Editor’s note: Marketer Spotlight is a series of blog interviews focused on sharing insights and best practices from marketing leaders on the various aspects of marketing in a digital world. Ashish Gupta is the CEO of Docprime.com, an online medical service provider and Tech Evangelist at Policybazaar.com, an online insurance portal. In this spotlight interview, Ashish describes what it takes to build scalable products, and the three fallacies product developers should avoid.
Ashish: Not many might know that Policybazaar.com’s parent company was Etech Aces Marketing Pvt Ltd. Ten years ago, we never wanted to be what we are today. We wanted to be a marketing company. We wanted to be a business of 20 people working from a room, creating some helpful platforms, and never getting our hands dirty. We wanted to create a lead generation business. We didn’t do bad. The lead generation model was a very low-cost model, the cost of operation was reasonably low, and we were making decent money. Even though the business was doing well, it had not transformed the industry. Insurance sale was never digital. We would forward the leads to the partners, and the partners would pay us for it. We were quite profitable.
However, when we evaluated what we were doing, we were never convinced that we were making a difference to the world or changed the way the game works. What happened was, we gave our partner the digital lead, but the partner would call the lead and ask if they could come home to explain the policy. What they didn’t realize is if the lead wanted the partner to visit their house, he wouldn’t have looked for a digital solution in the first place. From a PNL perspective, the CFO was happy, but the CEO wasn’t. That’s where we started evolving; we scraped the lead generation model and moved to the aggregator model. An aggregator model is a terrible model because it is a number-driven business.
You make money only when you make a sale. From a glamorous business, we took a massive downturn and became a brick and mortar kind of a business, which was then to take the leads to our centers, call up the customers and convert them and make money only when the partner saw something happening. This was essential because this is where the transformation happened. From that day, which was seven years ago to today, markets have been created. 40% of term insurance in this country today is bought digitally. Seven years ago nobody would have thought of it.
A lot of product evolution was required for this transformation because it was no longer about providing basic information; it was essential to get all the prices right to the last decimal place. There was a level of accuracy required in transactions. We had to evolve our products quite a bit, and that’s where most companies struggle. We had to transform our functions and work across 50 odd providers and 250+ products. It required infrastructure, testing, and a lot of product automation, not just in terms of the journey but also in testing the product in an automated manner. Those are the technologies we had to build before becoming aggregators. Then we started showing price; you could select a product compare and move ahead.
However, we could not control the customer experience. The world was going mobile, but most of the insurance websites would not even open in mobile. Then we decided that being an aggregator is not enough. If we need to evolve, we need to get to the next stage, which is to be an end-to-end provider. We can’t have the consumer having different experiences across providers. We had to take the next step of evolution, which is to do end-to-end. One of the crucial things for us was to ensure that the customer never leaves the Policybazaar.com site to finish a transaction. We had to integrate with each insurer’s system while considering the massive security concerns. It took us almost 1.5 years to get it right, but the result was different from other providers.
Policybazaar.com worked well as customers could compare plans and move ahead. There were no disruptions in experiences. Then we asked ourselves what next? We thought we should be supporting people after they buy a policy. That’s how the concept of Docprime.com came into being. For our health vertical, we provided state-of-the-art services to a person who purchased a policy. If you look at each of these stages, you will find that we evolved our models every two to three years, and none of this evolution was based on a failure. At each of these stages, we met our plans, investors were happy, business was good, yet we kept on treating ourselves as an underdog and pushed ourselves to do more. That’s the advice I would give the product developers - do not worry about where you were and where you are today, worry every day about being a percentage better than the last day and evaluate yourself as to where you can go from here.
Thank you, Ashish, for taking out time and sharing your incredible journey of building scalable products and for educating us on the fallacies we must avoid. We hope to connect with another marketer and touch upon a different aspect of marketing in the next feature.
Is there someone you’d like us to feature? What topics would you like us to cover in the Marketer Spotlight series? We invite your recommendations and feedback via the Comments section below.
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