Devendra Rane of Coverfox.com says Modi government has been very supportive of startup eco-system and his company has benefitted from the schemes.
Online insurance marketplace Coverfox.com has raised Rs 144 crore as part of Series C funding from global funds such as IFC, Transamerica, AIF partners, Accel and Narayan Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures. The insurance firm run by Glitterbug Technologies plans to reach out to Tier II and Tier III cities in India and wants to use the investment to improve the user experience. Devendra Rane, CTO & Founder, Coverfox.com in an interview to FinancialExpress.Com, says that his firm plans to create job opportunities for college students, housewives and unemployed youth in India.
1. Coverfox recently completed Series C funding of Rs 144 crore. Where do you plan to utilise the funds?
Coverfox is building Asia’s best insure-tech platform to help end-users buy any policy with minimal assistance. And the current fundraising is a validation of our vision. The money would be used to strengthen our product/technology capabilities. We are looking at reaching out to the Tier II and Tier III cities in India to expand our geographical coverage. Further, a large portion of the investment would go into improving the user experience by going both horizontal and vertical into each insurance category. The technology team will also get a shot in the arm, driving new development and innovation, including turbocharging Coverdrive, an initiative launched in 2017, which aims to create job opportunities for college students, housewives and unemployed youth in India. Our PoS business (Coverdrive) is growing at 30-40 % and we are currently winning the insurance market on that front. However, we plan to go more aggressive and invest more in the PoS business.
2. World Bank’s IFC is one of the partners in this funding, how did Coverfox get World Bank’s attention?
We have taken our technology and packaged it into a seller app- ‘Coverdrive’ for insurance agents. World Bank’s IFC saw potential in the product because we are also creating a social impact with the product in terms of job opportunities created. By investing in Coverfox, IFC is giving a push to the country’s digitization agenda by leveraging technology to deliver insurance products to customers outside metros and to women who are currently underserved.
3. What are your expansion plans particularly in Tier II and Tier III cities?
Insurance penetration in Tier II and Tier III cities is quite low. It’s partially due to lack of awareness and also owing to broken distribution systems. Insurance is still sold via agents in these areas and the process is quite tedious which pushes customers away. With Coverdrive, we are simplifying that process via insurance agents who are partnered with us. This will be the first step towards digitization of insurance in these cities. On the awareness front, with mobile data getting cheaper by the day, we all are expecting the penetration to see a steep growth soon.
4. Many startups and e-commerce firms are in the red, is Coverfox profitable?
We will break-even for our Motor BU by December or latest by March-April next year. It’s still early days for the newer verticals like Life and Health for us.
Considering the market opportunity, we are still in early stages of growth and are not eying profitability anytime soon. India is a very young market to be looking at profitability for most markets. Look at e-commerce. Billions were spent to create a need, a market and they still don’t make profits. Like e-commerce, insurance is also huge and badly under-penetrated. Government is also trying to promote insurance and all of this is creating an impact on awareness and the overall growth of the industry.
We are 4 years old in the industry with reasonable success in raising funds. The industry is growing at more than 30- 40% every year and the online segment growth is much higher than that. Given the growth potential and our stage, we believe that it’s extremely important for us to expand our business fast, keeping the unit economics healthy and plan for profitability at a much better scale. By the end of this financial year, we plan to touch 900 cr premiums in annual run rate. We hope to grow 3-4X year on year till 2020.
5. Which segments generate maximum revenue for you? How many policies are you selling in a month?
We sell about 65,000 policies a month, that is growing month-on-month and we will double that number by the end of this year. In terms of revenue, motor insurance contributes to 80% of our business.
6. Competition in this space is intense with players like Paytm, Digit Insurance and Acko; how do you plan to take them on?
While in some ways everyone operating in the insurance sector are competing against each other, but these new age companies are focusing on simpler distribution systems for insurance – which will help us all in the long run. When we say that less than 10% of the Indian population is insured, the market size is too huge for any single player to dominate. These firms will hopefully help in opening up newer markets which will benefit us all as insurance awareness grows. Entry of these new players is only strengthening the belief of our team and our investors, that the sector is ripe for disruption. And when that happens, we aim to be at the forefront of it all. We already have a captive base and lots of data around our product. We are poised to make the best use of AI and Machine Learning to bring innovation into our products and save on operational costs.
7. There are reports that Coverfox and Acko may be planning to work together in the future. How far is this true?
As of now, we don’t have anything planned. The objective of Coverfox is to insure every Indian in the near future. And in that journey, provide transparent and excellent service to its customers. We are open to any partnerships with any entity which can help us make it happen.
8. Has PM Modi’s Startup India program helped the online insurance space?
I think the government has been very supportive of the eco-system and we have definitely benefitted from the startup schemes. However, talking specifically about insurance, the FDI norms in distribution (brokers and aggregators) have been eased, which has worked really great for us in our fundraising efforts.