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Is AI Disruption on the way for Kenya’s Insurance Space?

The earliest known reason for introducing insurance protection in Kenya, came during the time of the Colonial British — when they insured their farms and crops against loss, damage etc. Today, Kenya has 70% of the East African Insurance market (among Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania & Rwanda). Still, African Insurance is relatively nascent in terms of size. Only 6 major markets dominate the landscape in a serious way — Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria & Kenya. Infact, the number of insurtech startups in the continent altogether is a paltry 50 something. 

The looming political climate coupled with a slowly recovering economy and some fierce competitive tactics used by traditional incumbents places the industry far from ideal in terms of marketplace conditions, including the slowdown in uptake of insurance products by an income-sensitive population.

Yet, Kenya offers a sense of growing appeal for young insurtechs in this region. The market remains largely undisrupted, since insurance penetration is only about 3% (insurance penetration for the African continent is only at 0.3%), attracting large international insurers like Allianz and Swiss Re who have recently entered the market. Kenya, like other countries in the region, has enormous potential similar to South-East Asian economies that also remain largely undisrupted with lower penetration rates.

The positive sentiment surrounding Kenya’s potential for deep tech disruption is not surprising — According to the 2019 Government AI Readiness Index published by the  IDRC and Oxford Insights — Kenya is the most AI ready country in Africa.

Buying Behavior

Insurtech startups are exploring avenues using AI that large, traditional players have less incentive to exploit, such as offering ultra-customized policies, social insurance, and using behavior data from devices to dynamically price premiums.

The Millennial experience is entirely technology driven, while their attitudes and perceptions as consumers will shape the future of how insurance as a service continues to remain relevant.

According to a Kenya Insurance Industry Report, 65% of millennials compare prices across different websites before making a purchase, 68% only buy a product through referrals from friends and social media. Interestingly, 84% of them are opposed to traditional advertising. 

For insurers, loyalty comes at a price — often dictated by the pain point the product/service can eliminate for impatient classes of customers. Analysing buying or browsing behavior can lead to an immense amount of ethically siphoned data. Using ML models and regression algorithms, insurers can create a unified view of their prospect, and realize a multi-targeted approach to create opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

The report also highlights the importance of making sense of social media behavior — since 41% of millennials use social networking sites to pass on recommendations of products and services to friends and family.

Unlocking market potential requires targeting the uninsured growing middle class in creative ways. In addition to better pricing models, insurtech startups are testing the waters on a host of potential game-changers, such as using deep learning trained artificial intelligence (AI) to handle the tasks of brokers and finding the right mix of policies to complete an individual’s coverage.

Insurtechs are using AI to solve for Kenya’s distribution challenges, by looking at vital consumer needs that have previously been unmet or glossed over. At the same time, there is scope for improving the average consumer’s awareness of artificial intelligence technology, and how they can take advantage of it to solve priority-first issues related to convenience, cost and range of choice.
Nairobi-based Jubilee Insurance, the largest insurer in East Africa is making the most of AI tools like chatbots and automated messaging platforms for streamlining simple customer feedback & support operations. They have also launched forward-thinking products like “Recover in Style” which provides hair and make-up services to Jubilee patients who are hospitalized — services that go beyond the financial needs and into the realm of delivering superior customer experiences.

These efforts highlight a trend pointing towards the growing interest in the use of apps to pull policies into one platform for management and monitoring, creating on-demand insurance for micro-events like borrowing a friend’s car, and the adoption of the peer-to-peer models to create customized coverages. Bluewave, for example, is an insurtech startup offering low-cost insurance products, as low as US$4 a week, aimed at low-resource, low-income users in last-mile environments.

The expanding middle class and growth in mobile phone penetrations will be critical to widening distribution and getting more people to buy micro-insurance sized products for the first time. Badalaa is an on-demand insurtech startup focussed on bringing insurance at the point of transaction where the user needs it. Turaco, a recently funded insurtech, with premiums for as little as US$2 — leverages mobile financial services to provide hospital cashback to customers who have sought treatment at any nationally-accredited hospital in the regions where they operate. These innovations further the consumer’s awareness of AI-enabled insurance coverage and protection in general, in an otherwise underpenetrated marketplace.

Bismart is another example — an insurtech aggregator that allows customers to not only buy the best-in-class insurance products but also make claims directly from their portal as well. 

The biggest learnings for young insurtechs in this space from more mature markets, are about getting the basics right – having a single view of the customer, being able to launch rates and change pricing in real-time, offering customers a multichannel experience without requiring them to fill in the same information over and over again, and settling claims quickly without the need for multiple touchpoints.

Demand-driven models, built on sufficiently large data-sets will be instrumental in driving individual customisation at mass-scale for the sector at large.

webinar: AI for data-driven Insurers

Join our Webinar — AI for Data-driven Insurers: Challenges, Opportunities & the Way Forward hosted by our CEO, Parag Sharma as he addresses Insurance business leaders and decision-makers on April 14, 2020.

We help young insurtechs, build and scale AI-driven products and solutions for last-mile environments. Reach out to us on hello@mantralabsglobal.com, to learn more.


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MantraTalks Podcast with Parag Sharma: Delivering Digital-first Health Experiences for Patient Care in the New Normal

6 minutes read

The healthcare industry took the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic from the very beginning. It was, and still is, a humongous task for hospitals to deal with the rising number of COVID patients as well as handling the regular consults. 

To delve deeper into the state of healthcare in the COVID times, we interviewed Parag Sharma, CEO, Mantra Labs Pvt Ltd. Parag shares his insights on how technology can help in delivering digital-first health experiences for patient care in the New Normal.

