In 2019, Ruchir Kanakia and Shreyans Maini began to study the trappings of India’s health insurance market. Their findings pointed to the country having one of the lowest penetration rates globally.
According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the health insurance industry in India was an $8 billion market, measured in terms of the total premium in fiscal year (FY) 2021. This is less than 8 percent of the total insurance market in India, which stood at $102 billion in FY 020.
A bulk of the insurance market in India is for life cover ($75 billion). But even taking just the non-life insurance sector, the penetration level is above 1 percent for India, compared to 6.5 percent in the US, and 2.1 percent in China, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Ruchir, 32, and Shreyans, 34, who previously worked in fast-growing startups, posit that the low penetration rate is due to poor awareness about health insurance.
So, in October 2020, the duo founded Prost Insurance Brokers orto educate users at the time of selling health insurance and guide them while processing medical claims.
SS Gopalarathnam, former Managing Director of Cholamandalam General Insurance, is an advisor and investor in OneAssure.
Ruchir, Co-founder and CEO of OneAssure, was part of the founding team of cloud telephony platform Exotel, and the core team of the payment solutions venture, Instamojo.
In 2014, he joined edtech startup Cuemath in its growth stage, which entailed training women to teach math at scale. With OneAssure, Ruchir has already trained more than 100 health insurance experts to provide bespoke advice to prospective customers.
“Customers will come to the OneAssure website to look for a verified expert to help them select a health insurance plan — and somebody to help them during medical claims,” says Ruchir, CEO of OneAssure, about the customer journey.
Enabling health insurance coverage
OneAssure wants to evolve as a marketplace for customers to rate the verified health insurance experts, as it keeps onboarding the team of verified partners to speak to more customers.
“Our website will have reviews and ratings of all our partners, which will be public. Today, you can’t find any intermediary rating that is public on any forum, including LIC agents,” Ruchir notes.
Shreyans, who heads product, technology and marketing at OneAssure, points out that health insurance is predominantly sold in English, which is spoken by less than 10 percent of India’s population.
Given his experience as a product manager at regional language platform Pratilipi and OTT platform Disney+Hotstar, Shreyans is building the OneAssure gateway as a language-agnostic platform, and using videos on smartphones to train the onboarded health-insurance experts.
In July 2021, OneAssure got a broking licence from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI). To date, it has covered more than 3,000 people with health insurance, Ruchir says.
In December, the insurtech venture raised its maiden round of $675,000 (Rs 5 crore) from a clutch of angel investors.
The investors include Arun Venkatachalam, part of the Murugappa family, Amit Midha, President at Dell Technologies, Rohit MA, Managing Director of Cloudnine Hospitals, Dalvir Suri, Co-founder of Dunzo, Ganesh Rao, Co-founder of Suryoday Microfinance, and Santoshkumar Vasudevan of IFC.
Micro-seed funds like Upsparks and Nu Ventures also participated in the pre-seed round.
“OneAssure’s unique approach at helping the end customer, from selecting a policy to claims, got me excited about the opportunity,” says Amit Midha of Dell Technologies. “Health insurance has become the need, and there are very few intermediaries with this tech-enabled focus on a customer.”
OneAssure has started working with seven insurers, including Go Digit, HDFC Ergo, ICICI Lombard, and Star Health. It has a team of 12 that has got the platform’s prototype ready for commercialisation.
It expects to close FY 2022 with more than Rs 6 crore of health insurance premiums processed.
Currently, the online insurance segment in India is dominated by PolicyBazaar, which has 48 insurer partners across categories from health and motor to home and travel insurance.
Of the 6.14 policies sold by online insurance distribution platforms across India in FY 2020, 94.4 percent were on PolicyBazaar.
OneAssure wants to counter incumbent platforms like Paytm, and other online insurance brands like Acko and CoverFox by simply focusing on health insurance.
Its first task will be to educate the customer about what they are buying. “If we don’t educate the customer, the expectation is wrongly set. Hence, you won’t renew and become a churn customer,” he says.
Second, OneAssure will hone in on the gaps in the processing of online claims at a time when the existing players are focused on expanding the market. “Majority of the intermediaries are being paid to help when the customer needs him. But they are nowhere to be seen at the time of claims processing,” Ruchir notes.
Finally, the customer will have an option of seeing how the verified health insurance partners are rated on the OneAssure platform. “We want to make our ecosystem transparent,” Ruchir says.
While technology has a role to play in making the platform responsive, One Assure’s efficacy will be determined by its pool of experts at the time of selling health insurance, and periodical updates to policyholders about their insurance.
“A partner cannot explain a 40-page contract when he is selling a health insurance policy,” Ruchir says. “Health insurance is the only (insurance) product where there is repeated need at different points in life for service — or creating customer delight.”
Given this opportunity, the Bengaluru-headquartered startup wants users to submit their medical reports, before OneAssure’s partners can recommend two or three health insurance plans. It will charge the customer only after they choose the policy.
“The buyer must know what to expect from their health insurance policy. The buyer will have questions to ask,” Ruchir says. OneAssure will not look at underwriting, he adds, because the current problem is to expand the pool of health-insured in India.
For this purpose, it is also looking at taking policies like the Arogya Sanjeevani, which is a standard indemnity health insurance product with sum insured ranging between Rs 50,000 and up to Rs 10 lakh.
But for most of it, OneAssured’s approach is how to sell the most pertinent health insurance plan to a customer, and then serve those customers at the time of claims processing.
“The insurance market is at an inflection point,” says Mohamad Faraz, Founding Partner of Upsparks. “The OneAssure team has a great combination with Ruchir having business-building experience and Shreyans having worked to scale technology platforms, so this investment is an interesting bet on the space.”