Bikash Choudhary, Chief Actuarial & Governance Officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance dwells on new product development approaches:
Ravi Lalwani: What is the pace of developing new products today compared to pre-covid days?
Bikash Choudhary: There have been significant changes in regulations during FY23, such as the auto-approval of products and a focus on driving insurance penetration. While insurance companies already had a product suite catering to customers at various life stages, there has been no material change in the pace of development of new products. However, with regulators allowing more freedom to life insurance companies for product development, insurers have been able to modify and reprice their plans at a much faster pace, depending on the ever-changing macro/environment.
This is particularly true for modifications made to products due to the significant change in interest rates during FY23. With the auto approval of pure-term products and annuity products, we are witnessing many additions under these segments, such as the inclusion of certain features and the provision of various options to customers.
How is IndiaFirst Life responding to product development opportunities opened by IRDAI?
We appreciate the regulator for broadening the ambit of auto-approval of products and providing insurers with the flexibility to launch certain products without prior approval from IRDAI. We have utilized this opportunity to modify our products at a much faster pace than before, to meet the demands of the market. At IndiaFirst Life, our current product portfolio caters to the life insurance needs of nearly all customer segments and life stages. We are also considering developing a health product to address the health insurance needs of our new and existing customer base.
How do you gauge the business opportunity for new products? How effective has the system been overall?
We develop our products with the consideration of our customers from key distribution channels, such as Bank of Baroda’s customer base, as well as other channels like Union Bank of India and the agency channel. We involve their teams in assessing the opportunities for new product development. We conduct need-based analysis and whitespace analysis to identify potential opportunities. These needs/opportunities are then evaluated logically to determine whether they align with the financial interests of customers, shareholders, and distributors. We also conduct competition benchmarking and analysis to ensure our offerings remain relevant.
After launching a product, we implement a monitoring mechanism to track its performance. We gather regular feedback from the field to ensure that the product meets its intended requirements. This feedback and monitoring process helps us refine and improve future product development, thus establishing a control cycle.
What additions have you made to the product development teams? What new areas are they being trained in?
The product development team collaborates closely with the data analysis team, which analyses customer databases to gain deeper insights into customer behaviour and profiles, as well as identify patterns and trends. Additionally, the product team works alongside the change management team, which provides inputs on new technologies and digital adoption trends in the market.
We also collaborate with the strategy team to understand the technology adoption in banks and the customer journey within the bank’s platform. By leveraging these insights, the product team focuses on developing product features and customer processes that can cater to the evolving needs of customers and address the unique requirements of new customer segments. The intent is to create a hassle-free and seamless customer journey for purchasing a simple and easily understandable product that meets their needs.
Does IndiaFirst Life use design thinking in product development? If yes, since when, and what are the distinguishing benefits?
IndiaFirst Life has embraced the concept of design thinking in the development of its life insurance products, particularly in the microinsurance space. Notable examples of such innovative products include IndiaFirst Life Insurance Khata and IndiaFirst Life Group Hospi-Care. In creating these products, we actively engaged with various stakeholders in the micro-segments, including end customers and intermediaries, to gain insights into their pain points and design solutions that address these identified areas.
Post-launch, both products achieved a level of success, albeit within certain limitations. The greatest advantage of this approach is the absence of customer complaints, as the product features are tailored to meet their specific requirements. Any future modifications are aligned with customer expectations, ensuring their continued satisfaction.