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How to buy or renew car insurance policies during COVID times? These start-ups are showing the way

By using computer-vision platforms, these firms also help insurance firms to assess damage and measure the extent of the problem by looking at the images

July 08, 2020 / 06:31 PM IST

Home-grown Indian start-ups are trying to make buying and claiming insurance simpler by digitising asset inspections. Traditionally, they are done physically, which makes the claims process slow, and pushes up the chances of frauds, say industry insiders.

Can it be replaced with a complete snapshot of the asset clicked by the customer? Or a short 360-degree video? Entrepreneurs are saying yes and are utilising artificial intelligence.

Computer-vision platforms can generate reports by looking at images, segregate scratches, dents, assess damage and measure the extent of the problem. These reports can be used by insurance companies to assess assets and share their quotations.

How does it work?

Take the example of Inspektlabs, founded by former executives of McKinsey and Zomato, Devesh Trivedi and Sanchit. While it has started with car insurance in India and Japan, it has plans to scale up globally and expand to other assets like mobile phones, two-wheelers and eventually maybe real-estate.

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“The biggest use is in issuing new insurance covers, renewal of insurance and even for FNOL,” Trivedi told Moneycontrol. FNOL stands for First Notice of Loss, which is the first notification given to the insurance company in case of damage or theft to the asset by the customer. 

The early stage start-up currently has a seven-member team, all dedicated to products. Trivedi said that they would hire a few more in technology and sales. The New Delhi-based Inspektlabs recently raised $600,000 in a pre-series A round from a clutch of investors.

Ahmedabad-registered Wimwi Insurance is also trying to take vehicle insurance remote. Having started in 2018, the start-up is trying to use computer vision software to leverage customers’ mobile phones to replace the physical inspection leg. The company claims to reduce the inspection process from a few hours to around 15 minutes.

“We are currently pitching this product to insurance companies and intermediaries, who want to provide a self-initiated inspection process to customers purchasing a policy for their vehicles. Eventually, we will expand our technology expertise to provide instant inspection of assets like mobile phones, household items etc,” said Ravinder Kumar, chief executive of WIMWIsure. Kumar had previously worked at cab aggregator Ola.

Now, with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) relaxing the self-declaration limits in the case of claims up to Rs 75,000 for motor insurance and Rs 1.5 lakh for non-motor claims, Kumar said that platforms like his will have more acceptance.

WIMWIsure said that it has processed more than 2 lakh claims and inspections already. A customer gets a link from the insurer on his or her verified mobile number. Through the link, they can download the app or use a web app to click pictures as well as shoot a video of the car and submit it online.

The company, at the back-end, looks at the pictures and submits the report.

Not only third-party players, but new-age insurance companies themselves are also trying to take the inspection process digital. 

Animesh Das, who heads products at Acko, told Moneycontrol that the Bengaluru-based start-up is piloting a product in-house that will let consumers inspect the cars through an app. “We are currently training our systems and organising data sets. In 6-8 months, we should be ready,” said Das.

Acko had, in the past, deployed its own people for inspection. 

“We had developed capabilities in-house to send an inspector, Swiggy-like, to the location and finish formalities instantly, upon a customer request,” he said. Now, with the self-inspection module, Acko wants to take it a step forward.

The COVID Effect

COVID-19 has forced digitisation across multiple businesses, and entrepreneurs feel that the mandatory physical-distancing norms could push many customers to choose self-inspection over getting someone else to do it.

Trivedi from Inspektlabs pointed out that insurers are more ready than before, given that surveyors cannot travel freely.

A top fintech angel investor who has evaluated these companies pointed out that many customers missed the renewal of car insurance as they had to stay indoors. For them, these services have been a saviour.
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Pratik Bhakta