Interview: Dhyanesh Bhatt, co-founder and CEO of GramCover

Dhyanesh Bhatt

Interview with Dhyanesh Bhatt, co-founder and CEO of GramCover

Dhyanesh Bhatt is co-founder and CEO of GramCover, a composite insurance broking firm focused on bringing an innovative approach to insurance distribution in rural India with effective use of technology.

His responsibilities as CEO include business development, strategy planning and execution, product innovation, investor engagement, and profit and loss management. Furthermore, he also oversees processes that constitute technology integration and development.

What inspired you to start a composite insurance broking firm? Can you tell us about your background and how it led you to this career path?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Jatin Singh and Dhyanesh Bhatt were acquainted with one another through their shared working experiences at Skymet and ICICI Lombard, respectively.

While Dhyanesh at ICICI Lombard was implementing pilot programmes on yield and weather-based crop insurance in various states, Jatin at Skymet was involved in setting up Automated Weather Stations that would support the insurance programme by providing real-time weather data for claims settlement.

Jatin, at Skymet, realised that insurance distribution in rural areas was a challenge and decided to launch Gramcover as a separate startup with a core focus on insurance distribution.

Bhatt, on the other hand, was already working in the rural insurance space at ICICI Lombard across multiple product categories like crop insurance, low-cost health insurance, livestock insurance, CSC-enabled insurance distribution etc. and came on board at Gramcover once the regulatory licenses were received.

Journey of the GramCover

Dhyanesh Bhatt: In India, Gramcover addresses rural insurance from a 360-degree perspective. In order to increase insurance awareness, access, and serviceability at the last mile, it leverages technology and a Point of Sale Partner (POSP) network.

An essential tool in the complete process is its partner application (GCPartnerApp on Google Play Store).

The app digitises and simplifies the customer onboarding process, starting from access to multiple insurance products and companies and extending upto premium payments and policy delivery to the end consumer.

In order to create rural insurance solutions at scale, Gramcover uses a synergistic business model that combines a government insurance program, rural retail insurance products like crop, motor, livestock, and health, and group policies in partnership with rural relevant organisations, including financial institutions, agritechs, and other start-ups for products like parametric insurance, benefit health, livestock, etc.

In the process, Gramcover is not only creating financial resilience and risk transfer solutions in rural India but is also creating livelihood opportunities for its POSP network.

How are customers benefited by GramCover parametric crop insurance? How is your policy different from your competitors?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: There are many uses for parametric insurance across the agri and allied sectors. It can be used in agriculture, horticulture, livestock rearing, silk cultivation and commercial agribusiness enterprise.  The advantages of parametric insurance are as follows:

  • Easy-to-understand & customised products with a high correlation between product parameters and parameters impacting crop / commercial enterprise
  • Transparent claim calculations based on weather data from reputed weather monitoring institutions and available in the public domain
  • Quick claims settlement

Team Gramcover works closely with the client and the insurance company to minimise basis risks in the product.

This is done by brainstorming around weather parameters to be insured against, the right index, the relevant strike and exit parameters, and the value to be insured.

We also engage with the client and the insurance company to finalize the source of the weather data, which is most appropriate.

Because of the work that goes into product development, there is a strong connection between the “on ground situation” and the policy performance.

Can you explain to us what a composite insurance broking firm is and how it differs from other types of insurance brokers?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: From a regulatory standpoint, there are three kinds of Broking licenses that are issued by the Indian Insurance Regulator.

These are Direct Insurance Broking license, Reinsurance Broking license and Composite Broking license. 

As the name suggests, a direct insurance broker can involve only in the direct insurance business, a reinsurance broker can involve only in the reinsurance business. In contrast, a composite insurance broker can be involved in both the direct and reinsurance business.

A Composite insurance broking license is the highest level of insurance broking license available in India and also has the highest Capital requirement amongst all three classes of licenses.

By virtue of their scope of activity, most composite insurance brokers are in a position to structure tailor-made solutions for their clients by working closely with Insurance as well as Reinsurance companies.

Additionally, they are able to offer a variety of risk management services to their clients, resulting in scalable, long-term insurance options for both the insurance business and the final customer.

Kindly brief us about GramCover’s specialisation and the services that it offers

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Gramcover is India’s first rural focussed insurtech. The unique phygital model leverages technology and a rural point of sale partner model to create insurance awareness, access and claims servicing ability at the last mile in rural India.

Gramcover’s Android app, called the “Gramcover Partner Application”, provides its point of sale partners with a one-stop store for their training and certification, access to insurance products, digital data entry and payment methods, as well as real-time policy distribution to end customers.

The wide range of products offered by Gramcover is also a reflection of the company’s distinctly rural mindset.

Crop insurance, livestock insurance, benefit health insurance, life insurance, and customised insurance programs are among the rural-specific products that Gramcover engages with from a rural retail as well as a group (partnership) perspective.

In addition, Gramcover continues to make improvements on its tech stack and processes to improve the experience and efficiency of the Gramcover POSP.

