Gangadhar S J, Head - Technology at Digit Insurance, talks about his career journey as a CIO in the insurance sector, how Digit Insurance is innovating with technology and the road ahead for CIOs in this industry
Digital transformation is sweeping across every industry we can imagine and the insurance sector is no exception to this rule. While the insurance sector remained quite a laggard when it comes to technology with heavy reliance on outdated software and clunky paperwork, it is only in recent years that some ambitious start-ups in this sector are realizing that ‘digital’ is the way to survive and even grow exponentially.
“Innovation and customer centricity are paramount in insurance” - Gangadhar S J, Head - Technology at Digit Insurance
Bengaluru-based insurance firm, Digit Insurance is one such firm that sees an opportunity to do insurance smarter, faster and better. Started in 2016, backed by Fairfax Group, Digit Insurance is reimagining products and redesigning processes to provide simple and transparent insurance solutions that matter to consumers. In an exclusive interaction with Sohini Bagchi, Gangadhar S J, Head - Technology at Digit Insurance, talks about his career journey as a CIO in the insurance sector, how Digit Insurance is innovating with technology and the road ahead for CIOs in this industry.
Please tell us about your career journey and your tryst with technology.
I am working in the technology space for over 25 years. I started my career with client server technology then with three-tier architecture to my current profile at Digit Insurance, where we work on state-of-the-art technology. My last stint was for good 13 years at Bajaj Allianz where I worked on both general insurance and life insurance and I exited as the head of technology. I am about to complete a year at Digit now and I feel I have already been here for years as the width and depth of the work we’ve done in the last year with respect to innovations through technology, has been huge.
How did you land a job in Digit Insurance?
After working in the insurance industry for 13 years, I wanted to work in a space or company which had tech at its core and also was leading the trends in technology, not just following it.
I had known Kamesh Goyal (the founder of Digit Insurance) from Bajaj Allianz days and when I understood from him how Digit was focused on making insurance simple and technology driven, it was indeed an exciting proposition to me, as I thought I could bring my expertise from the insurance industry into another insurance organization which was operating as a tech company, insurtech as we call it.
At Digit, we work on latest technologies like microservice-based architecture, advanced core system, machine learning, and infrastructure being 100% on cloud. One of the unique differentiators of the company is the overall focus on creating a lean organization, bringing in efficiencies through technology.
As IT head, what is your role in a company like this? Do you see yourself as a digital innovator or your role mainly revolves around ‘keeping the lights on’?
When I first interacted with Kamesh, one of the key focus areas he mentioned was scaling up the operations and Digit’s focus on innovation in processes through technology. So, yes, keeping light on is by default but the focus here is on innovation.
What technologies are you toying with at the moment?
Technology plays an important role in enabling our entire ecosystem, across distribution, buying and claims process. We are a digital-first company, based 100% on cloud. This enables us to scale extremely fast and ensure faster disaster recovery.
We have an application programming interface (API) integration for all our partners, including Policy Bazaar, Amazon India, and so on.
We also extensively focus on data science which helps us develop customized products for our customers. Machine learning helps us do faster reconciliation, float management, fraud management, and claims settlement.
We use image analytics to decipher the damages to say, a car, which quickens the claims process.
For future, we are continuing to work on simplifying insurance and the claim process. And this quarter, we will also be launching ‘Video call for better customer experience’.
What is your business model?
At Digit, our business model is centered on simplifying insurance for people. This percolates down to our processes, products and distribution. For products, we believe in creating products that we would ourselves buy for our families and with real benefits. For processes, we create processes for genuine customers and don’t make them suffer with unnecessary checks that would trap the fraud cases. Which is why we have a completely paperless claims process, audio claims, smartphone enabled self-inspection and pre-inspection apps, all of which a genuine customer would relish.
For distribution, we believe in being wherever our customers think of protection i.e. right from where the customer thinks of buying the product to be protected. Which is why we have over 1500 strategic partners (agents, brokers, dealers), 12 institutional partners including e-commerce companies like Paytm, Flipkart, Cleartrip and offline partners like Tata Tanishq, all this along with our direct selling platform.
Can you tell us about your company's latest achievements where tech has played a big role?
Our claims settlement report which we call a Claims Settlement Report Card has been a big achievement for our processes because we have enabled faster claim settlement across categories.
We have settled 10,000 claims in less than a year. Moreover, 100% of our flight delay claims are automated. The way it works is if a customer’s flight is delayed beyond the given time, starting from 75 minutes, they get an SMS automatically on their phones with a link to upload their boarding pass and bank details. Of the other areas of achievements, 90.4% of our motor own damage claims, 85.7% of our mobile damage claims settled are within 30 days. This is due to processes like advance cash for repair, self-inspection through smartphones.
Also as far as the success of our technologies created to simplify and fasten claims processes are concerned, we have received a great adoption rate, where 85% of our mobile claims are done through self-inspection. This means customers are appreciating our process offering and enjoying its benefits. It takes just 11 minutes to self-inspect one’s car’s damages through the self-inspection app, as against the traditional time taken for inspection of the car that took 5-7 days to happen manually by a third-party inspection person.
Are CIOs in the insurance sector evolving? What are you tips for budding CIOs in insurance?
In most cases I would say, the intent to evolve is there. But for legacy systems, tech infrastructure will take some more time to support the speed.
For CIOs planning to enter this sector, I would advise them to focus on innovation and customer centricity, the paramount for insurance sector. Customer centricity is one of the most important principles of a great customer experience, which is enabled by all departments and not just the ones that come in contact with the customer. But often, customer centricity is forgotten, and we work in isolation, which is something that should be avoided.
CIOs should make sure they are interacting with the end consumer as often as possible which should enable them to keep the consumer in mind while working on any innovation. Also, I would like to share my biggest learning or say method to combat crisis - have a Plan B always!