Background of founders,Journey behind ideas into the framing.
In the last decade, the retail health insurance market in India saw radical innovation in product & process – led by companies like PolicyBazaar and Digit.
In contrast during the last two decades, the group health insurance market – which covered almost 2.5x the number of lives and had 25% year over year growth – saw limited innovation. There was a clear, widening gap in the Indian insurance space and that’s where we saw an opportunity.
Plum set out to bring product innovation in the group health insurance market and make the process far more efficient for modern businesses. When Saurabh, my co-founder, and I started meeting organizations for group health insurance, we found that they dropped the idea of setting up insurance because they were either – denied insurance, found it very expensive, or found the process complicated.
Saurabh and I believed we could build a tech product in the insurance space, given our experience of building technology companies. This led us to start Plum out of Bengaluru in 2020. It took us six months to do our initial groundwork and research, and get insights from various stakeholders such as insurance providers, corporate HRs, and employees of startups of varied sizes.
Plum brought in notable changes with the tech platform that eliminates the need for agents and brokers. Before Plum, it took organizations weeks to months to work with a broker and get quotes for their insurance plan. With Plum, getting these quotes takes less than 60 seconds, and activating the cover can happen within a few minutes. Plum has removed the need for lengthy negotiations with brokers by shifting the process online entirely with transparency. Organizations can get real-time pricing, and design their own insurance as they need.
We are also helping organizations go above and beyond health insurance, by offering a comprehensive health benefits package to their employees. This includes life insurance, accident insurance, doctor consultations, mental wellness, dental care, health checkups, and more.
Plum is seeing rapid adoption and is now used by over 650 companies of all sizes, including Twilio, Groww, Unacademy, CleverTap, UrbanLadder, smallcase, and Simpl.
Abhishek Poddar, Co-founder, Plum
Abhishek started Plum in late 2019 to accelerate the adoption of health insurance in India.
Abhishek has helped build startups & products for the last 13 years. His last stint was at HyperTrack where he built location APIs for real-time location tracking. Before that, he worked on building Google My Business, their SME platform and Google Pay’s NFC payment in the US. In 2014, he started RentZeal to build eBay for product rentals in the US. Abhishek has also built a product at 9.9 Media. He started his career as a consultant with McKinsey.
Abhishek is an undergraduate from IIT Kanpur and studied MBA at Stanford University.
Saurabh Arora, Co-founder, Plum
Saurabh brings 10+ years of experience before starting Plum with Abhishek. He is responsible for product & technology at Plum. He dropped out of the PhD to start Airwoot, a blazing fast customer experience platform that later got acquired by FreshWorks, where he led product development.
Later, Saurabh built a blockchain startup Starterum for a short period. He was part of various research projects with universities such as the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, Macquire University, and Politecnico di Torino throughout his career.
He attended DTU – the Technical University of Denmark for a dual masters degree in security computing and graduated with a B.Tech in information technology.
What is Plum About? and its products
Plum is an insurance technology start-up that offers employee health insurance to businesses as small as seven employees and as large as thousands of employees. Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of health insurance in India by making employee health insurance accessible, affordable, and high-quality.
Plum addresses the long, cumbersome insurance purchasing process by re-imagining group health insurance products from the ground up. We are fixing health insurance by building a modern health benefits company that understands the needs of a business and guides them to smart choices. We aim to provide employers & employees more flexibility in use, transparency in pricing, and a higher quality healthcare experience.
Plum provides a comprehensive suite of insurance and health benefit options for companies to choose from.
Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans: A group health insurance policy offers coverage to a specific group of people. Plum’s group health insurance is available for a registered company, with a minimum of 7 employees. The coverage is provided to all the group members and other dependent family members such as spouses, children, and parents. Group health insurance policies provide cover to employees at relatively lower premiums, this makes it easier for those who may find it difficult to purchase individual health insurance. Besides, a majority of group insurance policies provide the option of customizing specific requirements of various groups that they are aimed at.
Personal accident insurance: For accidental deaths, disabilities, and loss of income. It enables financial support to employees and their family members, in case of an unexpected incident.
Term life insurance protection: Provides financial protection to the employee’s family in case of death due to any reason.
Covid packages: It includes coverage for covid treatment and hospitalisation, and covid life cover to provide financial protection to the employee’s family in case of death due to Covid-19.
Plum teleconsultations have been started as a medical relief initiative for 70,000 employees and their loved ones. It includes free teleconsultations with allopathic doctors.
Mental wellness: To help employees access experienced therapists and combat stress and anxiety.
Plum wellness programmes are curated, holistic wellness experiences by world-class practitioners organised by a dedicated wellness consultant from Plum.
Plum is also offering corporate vaccinations ensuring full adherence to Covid protocols.
How are emerging technologies being adopted by Plum?
