portfolio reflects this approach”.
The future of Igloo Insure
Raunak is also excited to see developments in insurance related to cybersecurity threats, considering that Asia is 80% more likely to be targeted by hackers compared to the rest of the world due to the speed and scope of the digital transformation. He said that Igloo in collaboration with its reinsurance partners has come up with modular products that give coverage to victims of cybercrime.
And Igloo has been busy pumping out new products to meet market needs. With new partnerships and product launches happening nearly every other week, Raunak noted, “We are probably the only player in the region that can have such expedited go-to-market timelines. And we will continue to bring to market innovative distribution models, at pace, to realise Igloo’s vision of ‘Insurance For All’.”
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: e27
Igloo is part of our Insurtech Batch 2 program in Plug and Play.
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