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Covid-19 is a great opportunity to redesign processes and costs: Kotak Life Insurance CEO

Kotak Life Insurance is adapting to the ‘new normal’. Balancing the delicate trade-off emblematic of the strain brought on by Covid-19 is key, according to a senior official, and efforts continue unabated.

“We are adapting and evolving our processes to the new normal, and believe we are moving ahead satisfactorily. While the situation has turned out to be tougher than earlier anticipated, we are adapting more easily and rapidly,” G Murlidhar, MD & CEO, Kotak Life Insurance Company, told BusinessLine.

Terming the situation a period of great uncertainty, the CEO said the company is dealing with it, “though how long before normalcy returns is anybody’s guess”.

“In the meantime, it is a delicate trade-off between how much resources to invest/commit towards implementing long-term changes as per learnings from the current experience, versus the focus on driving immediate priorities and short-term results. We endeavour to strike that balance. This is the main challenge, which we believe is true for most businesses,” Murlidhar added.

Across the sector, life insurance companies have seen their businesses contract. The fall recorded in the capital markets has further acted as a dampener.

Speaking about the potential threats on the horizon for the insurance sector, the CEO of Kotak Life Insurance said, “Not adapting quickly to the environment is a risk, apart from continuing with traditional inefficiencies. This is a great opportunity for long-needed zero-based redesign of processes and costs. If the industry misses the bus, then there will be a price to pay.”

Core philosophy

A huge thrust is placed on the complete alignment of employees, distributors and clients at the company. “For an organisation to grow and be successful, it is crucial that all the stakeholders share a common understanding of goals and culture,” said Murlidhar.

The core philosophy of the organisation revolves around five aspects. The CEO elaborates that the core purpose (which aims to add value to the lives of people through financial instruments of protection and long-term savings) and mission (to bring assurance to people’s lives) lines in with the company’s vision (to become India’s best life insurance company).

The company’s aspect of core values (continuous improvement, financial prudence, integrity, innovation and innovative approach) as well as brand promise complete the five aspects.

The CEO said brand promise is best exemplified in the proposition, “sharing multiplies joys and divides sorrow; and people should never walk alone; our brand promise is ‘Hum hain… hamesha’.”

The core values and brand promise, in particular, are well-imbibed among employees, who are required to outline and live the brand promise towards customers as well as distributors, said the official.

The ‘Hum hain… hamesha’ for the customer, or customer-first philosophy is an all-pervasive theme followed across the organisation, said the executive, with the formula guiding all processes and decisions, especially in situations of conflict.

“Various employee engagement platforms are used to constantly reiterate these five critical aspects across the organisation,” said Murlidhar.

More products in the offing

Commenting on the company’s priorities, the CEO said the first priority was to protect employees. “Even though insurance is classified as an essential service, and hence, allowed to operate, very select branches were kept open with minimal staff. All necessary precautions were taken to safeguard employees,” said the official.

The company offers facilities like in-house team of doctors for consultation, information about medical testing centres for Covid-19, and reimbursement of costs of Covid-19 medical test. “We also invested significant resources in creating the necessary infrastructure to empower employees to work from home,” said the CEO.

Noting that the company’s services continue uninterrupted, especially critical services like claim payments, policy servicing, etc, the CEO said, “We ensured social distancing by regulating branch walk-ins and placing strict safeguards. We were already making significant progress on our digital journey, we have accelerated it. We increased our efforts to inform customers about self-service through digital platforms so as to empower customers to manage and service their policies without the need to visit branches.”

The company will continue to develop products and evolve processes to deliver superior customer experience. “We do have new products in the pipeline,” added the CEO. “We have seen significant increase in demand for endowment plans, protection and annuity products. We have upgrades and new launches in the pipeline in all of these categories, besides significant improvements planned in the customer’s purchase process.”

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