What are the specific challenges faced by rural communities when it comes to accessing insurance?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Gramcover is addressing the problem of insurance awareness, access and claims servicing in rural India by leveraging technology and a rural point-of-sale partner network.

Despite an extensive government programme on crop insurance, a large part of small and marginal farmers are devoid of insurance.

There are also claim settlement issues in yield-based insurance. Listed below are a few challenges faced by rural communities when it comes to accessing insurance:

  • Last mile connectivity
  • Lack of trust among the rural population
  • Low literacy rate among the rural population
  • Less comfort in Do It Yourself Tech-enabled insurance distribution
  • Lack of insurance policies tailor-made for the rural population

How do you stay updated with the latest industry trends and changes in the insurance market, and how do you ensure your clients are informed about these developments?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Team Gramcover stays updated with the latest industry trends by regularly engaging with insurance providers, customers, and other industry stakeholders.

We also track product developments across national and international markets to keep abreast of the latest developments on the product innovation front as well. 

We also make sure that all of these changes are communicated to our customers by regularly meeting with them either physically or virtually and sharing pertinent information.

Please talk about your standalone product and solution and how it is different from others.

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Gramcover is India’s first rural focussed insurtech. Our unique phygital model leverages technology and a rural point of sale partner model to create insurance awareness, access and claims servicing ability at the last mile in rural India.

Gramcover’s android app, called the “Gramcover Partner Application”, acts as a one-stop shop for our point of sale partners for their training and certification, insurance product access, digital data entry and payment mechanisms, as well as real-time policy delivery to end consumers.

Gramcover’s product focus is also uniquely rural, and this is also reflected in its product portfolio. We work with products like crop insurance, livestock insurance, benefit health insurance, life insurance and customised insurance programmes (in partnerships with relevant rural organisations).

This product portfolio is also a unique feature of Gramcover. Beyond this, Gramcover is also making significant investments in the technology as well as the process front to make the POSP experience with Gramcover seamless and extremely efficient.

What are the unique solutions that set GramCover apart from the competition?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Some of the unique stand apart features of Gramcover include:

  • A unique team with a lot of contextual focus on both rural India and Insurance
  • A tech stack which is uniquely focussed on rural India
  • A product portfolio that is geared toward addressing the insurance needs of rural India
  • An ability to create insurance awareness, access and claims servicing ability in rural India
  • A unique model that creates livelihood while creating insurance access in rural India

How do you approach building relationships with clients and ensuring they have the best possible insurance solutions for their needs?     

Dhyanesh Bhatt: The ability to establish “Connect” is crucial for any business. Whether it’s with regulators, financiers, partners, or customers, developing a strong connection based on shared values and transparent communication is essential to the business’s success.

At Gramcover, developing a strong customer connection is a top priority. We accomplish this by paying close attention to what they have to say, comprehending their problem statement, determining whether insurance is the best course of action for them, and, if so, identifying some of the most important areas where the insurance assistance could add value.

A candid approach to engaging with our clients has gone a long way in ensuring that all stakeholders are fully aligned in creating the best possible insurance solutions for our client’s requirements.

What was the inspiration behind turning into an entrepreneur?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Being an Entrepreneur was always an aspiration, and I have been inspired a lot by my friends, acquaintances and batchmates who have taken the plunge and have been doing exemplary work in the startup ecosystem.

Having worked at ICICI Lombard for close to a decade and a half, I had gained significant expertise in the insurance ecosystem, and so when the opportunity at Gramcover presented itself, I was onboard from Day 1.

It was an opportunity to use my experience to influence the growth and scale-up of a newly formed startup and, in the process, also get exposure to various aspects of running a startup which is very different from working in a more traditional setup.

I was confident that I would be able to add significant value to Gramcover and vice versa. In a nutshell, the opportunity to build a business from scratch and create value for all stakeholders was a key inspiration for me to undertake the entrepreneurial journey.

Where do you see your industry in the next few years?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Gramcover will continue to evolve as a rural insurtech in the years to come. The key levers for Gramcover’s growth in the coming years are listed below:

  • Increasing the number of insurance companies and products on its platform
  • Increasing the number of point of Sale Partners in its network
  • Strengthening the entire technology platform and architecture to handle business at scale
  • Focus on Data Analytics to improve the efficiency of the network and contribute more meaningfully to the life of its customers
  • Extend partnerships with relevant rural organisations to create customised solutions across the rural economic landscape, including agriculture, horticulture, core agritech and agri-fintech interventions, sericulture, livelihoods, etc.

What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Dhyanesh Bhatt: Being an entrepreneur is an uphill battle, so if you decide to take it on, please be very clear about your motivations.

As long as the Why is understood, the other elements like How, When, Where, What, With whom etc., will emerge.

For an entrepreneur, the “why” of the journey is the leading light and the North Star. The other key aspect is team building in startups; spending a significant amount of time in building your team and its culture; will help you get through difficult times and flourish in better ones.

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