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Phygital helped PolicyBazaar tap unexplored markets, says CTO

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The combination of physical and digital — phygital — model of operations helped new-age insurance firm PolicyBazaar in tapping the potential of unexplored markets, said the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Saurabh Tiwari in an interview with IANS

The pandemic pushed up the life insurance penetration in India to almost the same as that of the global average.

Policybazaar sees this trend as a “secular trend” and it believes it will continue to drive this “pivotal change in consumer behaviour”.

“The transience of life is a brutal reality that applies equally to everyone and Indians don’t have the comfort of standardized social security to turn to,” the CTO said.

Yet, the pre-pandemic term insurance penetration rate painted a grim picture, the CTO said.

“However, the past two years of Covid-19 have helped break the inertia when it comes to the purchase of insurance products, especially term insurance.”

With digitisation facilitating ease of access and information, consumers are now better equipped to take charge of their financial decisions and secure their future with just a few clicks.

“More evidently, during the second wave, Google search in India for ‘term insurance’ was the highest in the last five years. That is considerably huge progress. This indicates a sharp rise in awareness and demand for insurance.”

Asked how the company will ensure a seamless ‘phygital’ experience across both physical and digital worlds, the CTO said: “Our aim is to unify both these models to leverage the omnichannel approach for providing our customers with a robust, 360-degree service and support system.”

Historically, insurance worked on an offline model and it still constitutes a huge share of the overall distribution pie – which is still close to 80 per cent. After the advent of digitisation, online channels have also been a market-defining pillar for the industry in order to serve the customers.

Importantly, the amalgamation of digital and physical models has helped bridge the trust deficit for customers who have online research at their fingertips but prefer an offline purchase.

Further, when asked how the company is using AI/ML, and data analytics, the CTO said: “As consumer behaviour goes through a massive change with better access to research and data available at their fingertips, they can easily compare online, seek assistance and make better choices. The long legacy of data that we have enables them to do that. Conventionally, the way insurance is bought and sold has broadly been based on static parameters.”

The company is leveraging the potential of automation to entirely turn around the customer experience and also for making the process more cost and time-efficient.

“…deploying technology helps us efficiently assess the risk profile of a customer which is a breakthrough of sorts for underwriting.”

Furthermore, the CTO said the cloud technology has helped the insurance company rapidly build its applications over the cloud.

“For scalability and elasticity, the platform offers all the building blocks for the application with managed services like Amazon RDS, ALB, CloudWatch, ECS with Fargate and WAF/Shield. With AWS we got the native advantage of provisioning resources at will.”

Also, monitoring, managing and decommissioning resources are easier and require fewer clicks.

In terms of business outcomes, it had experienced the following key benefits attributed to running on Amazon Web Services:

a. Cost reductions: Instead of having to upfront invest heavily in data centres based on peak load, the ability to pay only when you consume computing resources, and pay only for how much one consumes is a big advantage. Since this is an opex model it doesn’t require significant upfront investment.

b. Quick time to market: In a cloud computing environment, new IT resources are only a click away, which means that one can reduce the time to make those resources and applications available to its developers from weeks to just minutes. It helps in getting the required resources almost 100 per cent in-time.

c. Effective use of resources: It operates and manages the infrastructure and development processes at scale. Automation and consistency help in managing and utilizing the resources to the fullest. The resource utilization of the critical resources of ECS+FARGATE(Docker), RDS, Elastic-Cache is 98%-99%. It monitors AWS resources via Amazon CloudWatch’s resource utilization report.

d. Faster deployment and Reduced latency: It easily deploys its applications in multiple regions around the world with just a few clicks using code, deploy and Jenkins. With this, it can provide lower latency and a better experience for its customers at a minimal cost.

e. Improved availability: AWS has helped improve the availability of business- critical information, applications, and services. Resource availability is in high 99 per cent and it uses the ASG feature with multiple templates and multiple resource types.

f. Management efficiency: The infra and application management is far easier via an AWS portal on the browser, as it can be accessed from anywhere.

g. Improvement in Risk Management: AWS has helped in risk improvement in case of scaling, availability and recovery during business hours//time.

Further, the Technical Account Manager (TAM) has become an integral part of the technical team and facilitates a regular connection to share guidance around cost optimization, security, new releases and enablement sessions. Working with AWS Enterprise Support has also helped bring costs down.

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