Tablets Help IndiaFirst Life’s Sales Agents Sell Faster

As the 23rd entrant in the Indian insurance industry, IndiaFirst Life had a world of ground to cover. But it didn’t believe in catching up; it wanted to get ahead. How? By empowering over 1,000 sales agents with tablets that sell insurance in 30 minutes.

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As a three-year old organization, IndiaFirst wanted to build on this freedom and establish a digital channel that wasn’t just limited to a Web portal. This, it was sure, would help address initial sales and post-sales service requirements of the customer far better than a brick and mortar interface. “As the 23rd entrant in the Indian insurance industry, we were determined to invest more in technology rather than setting up branches,” says Nandagopal.  Khadye couldn’t have asked for more.    On Auto-Pilot  Enthused by Nandagopal’s faith in technology, Khadye decided to build a comprehensive solution that is avail¬able to the field force so that BDMs can interface with all the business processes within the organization. To avoid errors inherent in a manual process, Khadye started off by creating an end-to-end automation solution.    So the IT team got together to evaluate the options that could enable this. They started off by listing out key features and decided they needed a device that is small enough to carry but still has a good display. They also figured that it would have to be flexible enough to handle a fair bit of processing if it was to support client-based applications. Eliminating POS devices— being used largely in the micro-insurance sector—they decided to choose between laptops and tablets.  Since they were already on a laptop model, they were aware of the constraints it imposed and weighed this against the risks and benefits of going for a reason¬ably untested technology: Tablets. “We thought, why not use tablets, build an app for it, and make the entire (sales) process paperless,” says Khadye. This, along with a portable printer, was all that was needed to set up the mobile office for IndiaFirst.    Once it was decided to take the tablet route, identifying the OS for which they needed to build it wasn’t a tough decision to make. “The only real options at that time were iOS and Android. And considering the multiple device options and the lower cost per device, we decided to go with Android,” says Khadye. Having the flexibility to run this app on multiple devices was important to IndiaFirst because it knew that in order to realize the full potential of mobility the company will need to equip both its senior management and extended enterprise of agents in the near future.  Khadye had a long way to go.    Operation AppDev  Khadye and his IT team figured that developing the application from scratch would be a tedious and time consuming affair. So they decided to go for a mobile enterprise application and development platform instead of a completely custom-built solution. Based on their requirements, they chose Acceltree’s FRED as their preferred platform.    Leveraging the capabilities of the platform—in both the development and run-time environment—the pro¬grammers used the integrated development environ¬ment, along with a simple tablet-based tool enabled by the platform vendor. This was done to define the user interface and build business and workflow logic and the logic for connecting to enterprise systems.    This entire logic is stored as business objects in XML format. At run time, the application on the tab¬let sends a transaction request through the messaging layer to the relevant business object that runs within the high performance transaction engine. The backend integration too is taken care of by the platform server’s ability to interact with varied data sources and mul¬tiple enterprise systems simultaneously.  The underlying logic necessitated the break down of enterprise workflows into relevant chunks. “We looked at our organizational processes and packaged them in four modules: Customer, distributor, employee and corporate. In the hands of the employee, the tablet becomes a mobile office,” says Khadye. The customer module which automates the entire customer facing process—from lead management to after sales sup¬port—is the first module in the suite that has been made live. The other three modules are under development.    The application flows in a step-by-step process. BDMs have to input all the mandatory information before they can move on to the next step. The important steps can’t be skipped and it also ensures transparency with the customer. There are in-built validations for calculation of premiums and sum assured that help avoid mistakes. “The mistakes that BDMS were committing either due to carelessness or a lack of knowledge are now getting addressed,” says Rochlani.  The application is designed to work equally well in both online and offline modes. Once data entry is done and supporting documents are captured via the tab¬let’s camera, the data and documents are synced with the backend servers either in real-time or whenever the 2G/3G/WiFi connectivity is available. 3G is recom¬mended but it works fine on 2G as well. Just that the syncing of documents which are captured as image files might take a little longer. Once all the documents are in place and checked, an insurance policy is issued—all in 30 minutes.  To tighten device and data security, Khadye has also leveraged Mobile Device Management (MDM). “We have also equipped ourselves with the ability to trace the devices in the hands of our users. This enables us to acti¬vate and deactivate applications, perform over-the-air updates, and wipe data on a lost device,” says Khadye. He has also added security features to make sure that data and documents are encrypted not just when it is within the application but also during transmission.    The end result of the company’s IT team and Kha¬dye’s efforts is a tablet—aptly called the Magic Board— in the hands of each of IndiaFirst’s over 1,000 BDMs. And the company doesn’t plan to stop at that. It is already charting a course that would enable them to equip each of its over 4,000 agents with a tablet.    The Magic of the Magic Board  Today, the Magic Board has worked like a charm.  “With Magic Board, the sales process has been stan¬dardized to a great extent and a policy can be issued on the spot,” says the company’s business head-Bancas¬surance and Retention, Rochlani. Though it’s only been three months since the application has been launched, it is evident that BDMs no longer have to run around chasing documents and arranging for those to be couri¬ered to the corporate office. Nor do they have to wait till it reaches and gets verified by an underwriter to check inconsistencies that might have crept in.    If the form has some deficiency, both BDMs and cus¬tomers can be appraised of the same—almost immedi¬ately. “They can’t fill up a different sum assured and can’t sell a product meant for a particular age group to a per¬son who does not fall into that age range,” says Rochlani.  The Magic Board has also added a dash of élan to a BDM’s image and helps build a sense of trust and cred¬ibility with the customer. He is no longer the clumsy guy fumbling bundles of paper, but one that sports a ritzy tablet.    Anup Varier is a principal correspondent for CIO India and ComputerWorld India. Send your feedback to anup_varier@idgindia.com. Follow Anup on Twitter at @WearyWarrior.  

The company’s sales agents—called Business Development Managers (BDMs)—had to lug around and fumble through sheaves of collateral and other customer documents. This sales process was manual, cumbersome, and time-consuming. And it was time IndiaFirst couldn’t afford to lose.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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