There are a lot of tailwinds in favour of insurance -- Turtlemint CEO Dhirendra Mahyavanshi

There are a lot of tailwinds in favour of insurance -- Turtlemint CEO Dhirendra Mahyavanshi
Dhirendra Mahyavanshi, CEO, Turtlemint
18 Nov, 2020

Turtlemint, the omnichannel insurance marketplace owned by Mumbai based Invictus Insurance Broking Services, raised $30 million (Rs 225 crores) in a funding round led by Menlo Park, California headquartered venture capital firm GGV Capital. Other new investors in the growth round included American Family Ventures, MassMutual Ventures and SIG. 

Sequoia Capital India, Blume Ventures, Nexus Venture Partners, Dream Incubator and Trifecta Capital were returning investors in the round.

Till date the startup has raised around $55 million.

Started in 2015 by Dhirendra Mahyavanshi and Anand Prabhudesai, unlike peer online insurance policy marketplace major PolicyBazaar, Turtlemint has been following an online to offline model, where 90% of the products are sold through by its offline network of advisors or point of sales persons (PoSP). 

The startup has been equipping these advisors with digital tools while training them to find the best-priced policies as per the customer’s needs. The company does this by providing a variety of offerings and a customized recommendation tool through a mobile app. 

Turtlemint has partnered with over 40 insurers to enlist their products and has reduced the turnaround time of buying an insurance to less than 10 minutes by going paperless, as compared to the prevalent offline industry average of over 48 years.

“The company has grown over 100x in the past four years and is one of the fastest rising players in what is potentially a $100 billion market," Harshjit Sethi, principal at Sequoia Capital India said in a statement.

In an interview with TechCircle, co-founder and CEO Mahyavanshi spoke about the insurance industry, Turtlemint’s plans ahead, survival through the pandemic, and why he chose to keep and empower ‘middlemen’ to sell policies.

Edited excerpts:

How do you plan to deploy the capital raised in this round? 

We will be using the fund to invest in backend technology and come up with new product offerings. We will be expanding our engineering team and certain verticals to develop our offerings. By technology, I also mean to enhance our training platform and knowledge content to upskill our PoSPs network, which we estimate will double by FY21-end.

What kind of cash runway does this infusion give the company?

In terms of cash runway, we are a very unit economy focussed company. Our cash burn rate is low. The latest funding can survive us for at least three years. Also, this fund is not for survival but for scaling the business through ways mentioned earlier. The fact that even our earliest investors are still participating in the latest rounds is proof enough of the trust they have on us. 

Why has Turtlemint chosen to take the PoSP or advisor route?

In India, there are two major problems. Either people are inadequately insured or not insured at all. Today, the insurance industry in India contributes only 3.7% to the GDP as compared to 8-9% in developed countries. Even in Taiwan, it contributes 8% of the GDP. 

With such low penetration, all customers are not comfortable buying online directly. Most of them use online marketplaces only for research purposes and remote call centre based interactions are equally uncomfortable. We get 80% of our customers coming from small towns and cities. In these areas, having a local advisor helps. They would understand the customer base of the locality, their behaviour, needs and requirements better, that helps in offering targeted and customised policies.

How big is the PoSP network vis-à-vis customer base? Which are the top selling insurance products?

Currently, we have a network of over 100,000 PoSPs across 12,000 pincodes in India. We have around 1.5 million customers with an average insurance ticket size of Rs. 8,500. 

Our best selling product has been the health insurance policies. Post the first quarter of FY21, we have seen nearly 400% year-on-year growth in the category.

How did the pandemic impact policy buying?

The first June quarter of FY21 was very bad. It was negative. People had started panicking. No one was buying insurance schemes. It was only in the second quarter that things started picking up. Customers started realising the importance of getting insurance in the time of a global pandemic, especially after knowing the costs for Covid-19 treatment in the hospitals.

We had enabled video KYC by then so the advisors could interact and onboard customers over video calls. Further so many people looking for ways to earn and make a living sitting at home had also joined as PoSPs. They just had to get trained on the app and start working. Most of them started by selling to their friends and families. 

In fact, there was a 2.5X boost in business conducted through digital mediums as compared to offline onboarding of customers, according to an internal study we conducted.

On the customer’s side, for the first time I saw them considering insurance as a protection coverage and not as an investment option. The demand for term insurance had surged. And non-payment rates had reduced due to  high sensitivity of the issue. Customers became more cautious about paying their premiums on time.

This is a great time for the insurance businesses. There are a lot of tailwinds in favour. Now it is up to us on how we strategize to utilise this opportunity. Nevertheless, we are expecting a 300% growth by 2021. 

What is the update on job and salary cuts?

It (job and salary cuts) happened during the first quarter when our business was down. But we have already reversed pay cuts. And like mentioned earlier, we will be hiring engineers on the product development and technology side.

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