Parag is a product enthusiast and tinkerer at heart and has been at the forefront of developing innovative products especially in the field of AI. He also holds over ten years of experience working in the services line and has been instrumental in launching several startups in the Internet & Mobile space. His rich domain expertise and innovative leadership have helped Mantra climb to the top 100 innovative InsurTechs in the World – selected by FinTech Global. 

Catch the interview:  

Connect with Parag- LinkedIn

COVID-19 and Its impact on Healthcare Organizations

Considering the COVID situation, according to you how has COVID-19 impacted the IT & service operations among healthcare organizations?

Parag:  Since the onset of COVID-19, the healthcare sector has been deeply impacted. Institutions are facing a serious crunch in manpower. IT support systems which were usually manned and managed by a large team of IT professionals are not available in the same strength. Resource allocation’ is one of the biggest concerns due to physical and mental exhaustion of the healthcare workforce. 

Hospitals are facing issues such as operational disruption due to staff quarantine, supply-chain delays and sudden decline in patient footfalls, difficulty in sustaining fixed costs, etc. People are not comfortable getting out of the safety confinements of their homes due to the rising risk of getting infected with the virus. Hospitals will have to reassess their future strategy and budgets in light of the uncertain economic situation.

Preparing for the Future

What can hospitals do to ensure the continuity of their customer-facing operations in the wake of a second Pandemic wave?

Parag: There are many things that hospitals can do to manage themselves in this hour of crisis. Being more digital than what they are would be one step forward for all of them. They can bring their IT systems to the cloud so that the person can access data and manage their work remotely. They can enable their patients to book appointments and enquire about services through apps and chatbots which won’t require them to call the reception or come to the hospital. These are some of the services which hospitals can provide to their customers with minimum physical contact. 

Related: Manipal Hospital’s move to a self-service healthcare mobile application

Hospitals can extend Telehealth services to their patients. Recently, telehealth has proved to be useful especially when there is asymmetry between the number of patients and healthcare providers. I think it will be very useful for healthcare institutions to deploy telehealth solutions to provide medical facilities to people who have so far been outside the benefits of healthcare.

New Expectations in Health Experiences

Is consumer behavior defined by the ‘new normal’ going to change the way we access healthcare from this point on?

Parag: Yes, people will expect a completely different way to access healthcare services from now on. Hospitals should gear-up and rise to this occasion. The pandemic has also provided a new opportunity to adopt a completely different approach in the way healthcare is delivered. They always felt that medical care cannot be provided remotely but now this is happening and people are appreciating remote healthcare services. Hospitals and healthcare institutions are convinced that telehealth and remote care will be more successful soon.

Technology in Healthcare can Bridge Operational Gaps

What are the operational challenges, as far as digital capabilities go, that hospitals are facing currently? And, what steps must they take to bridge these gaps?

Parag: Operational challenges are not just digital challenges. But a lot of these challenges can be addressed with technology. For example, Electronic Health Records which hospitals manage within the premises can be moved to the cloud so that the person can access these records on the cloud itself and need not come to the hospital. 

Related: Medical Image Management: DICOM Images Sharing Process

Secondly, if you deploy telehealth and telemedicine solutions, irrespective of where your patients are or doctors are, hospitals can deliver the required care to its patients. You can even extend your diagnostics services to your patients by giving them an application through which they can seamlessly book appointments for consults, diagnostics, or pathological services and resolve their queries, etc. Simply by giving a seamless interface either through bots or applications can go a long way in providing better health experiences to the customers.

Role of Chatbots in Superior Customer Experiences

According to you, what role does chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence have in the Healthcare CX landscape?

Parag: Chatbots are the simplest example of the implementation of AI-based technology in healthcare. There are a lot of things which bots can do simplistically. For example, if a patient wants to book an appointment with the doctors, instead of going through a complex web applications and interfaces, what if I can simply write “I want to book an appointment with the doctor Dr. XYZ at 4 pm” and the bot can figure out in case the time slot is available with that particular doctor, it will confirm the appointment followed by a payment process if the payment has to be made upfront. 

Apart from this, you can extend your bots to provide e-consultations where doctors can do remote consultations via audio and video features of a chatbot. So there is a huge scope for bots beyond answering routine queries by customers or booking appointments. It does not stop just there. You can extend chatbot functionalities to support functions such as admin, HR, finance, and business process efficiency so that they can provide better services to their customers.

Related: Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care

Chatbot Use Cases in Healthcare

Could you tell us some possible bot use cases for delivering better customer experiences to digital health users?

Parag: Apart from booking appointments and resolving customer queries, these bots can conduct remote consultations, internal processes, health symptom checker, out-patient video consultation, second opinion consultation, ordering medicines, psychological counseling & mental wellness, scenario-based risk advice, Heroism Recognition for employees, etc. Also, it can be further extended to help patients enquire about health insurance related queries, and all the interactions between insurance companies and hospitals can be provided to the patient. 

Related: Healthcare & Hospitals Use Cases | Digital Health

The Road Ahead

COVID-19 has forced hospitals to revise patient support strategy with limited operational staff that is bringing every day a new challenge. A way out is to heavily rely on digital innovation.

In India we have a disparity between the no. of healthcare providers and care seekers. Without technology, I don’t think there is any way healthcare institutions will be able to scale to a level where they can provide meaningful services to such a large number of people. Hospitals can invest in setting up an information exchange; making the process as seamless as possible; and removing all possible inefficiencies from the supply chain through technology.

Future growth for hospitals will come from digital technology because patients will opt more for digital platforms. And it is up to hospitals to catch up with the pace at which modern technology is developing. We, at Mantra Labs, have achieved several use cases including hospitals/diagnostic centers that are able to deliver superior health experiences.


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