Can you take us through the transition of Exide Life Insurance from ING Vysya Life?
The company was founded in 2001. ING was the foreign JV partner. Since 2005, Exide Industries has been 50 per cent owner of the company. Then came a time when ING decided to consolidate its insurance business, in a manner that they decided to exit Asia. In March 2013, ING decided to divest its stake and Exide Industries became the 100 per cent owner of the company. Because of this change of ownership, we decided to rebrand the company.
When it became a 100 per cent Exide-owned company, the problem that faced us was what we will call the company. The obvious choice, which came out of research that we did internally and externally amongst shareholders, was to benefit from the name Exide. The brand Exide enjoys a 100-year-old heritage in the country. It comes with certain brand attributes, which a life insurance business can benefit from. Hence we decided that we will start our journey under the banner of Exide Life Insurance.
In May 2014, we announced the new name. It was revealed first to our internal stakeholders and our employees, and then on 5 May we exposed the brand to the external world through media.
Between then and now, we have done many things to ensure that transition is explained to all stakeholders.
Did the transition throw any special challenges?
We were using the earlier name until April 2014. More so internally, we had this challenge of what will be the story going forward. ING Vysya has been a strong financial brand in the country, courtesy ING Vysya bank. And obviously there are associations with the financial segment. The question then was how does one build credibility whatever be the new name. This was when we had not aligned with the fact that Exide will be the brand name.
Extensive qualitative and quantitative research showed that the most important factors that influence customer choice in life insurance were the number of years or heritage in the market, and well-known Indian brand name. Possibly that became a reason that people need to be comfortable with the new name - internally and externally - so that all expectations of investing and parting with their hard-earned savings with a known brand are taken care of. That was a big challenge. We were to disassociate with several-year old ING Vysya. It was strong in South India, with moderate presence in rest of the country.
We chose Exide Life Insurance as a brand name because Exide is a well-known name across India, both in metros and smaller cities, with very positive and relevant associations like long-standing heritage. Our current brand enjoys significant equity. Exide is a very strong name that will help us build on the equity we have created so far. Its pan-India appeal, which will help us become a nationally relevant brand as well.
You are stronger in South India. Which are the markets where Exide needs to concentrate on?
Our stated intent is that we want to repeat the success story of South in rest of India. We are already present in 200 cities where we see demand and opportunity. We are looking at rest of the country equally when it comes to opportunity.
Has rebranding resulted in refocus for the insurance company?
Yes and no. Traditionally, we have been strong in South, and moderately known in rest of the country. With a brand name like Exide, you actually are able to benefit to repeat the success story of South elsewhere. As a business, we wish to retain our South equity and market share, and continue to be dominant here as we progress in the other part of the country. The name ‘Exide Life Insurance’ will help us build our business.
What is Exide’s current market share in life insurance category?
We are number nine nationally on the weighted premium basis - individual new business as we call it. The company sells through various channels. We have over 35,000 advisors, alliances that largely comprise of co-operative banks and brokers. We are also looking at venturing into direct, and you will see us playing in the direct marketing space in the next financial year. This will help us get into select consumer segments, where we may or may not be present. A combination of all these will help us grow. We are looking at each of these existing channels and are trying to put weight behind each of these channels to be able to establish growth.
A very important part of this journey is innovation of products.
Our endeavour as an organisation is to offer fair value to our customers. We are a company that has been proud of a strong traditional portfolio. We are largely focussed on providing solutions, which allow people to get into disciplined way of savings over the long term. All of this put together goes behind our growth objective.
As a marketer, what challenges does a highly cluttered category like insurance throw your way?
The challenges include differentiating Exide Life Insurance from other insurance companies, quality education of customers, and quality interaction with them. Educating them and moving them up the curve are some of my base challenges as a marketer.
Can you share the emerging trends in insurance marketing in India?
Insurance marketing is not only about advertising. I think the biggest responsibility that a marketer has is towards customer education. It is not limited to running strip ads or commercials, because beyond a point everything starts looking similar. It is about engaging with people one-to-one in a continuous manner.
The second important area in the game is around existing customers. Traditionally, marketers and marketing have been associated with promoting the brand, so they were known as publicity departments. With the availability of rich data, we can do a lot more with our existing customer base. As a company, we have a stated intent that in not-so-distant-future, 50 per cent of our new business is going to come from our existing customers. You should be able to read your data, whether it is measuring customer satisfaction at each touchpoint, keeping customers positively engaged with respect to their policies, giving them varying ways of paying premium – all of this put together and more – is essentially a marketer’s job.
A related trend is that you need to have a single customer view. You need to ensure that you understand the segment where the customer exists.
The third is digital. As a platform, it gives you a handle to reach out and have quality interactions with consumers. My conversation with my advertising agency is, ‘Let’s start thinking digital first, and traditional advertising later.’
Is Exide Life Insurance focussing on digital as sales channel?
The three pillars on which our digital strategy rests include helping customers decide on the right insurance solution; engage with existing customers through online self-service, and enabling the sales force (including advisors) to sell better. Our belief in digital is not limited to selling products through online sales.
How does Exide Life Insurance devise its media plan?
We don’t look at media with a single lens. We are one of the few players in the category with a very heavy regional focus. We do not believe in creating something, which is for the consumption of HSM. We go market-by-market and see the need and strength of a particular market so that our communication reaches out to people accordingly. Between May 2014 and now, we have launched two brand campaigns. The first was the brand launch campaign in June-July 2014, and the other was the reinforcement and relevance-building campaign for Exide Life Insurance as a brand in September-October ‘14. These campaigns were created in multiple languages and we used television as a lead medium. The TV campaign was supported by a mix of on-ground and on-air media, which we executed at regional level.
Our business is a people business. In the transition period, we consciously decided as an organisation that we will not launch the brand with a big bang using a television campaign. We decided to announce the change internally and train our people – 6,000+ employees and 35,000 advisors – and make them understand what change means to our stakeholders. We then followed it up very quickly with massive customer care programme called ‘Connect to Life’. The foundation of change was laid within two months of announcement. Then we went ahead with our TV campaign along with outdoor and other media vehicles.
The brand Exide enjoys a 100-year-old heritage in the country. It comes with certain brand attributes, which a life insurance business can benefit from. Hence we decided that we will start our journey under the banner of Exide Life Insurance.
(This appeared the Campaign India issue dated 23 January 2015)