The new normal in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life and will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly the way we live our life.
Businesses and brands are now are making their way back into the business; planning their communication plans for a new world post the covid-19 lockdown, keeping a note of some of the new buzz words such as ‘social distancing’, ‘work from home’ and the latest one; ‘atmanirbhar’.
Well Covid-19 is not over yet, but it’s definitely the start of good. It’s time for Back to Business…
Today we spoke to Sonia Notani, CMO, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Ltd.
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on your brand/ organization? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
IndiaFirst Life has been securing lives and creating value for India since 2009. It is one of India’s youngest and fastest-growing life insurance companies, which ranks 10th in gross new business premium and 12th in retail new business premium amongst 23 private life insurers (FY20).
IndiaFirst Life has had CAGR of 40% in last five years in individual new business APE. Despite the challenging macro-environment, IndiaFirst Life successfully closed FY20 with a 25% Y-o-Y growth in Individual APE. Given the challenging macro-environment due to force majeure in March 2020, our organization was the only one to record a single-digit drop of 7% in business as compared to the overall industry de-growth of 50%.
IndiaFirst Life’s robust Business Continuity Plan (BCP) helped the organisation optimise alternate modes including digital, IVR and telephones to connect with both internal and external stakeholders. The organisation moved to a complete Work from Home (WFH) policy, while being fully operational and serving its customers across channels electronically and digitally, providing services at close to 90% efficiencies and with minimum disruption
We are currently living in uncertain times, and at times like this, brands need to give confidence and stability to customers. Customer outreach through simple communication and continuous engagement to provide comfort is critical and appreciated.
At IndiaFirst Life, we strongly believe that Life is full of certainties. We have committed to Covid-19 claim pay-outs on priority, offered grace periods and deferment of payments. Customers have been contacted, comforted, and given options they may choose to exercise.
As trusted brands, we have to only become stronger and better for our customers, stand by our commitments and adapt quickly.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models… What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your industry?
In recent times, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in social behaviour where people are maintaining social distance, even with their loved ones. However, this has reduced our digital distance. We, as a brand that customers trust, must adapt to the new narrative and the new medium. In-person meetings and interaction have taken a hit; but that does not mean we need to postpone securing our loved ones and our future.
At IndiaFirst Life, we launched the Ghar Baithe Insurance initiative for our customers to secure the lives of their loved ones from the comfort of their home, through end-to-end digital processes and our multilingual website. This online process enables our sales teams and partners while ensuring ‘zero physical contact’ with customers.
Further, we have launched a more robust self-service portal that we encourage customers to use for online renewal payments and many other services easily available and accessible on their mobile devices.
The challenging times also demand innovation in offerings. IndiaFirst Life has come up with products that offer benefits on diagnosis of Covid-19 apart from regular life insurance payable in case of death related to Covid-19. As insurers, it is our responsibility to offer need-based products, which are available when the customers need them the most.
IndiaFirst Life has a trusted team of ~2800 employees that are working hard to ensure best in class solutions and service for our customers. We value their commitment and have ensured that they are equipped to deliver their best through a fully operational Work From Home (WFH) policy, enabling services across channels remotely. We have kept our commitment to all new joinees; onboarding and inducting them virtually. We have paid all committed salaries on time and are proud of rewarding the employees with performance-linked variable pay for FY20. IndiaFirst Life endeavours that our employees stay ‘Happy. Passionate. Connected.’ at all times and deliver on our ‘CustomerFirst’ promise.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
We have had a successful transition to managing our business remotely. However, we do cater to 98% of the pin-codes in India and would like to lead from the front in terms of enhanced customer interaction without compromising on the safety of our teams or our customers.
We have cautiously opened our offices across the country with limited staff and stringent measures to ensure sanitation and safety. More importantly, we have initiated a digital customer outreach program for our existing and potential customers. Our e-Sampark initiative is focussed on customer education and engagement through digital mediums conducted by our local teams. They will eventually be supported by on-ground interactions ensuring optimum connect and trust.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you would be difficult… What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
As a brand, we believe that life is full of certainties. We, as insurers, help our customers prepare adequately for life’s certainties even during uncertain times. This is done through actively connecting, engaging and proactively giving options to the customer to tide over these uncertain times.
As we get equipped to tackle the ‘new normal’ and prepare for the next few months, we understand the customers probably have a higher sensitivity to security and safety of self and loved ones. We have started outreach on social media and digital mediums to address any queries that our customers would have. Our top management is personally responding to these queries. We are also sharing regular updates via e-mail and SMS to educate customers on available features and service options.
Life Insurance is one of the few instruments that actually provides for long term assurance of savings and also risk cover. We want our customers to be rest assured that we are with them every step of the way. Further, as mentioned above, we will continue our outreach for customers to choose us as their partner for securing life’s certainties through our ‘Ghar Baithe Insurance’ and ‘e-Sampark’ initiatives.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
IndiaFirst Life lives by the philosophy of creating a ‘Happy, Passionate and Connected’ workplace for its employees. The organisation has been recognised among Top 25 companies in “India’s Best Workplaces in BFSI ‘20” and Top 20 organisations in “India’s Best Workplaces in BFSI ‘19”.
With #EmployeeFirst philosophy at the core of its human capital initiatives, IndiaFirst Life ensured that under BCP, our employees work from the safety of their homes. True to their passion, our employees have displayed the highest standards of professional ethics and excellently performed their duty of keeping the #CustomerFirst.
Internal communication has played a vital role in not only communicating the key messages but also engaging the employees through various initiatives via internal digital platforms (Yammer, E-mails, etc.) keeping their morale high. From virtual Townhalls to daily calls on Microsoft Teams, engagement and connect is facilitated. Further, fitness and recreation from online Yoga sessions to employee connect on Yammer are all part of the weekly dose of engagement.
IndiaFirst Life is well aware of the strong commitment and excellent efforts of its employees to making ‘CustomerFirst’ a reality. Over and above job security, regular salary and compensation; employees were awarded for their performance in FY20 through a variable pay-out made in May 2020, in line with the practice across the years.
On a personal note, the sheer spirit of every individual at IndiaFirst Life kept me extremely motivated. The initiative, passion and ownership starting right at the top and trickling to the last mile ensure that we are all committed and involved; almost like a normal working day!
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and create demand for yourself?
We take pride in our extensive product suite of 35 plans with solutions for a range of customer segments, multi-channel distribution and presence in 98% of pin codes in India. We acknowledge that customer preference in terms of risk aversion, assurance and medium of purchase will see some shifts.
However, customer relationships and trust remain intact. Our strategy will be to engage with our customers while we equip and support our distribution channels to help the customers locally. We will be enabling the following:
- Continuous digitalization and simple steps for purchase and service by the customer
- Products that offer protection and guarantees to provide much needed peace of mind
- Enabling a safe and secure ‘phy-gitial’ environment – blending online and offline initiatives for optimal customer outreach
- Proactive and regular educational initiatives to make the customers aware of the importance & benefits of insurance and resolving any queries that they may have
- New product structures and diverse partnerships that allow for ease of access and small payments