Sohini Sen

"The trend of 'research online and purchase offline' is becoming very popular": Naveen Kukreja,

The number of people who use - the online insurance comparison portal launched in 2008 - to enquire about financial services has been doubling year on year, for the past three years. Currently, the site gets 65 per cent of its enquiries from the top 10 cities. The top 30 cities contribute about 20 per cent more.

Around 18 months ago, the site's mobile traffic was close to zero. Today, a quarter of the enquiries are made from the mobile platform. We spoke to Naveen Kukreja, group chief marketing officer and director, non-insurance business,, about his brand, the segment it operates in and the marketing challenges therein.

Prior to joining around a year back, Kukreja was with Aviva Life Insurance for over five years, where he worked on corporate strategy and marketing. Edited Excerpts:

Edited Excerpts

The culture of comparing policies before buying is still not too high, is it? How much of a priority is it for you to educate consumers about the availability of such a platform?

The challenge lies in making people aware that such a platform for comparison exists. We have been attacking this problem through our brand campaigns. Educating the consumer about the need for insurance is another challenge. This challenge is shared by the insurance players, and us as well.

We use television (channels like Headlines Today, Zee Business and Zee News) and print to communicate. We use our brand campaigns to raise awareness about our platform.

In general, financial awareness is not as high as it should be. However, awareness about PolicyBazaar and awareness about using the digital medium to compare and purchase policies has grown tremendously in the last few years. While we have played a role in this, even insurance companies and e-commerce players have helped, by inviting people to transact online. But the whole trend of 'research online and purchase offline' is becoming very popular.

That often happens in segments like apparel and electronics... So it's happening in the insurance segment too?

One of the key challenges for digital insurance, as an industry, is that of mis-selling - the kind of products that are sold offline and online are very, very different. The first product a consumer should have from a life perspective is a term product - which is not what the offline channel is selling.

What are the psychological barriers to comparing before buying? Say, a sense of 'I already know what I want to buy...'

A point that keeps coming up is inertia. People somehow do not give adequate time for the important things. Maybe it is Indian nature to be slightly fatalistic about things. There's a feeling that God will take care of things if something bad happens.

But Indians, in general, tend compare in almost everything they do, even at a vegetable market. So wherever someone makes it easy for them to compare, that will emerge as good, new category.

A large part of the insurance business is run by middlemen. Don't these insurance agents pose a viable threat to a site like yours?

One of our big frustrations is that when we ask people if they have compared policies and prices before buying insurance, they say, "No. My agent called me, came and collected everything. I didn't have to do anything."

Why wouldn't you compare? Not just to save money, but also to understand whether you are choosing the right product.

You launched in March this year. What need gap does it fill?

Consumers did not have a single platform where they could come and compare other financial products. Yes, you need protection, but you also need credit cards and loans.

We'll add more products by Q2 next year. We will continue to invest behind building this brand.

While you're working hard at getting more consumers onto your site, you also need to invest efforts into getting more insurance brands to tie up with your site. What is your B2C versus B2B marketing spend like?

A lot of the organisation's effort and energy goes into B2B side, but we don't do any marketing for B2B. There are a lot of human resources and management efforts on that front. We have to work with the insurers to offer the right products, the right services and as seamless an experience for consumers. We have a different team that focuses on the relationship with insurers and principals. We work very closely to understand the consumer data and use it to work with the insurers to create new products.

Our marketing is roughly divided into two parts - digital and ATL. Since we do not have physical presence, we don't use any BTL communication. We would like to, but we do not have the infrastructure for it.

We are focused on investing in the brand and increasing awareness. This year, we're spending two-and-a-half times more on this front, as opposed to last year. We are currently speaking to some investors to close another round of funding. Once we do that, we hope to increase our brand marketing spends by four times.

There has to be a downside to being the only player in your segment...

One of the risks is that we become too complacent. The other risk is you take your eye off consumers. You might start to become arrogant and start thinking that you are the only option the consumer has. But we will make sure we don't fall into those traps.

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