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Shefali Chhachhi

Director, Marketing | 18 May 2011

Max and Bupa have developed products and service models, where we own our customers through their entire life-cycle and manage all their services and claims requests in-house. We also follow very transparent processes, ensuring that our customers are aware of what they are covered for and how they can avail of their health insurance benefits. This in turn has helped us in building trust in our customers and we hope to build on this and develop long term partnership with our customers.

Shefali has a master’s degree in Management from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai. She brings with her a 15 years of diverse industry experience such as advertising, packaged foods, media and mobile communications. Prior to joining Max Bupa, Shefali has been associated with Nokia India Private limited where she started as a Marketing Manager and was finally promoted as Head- Marketing Activation and Localization for India. She brings with her an accomplished experience in brand marketing, managing celebrity brand ambassadors and developing 360 degree communication including digital media targeting rural customers and leading marketing campaigns.

In conversation with e4m's Preeti Hoon, Chhachhi talks about the insurance sector and what works best.

Q. Since you started operations, what has been the most significant learning in the Indian insurance sector?

We have spent time before we started our operations in understanding what the customers are looking for and what they really felt about health insurance. We found out that the complexity of the healthcare system makes customers feel lost and vulnerable at their time of need. People feel they can trust no one out there including their health insurance company. Most of all, people felt it is just sales transaction. Once the policy is sold, the health insurer leads them to a very transactional claim management system (in most cases a TPA). Customers feel that there is no one out there at their time of need. There is some degree of 'mis-selling' as customers don’t really know about the products they are buying, what is excluded and what is included. This reinforces the service inadequacy. Also, there is no nurturing of a healthy relationship between health insurance companies and their customers hence mistrust develops.

Max and Bupa have developed products and service models, where we own our customers through their entire life-cycle and manage all their services and claims requests in-house. We also follow very transparent processes, ensuring that our customers are aware of what they are covered for and how they can avail of their health insurance benefits. This in turn has helped us in building trust in our customers and we hope to build on this and develop long term partnership with our customers.

Q. How was 2010 for the brand? What should we expect from you in 2011?

It was the first year of operations and we had very positive results. We were able to differentiate ourselves within the category and carve out a niche for the brand by taking a fresh and positive approach. In 2011, we have an exciting lineup of marketing initiatives to connect with our customers through various touch points. We will be focusing on creating awareness for the category as well as highlighting our product/brand differentiators. Being a service brand, a key focus area will be constantly raising the benchmark in creating superior customer experience at point of purchase and point of usage.

Q. Unlike in other countries, insurance hardly makes it to the priority list of an Indian. How do you tackle such a scenario? Has the situation improved?

In most developed countries, there are incentives from the government to hold a health insurance policy, and in some countries it is mandatory. The high cost of healthcare in these countries further makes it almost a necessity to own a health insurance policy.

As you rightly pointed out, health insurance hardly makes it to the priority list of an Indian and awareness about the benefits of health cover are low. The situation however is changing with more players coming in and creating awareness about the category through education helped by economic factors such as rising cost of healthcare in private hospitals.

Q. What are the various marketing initiatives lined up for the coming months?

We will strengthen our presence across all media. We have exciting plans in the pipeline across both offline (electronic, print and outdoor) and online (for online branding and leveraging social media).

Q. Which tool of advertising is most crucial for you or for any insurance brand per se and why?

We have a 360 degree media outreach programme and while online and social media marketing are picking up, we will continue to be present across the traditional media, electronic, print and outdoor media.

Q. How difficult has been for a private insurance firm like yours to attract or change the Indian psyche about government Insurance policies being the safest option?

Health insurance is a very nascent industry in India with under five per cent penetration. The first task ahead for all health insurance companies (both government and standalone private health insurers like Max Bupa ) is to spread awareness about the need for health insurance and build trust with the customers. We want to help our customers live healthier and more successful lives by being their health care partners for life. Through our customer focused approach we have been able to win the trust of our customers and hope to continue doing so.

Q. What is the expected growth rate this year?

We are a new business, it is a bit early for us to comment on this. Just having completed one year of operations we are confident of meeting our target of covering over 150000 lives by end of this year.

Q. What does digital medium mean to the brand?

The digital medium is critical for us especially given the target audience we are focusing on. It is a means to communicate with our customers. We have entered the e-commerce space with the launch of the online sales platform in January and have seen good traction.

Q. Is rural market also on your agenda while deciding brand’s target consumers?

Yes, we do have a product for the rural market. We have recently introduced this in four states and will gradually be spreading it across the country. Since the customer profile for the rural product is different from our other products we are using a different communication platform and distribution model for this. However, the brand values that we bring to all our products continue to be same.

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