The pandemic accelerated digital initiatives for most insurers as many had to sell and interact with customers remotely, underwrite using only digital proofs, or adjust claims virtually.
Plum developed novel approaches to help insurance companies underwrite policies for a large pool of underserved customers such as small businesses and gig economy workers. We leverage real-time data from public & proprietary sources and deploy technologies such as cloud, predictive analytics, AI & fraud detection to drive cost savings, efficiencies, and productivity across the insurance value chain.
Technologies deployed at Plum:
Data-driven underwriting and fraud checks: Underwriting a group is fundamentally different from underwriting an individual. Here, along with the morbidity of the group, we need to assess a whole lot of demographic data points that determine the pricing & measures to prevent adverse selection.
Plum has built a risk engine that uses a mix of public and private data to ensure the company has not been set up solely for the purpose of insurance. Our underlying infrastructure automates processes related to quoting, binding and billing, and reduces fraud in the purchase.
Embedded insurance and APIs: Plum offers a set of APIs and an out-of-the-box insurance purchase system that enables small business service providers such as payrolls, HR information systems, or marketplaces to instantly serve up and underwrite policies within their native applications to enhance the user experience and value of those apps.
For example, payroll software providers could integrate Plum’s APIs into their software to recommend relevant SMB insurance policies to their customers based on payroll activity. Our platform can leverage real-time payroll data to improve underwriting accuracy. Companies that embed insurance via Plum can completely customize the product offering using our APIs and UX elements.
Plum’s underlying infrastructure automates processes related to quoting, binding, billing and managing policies and claims. One of Plum’s most high-profile partnerships is with the Indian neobank Razorpay, whose banking customers can purchase and manage insurance directly through the Razorpay payroll app.
Integrations with insurance companies & operational efficiency: Insurance administration is an ops-heavy business – forms, emails, faxes, phone calls, etc. This makes it analogue and error-prone. In fact, insurance companies typically spend a sizable portion of the premium in data collection and error correction while processing insurance requests. The technology we build automates a lot of operation work, helping us scale the business without having to invest significantly in ops while trying to achieve more accuracy.
One of our core strengths is that we build integrations with our insurance partners that create end-to-end workflows. We have developed a fully automated onboarding system that allows HRs to add or remove employees through a simple interface in the dashboard. New employees are automatically enrolled in the insurance systems and insurance e-cards are dispersed within 48 hours as compared to 30 days in the traditional systems.
Reducing claims processing time to < 5mins: At Plum, we re-designed the claims flow considering the processes from the customer perspective and optimized our back-office operations to provide a simple, hassle-free claims service.
Users can now text us on WhatsApp and follow just a couple of easy steps to make a claim in less than 5 minutes. Claims experience on a tool that the user is familiar with, makes the process a lot easier for the end-user. This allows our users to self-serve themselves in different situations e.g In an emergency at the hospital, and while making reimbursements.
We have built a deficiency check system where our members can easily upload the required documents and our system can automatically flag any deficiencies. Our system sends anticipatory notifications over WhatsApp as the claim progresses keeping the customer in the loop all the time. We make each step in the experience easy and obvious by providing guidance about what to do next, much like a friend helping one through the journey.
What’s the USP of Plum? How do you differentiate with existing top players?
Plum’s USP is its simplicity across purchase, management and usage for business leaders and employees. We champion tech initiatives in the employee insurance space with an emphasis on the perspective of the end-user, unlike other players. For instance, our WhatsApp insurance claims system was an industry-first initiative built for its familiarity among customers.
Plum is known for its distinct employee health insurance plans, which covers employees, spouses, children and parents. It is available for a registered company, with a minimum of 7 employees. With Plum, getting insurance quotes takes less than 60 seconds, and activating the cover can happen within a few minutes. We have removed the need for lengthy negotiations with brokers. We offer real-time pricing and unlimited customizations. We combine modern technologies with robust processes to deliver unprecedented simplicity and efficiency.
Funding received (if any)
Plum has raised over $20 million in funding so far. The latest was a Series A round led by Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital, two of the world’s largest VC funds.
New Areas if they are looking to expand
Plum is looking to scale its engineering, business development, and operations teams. We are building newer insurance products for SMEs who have teams as small as seven employees and cannot afford to pay annual premiums. Additionally, we’re looking at deeper API integrations with leading insurers like ICICI Lombard, Care Health, Star Health, and New India Assurance.
Plum aims to reach a milestone of 10mn lives insured by 2025 and become the de-facto health insurance platform for businesses in India. We have an audacious vision to take India’s health insurance penetration to 100% and are committed to building a future where everyone has access to healthcare
There’s a great influx of new tech startups in insurance and specifically in the health insurance space in India, primarily influenced by the pandemic impact, and partly by the government policies. More companies like LoopHealth & Onsurity are offering similar group health plans. Companies like even & Bright Plan (https://www.brightplan.in) are offering health plans for individuals in this space.