Back in 2016, we were studying the startup landscape and spent quite a bit of time evaluating trends in the world, as well as more specifically in Southeast Asia. There were a few themes that interested me: the future of work, the rising middle class and banking the unbanked. These were all extremely relevant in Southeast Asia, a region that was coined as the “next billion users”.
I saw how Grab/Uber/GOJEK and various other on-demand freelancer platforms were creating a whole new workforce. I also saw how greater access to tools, changing attitudes to independent work and desire for flexibility would uplift nearly 200M of Southeast Asia’s workforce. We embarked on a quick study and realised that financial security and stability was one of the larger pain points for this emerging workforce.
Addressing this need would mean providing insurance, healthcare and financial lubrication in an affordable and flexible manner. That is Gigacover’s mission — we want to build technology and data capabilities that allow supply-side giants (insurers, clinic chains, credit providers) to access and serve this overlooked workforce.
Gigacover’s freelancer income protection product can be considered to be our version of a large family of prolonged medical leave products. For a lot of future workers, they may lose income if they are faced with extended periods of medical leave, which can either be due to an illness or an injury. An extended period of medical leave can be anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. For many freelance or self-employed workers, this could result in a loss of income that could be serious enough to affect cashflow.
An insurance claim against this product would be valid if the insured can produce any documentation (medical certificate, hospital leave certificate) representing medical leave. Insured people can submit the necessary details and supporting documents through our mobile app and our technology is able to extract key details like the condition, the length of medical leave required, the doctor and the clinic. Together with publicly available data sources and our own proprietary data, our system processes the claim and performs some validations. We are able to validate the details of the doctor, the clinic or the hospital, and validate the nature of the injury/illness against the medical leave given.
After validation, if the claim amount is below a certain limit, our system can automatically approve or reject the claim. If the claim amount is above the limit, we will escalate the case to a claims officer.
We want to focus in Southeast Asia, but the specific markets that we will expand into depends on a number of factors.
First, we want to consider the market size and the propensity of customers to purchase our products. Given that we are a B2B2C business, our product offering must be attractive and useful to both the business and the end consumer. Some markets have a higher education gap to cross, others have a much healthier insurance penetration ratio already.
Second, we want to consider the nature of regulation in that market. Regulators around this region are becoming more supportive of insurtechs and their partnerships with large incumbents. Many have even created sandboxes to allow for new, innovative products to hit the market. However, the speed and flexibility for which this happens still carries large variance across the region. In many cases, it is also personality dependent.
Third, we want to enter from a position of strength. Do we have a large customer who wants our products in that market? Do we have a supply-side partner that is willing to extend their support into that market? Do we have investors who understand and can connect us with key decision makers?
We’re constantly evaluating the region based on these considerations. So far, the markets that are most interesting to me are Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Regardless, we will continue to keep an eye out for any opportunities.
There have been so many challenges in the past year, a large part due to the regulations in the industry we are in.
One of our main challenges is being unable to influence the entire product experience. Gigacover does not have an insurer’s license, so we need to partner with licensed insurers to co-manufacture products. We provide the distribution and technology, while the insurer provides the risk capital, the license and the compliance. We have seen much success in our current partnerships, but some processes, by regulation, must be owned by the insurer. We would like to be able to deliver an entirely new claims experience but many claims decisions still have to be escalated to the insurer’s claims team and have to undergo a rightfully thorough process before reaching a decision. We have been overcoming this limitation by gradually building trust with our insurer partners and also the regulator, so that we can take on more and more of the claims process.
Another challenge is being able to serve our customers regionally and thinking about expansion regionally. We need an agency/broker license in all the markets we want to operate in and we also need to partner insurers. If a large customer wants us to roll-out with them across a few regional countries, we simply cannot if we haven’t found the right partners or acquired the necessary licenses. This has been frustrating but we are working on structuring more regional partnerships and focusing on our technology so that we are less dependent on being licensed.
Before Gigacover, I was at Palantir, one of the world’s leading companies in big data. I saw, first-hand, how new algorithms and technologies could be used to deliver not just insights, but also tools to help analysts and decision makers be more productive. In my industry, I am really excited about the opportunities for data and insights. Insurance is a data-driven industry but traditionally there have been few touchpoints with customers. With Gigacover, we hope to increase our interactions through our products’ flexibility and by not just serving the workers but their families as well. With this data that we are allowed to collect, I believe that we can influence pricing and risk decisions in a revolutionary way.
Insurance penetration in Southeast Asia is still low, somewhere around 2-3%, compared to the 10-15% in more developed economies like the US, UK and even Japan. This will improve slowly as the rising middle class accumulates more wealth and assets and care about protection it.
I would like to see Gigacover grow alongside these changes in attitudes. I want to see Gigacover grow from Singapore to a few Southeast Asia markets, bringing a positive and meaningful product to first-time buyers and thereby reducing the number of uninsured/under-insured and increasing the use of healthcare and other life-improving treatments.
I believe in making a positive impact to society and I also believe that in doing so, Gigacover will be able to build a profitable and sustainable business.
You can connect with Gigacover through their Linkedin page.