46-year-old Yashish Dahiya, the co-founder and CEO of PolicyBazaar.com, is lean and calm, the way triathletes usually are. He’s completed the gruelling Ironman triathlon.
Dahiya is also impatient. In his student days at IIT Delhi, he’d run home to Noida every Friday evening and back to college on Monday morning—30 kilometres each way—because he found the public buses too slow for his liking. Many years may have passed since, but this impatient streak has not left him.
This combination of endurance and impatience has seemingly paid off. PolicyBazaar, India’s largest insurance aggregator, just raised a mammoth $200 million venture round. From arguably the world’s most sought-after VC fund, SoftBank. A venture round that saw the company enter the unicorn club—startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more.
Dahiya is also a maverick. He pooh-poohs the most investible theme floating around when it comes to insurance—“insurtech”. You know, the use of technology to unbundle and disrupt traditional insurance through apps, wearables, nifty micro-insurance policies and entirely software-based processes? Heck, SoftBank’s most prestigious insurance investment globally is ZhongAn, the Chinese insurtech pioneer that went from starting up to IPO to a $10 billion valuation in just over four years.
“These are tick-box products,” he says, pointing to one of the most popular micro-insurances these days—domestic travel insurance. “The claims ratio is 5%. Why would you ever pay for something like that? A good insurance product has 75-80%. ”
The world is moving to small, impulse-driven insurance products like flight delay insurance or e-commerce returns insurance (ZhongAn’s top seller). Likewise, PolicyBazaar’s younger and nimbler competitors are partnering with e-commerce sites to upsell tiny policies along with a bigger purchase (show delay insurance with a movie ticket, for example).
Dahiya, however, wants to go in a different direction. Back to selling the classic idea of insurance—as genuine protection against death, disease and disability. He is doubling down on trying to make PolicyBazaar a destination for customers to educate themselves and buy insurance. When every insurance startup worth its salt is figuring out how to not just distribute third-party policies, but also create newer ones, Dahiya says he will “never” create his own policies, “ever”.
And then there’s his co-founder and CFO, Alok Bansal. “We didn’t really have a need for the $200 million. Or a very clear use of those funds,” Bansal says. “In fact, our existing investors were willing to invest up to $500 million, but we took the money from SoftBank in order for an ecosystem alignment with an important player like it,” he says.
None of this makes sense.