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Digital to be at the centre of SBI General’s business expansion drive

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SBI General Insurance has been growing 30-35 percent YoY. The plan is to take a quantum jump and grow the business by more than 3 times. This will be done through expanding the footprint through the bancassurance model especially with SBI. Extending the partnership further with the agency, brokers etc. Digital is the way to go in these scenarios

SBI General Insurance has been clocking good numbers since the last two years. This is the eighth year of operations for the company. Ambitious plans are in the works for the next two-three years. Digital and the supporting IT infrastructure will be one of the important contributors to achieving the growth targets. A separate vertical has been created inside the company to run the digital business.

A major hardware and software system upgradation programme is underway. The systems were being used since the operations began and they are nearing their end of life / refresh is required or the software version needs to be upgraded. Correspondingly, “The IT budget this year will be double from the previous year,” informs Amar Chakravarty, CIO & Head of IT, SBI General Insurance.

“A few digital and born in cloud companies launched their businesses last year and they will prove to be a challenge for us,” says Chakravarty. The company has taken a proactive stand of ramping up the business in order to be well on track to participate in the growth story of India. In a way, it will also allow to compete against the new age companies. They are cloud based and have no legacy baggage. The impending challenge is also from companies like Amazon and others. “Tomorrow, if Amazon starts selling Insurance, it will be difficult for us to face the challenge,” says Chakravarty.

APIs critical for creating more partnerships
SBI General Insurance has been growing 30-35 percent YoY. The plan is to take a quantum jump and grow the business by more than 3 times. This will be done through expanding the footprint through the bancassurance model especially with SBI. Extending the partnership further with the agency, brokers etc. Digital is the way to go in these scenarios. The crux will be in the ability to link up the company’s systems with that of the partners. For example, at times, the corporate customers want to connect the employee’s personal insurance plans with the general insurance. It requires ERP linkage of the customer’s system with the systems of the general insurance provider. The days of the physical forms are gone. Companies are not interested in taking that route. The role of the API infrastructure is critical here. It allows seamless connection between two systems without any major redevelopment.

Hitherto the challenge was in maintaining multiple partnerships. A change that applies to all the partners had to be done separately in the respective systems of the company however with the advantage of APIs, a change made at one end gets reflected at all the other instances where it can be made applicable. This reduces the burden for general insurance companies and their partners to maintain and run their business. “As a general insurance provider, a majority of the change has to be made at my end,” so less hassles for the partners.

Toyota, Hyundai, Maruti are some of the OEM partners of SBI General Insurance in the area of motor insurance. A major change will come by making partnerships with many smaller players.
Motor insurance is a major component of the overall business of SBI General. A partnership with Vahan, an e-initiative of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is also being considered. The Vahan app, which is a national registry of registered vehicles across the country. It allows the company to get the vehicle related information by only getting the registration number from the customer.

Empowering employees and customers with Technology tools
Providing tabs to the claims processing team has been tested out and they will soon be provided tabs. An initiative is underway for the salesforce to help them track their targets and manage the routine work. “We are also in discussions with General Insurance Council (GIC), who are planning an initiative on Blockchain,” says Chakravarty. There are use cases like co-insurance, which requires data sharing among insurance companies; IRDA, GIC collects data from various companies. How can Blockchain be used to share this data back with all the insurance companies to check whether the policy applicant already has some kind of pending dues with one insurance company before buying a policy from another company. A decision will soon be taken on the use cases.

Chatbots
The company has thus far evaluated 27 chatbot vendors and close to 10 of them have been shortlisted and they are running a Closed User Group (CUG) RFP. Most of the vendors had the conventional FAQ model for chatbots, which doesn’t add value to the immense potential that chatbot offers. The shortlisted vendors can link up with the APIs, pull the customer information like their policy details- claims status, renewal due etc and provide support proactively rather than waiting for the customer to raise the query. “The core platforms available are from IBM, Microsoft and Google however what we built atop will be our call,” The role of the implementation partner will be crucial in how it fits best into the scheme of things.

A cloud based HR tool was launched last year. The agents who doesn’t regularly attend office, can mark attendance from their mobile device based on the geo-location.

The company has created a separate vertical for the digital business and budget will also be allocated accordingly. The digital business comes under the marketing function and IT will provide support to the digital initiatives and also undertake separate initiatives to support the business.


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