Acko is an ambitious digital play to disrupt India’s $10B insurance industry

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Acko is an under-the-radar startup that wants to disrupt India’s insurance industry through a digital-only model. This week it stuck its head above the parapet and announced that it has raised $30 million to get started on its bold plan.

Founded by Varun Dua, the man behind insurance comparison site Coverfox, Acko is designed as a wholly digital take on insurance in India. The company is an independent general insurance provider that is wholly digital. Beyond operating online and without the expense of a brick and mortar footprint, Acko is aiming to unbundle insurance in India to make it both more affordable and relevant to consumers.

“India is a fairly nascent insurance market [with the same] traditional carriers that we’ve seen for decades,” CEO Dua told TechCrunch in an interview. “Acko will be the first internet-only carrier.”

Taking insurance in India online

Inspired by models such as Lemonade and Oscar Health in the U.S. and Direct Line in the UK, Dua sees a huge opportunity to tap into digital to take a shot at the current market — which is estimated to be worth over $10 billion annually — and reach a new segment of consumers who have been left out to date.

“The system of distribution in India does not provide information on the user at all. There’s not enough data to underwrite accurately on a real-time basis,” Dua said. “Sales are mostly offline and flat pricing, usually [insurance firms] don’t know much about a customer before underwriting him.

The Acko CEO believes his firm can offer a 30-40 percent discount on incumbents by pricing its policies more accurately by gathering information and data online. That’s in addition to cost savings by operating without a physical presence.

“We will probably start off taking away existing [insurance rivals’] customers,” he added. “It’s a relatively easier market because people are moving online year on year. That gives us the early pickings, [but we] will probably be launching smaller and unique products that don’t exist today later.”

In particular, he foresees opportunity around segment-specific insurance policies that can be sold online. That could include, for example, pregnancy insurance, or policies for ride-sharing companies. Beyond selling on the Acko website, the plan is to link arms with partners who already have relationships with consumers — for example an e-commerce store selling baby items, or the ride-sharing firm itself.

In a recent report, EY forecast that India’s insurance market is “poised for a strong growth” despite concerns around reaching new customers:

Despite strong improvement in penetration and density in the last 10 years, India largely remains an under-penetrated market. The market today is primarily dependent on push, tax incentives and mandatory buying for sales. There is very little customer pull, which will come from growing financial awareness and increasing savings and disposable income.

That’s a major focus for Acko.

“We want to make insurance so straightforward that consumers don’t need to talk to multiple people to get advice or fill up forms. Consumers should be able to access low prices in one click based on their risk profile, and be confident that at a press of a button — their claim will get paid in the fastest possible time,” Dua added in a statement.

Big name backers and big plans

To get started, Acko has raised $30 million from a range of top names that include VC firms Accel, SAIF Partners and Catamaran Ventures. Its angel investors include Venk Krishnan and Subba Rao of NuVentures, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Hemendra Kothari of DSP Blackrock, founder and chairman of Hexaware Atul Nishar, and ex-investment baker and Arpwood Capital founder Rajeev Gupta.

Beyond that, Dua teased that there are undisclosed “global insurance groups” that own a stake of the business. Their names won’t be revealed for another month or so, but their presence has helped give the startup credibility in an industry that values corporate institutions.

Acko has received an R1 license and is currently awaiting its R2 license which has been applied for with India’s insurance authority. Dua anticipates that the final nod should come within three months, leaving the company ready to open its doors and launch products for consumers before the end of September this year.

The initial plan is to be active in three or four cities until Acko has shown that “the claims pieces is something we able to control and optimize,” according to Dua.

The team, which is currently around 20 people, is likely to grow to 45-50 by the year end, to help Dua hit his ambitious targets.

“We believe we should do close to $40 million in premiums over first year,” Dua said. “On a five-year perspective, we would love to reach anything from $500 million in premiums.”


Aviva boss promises to overhaul the way his firm sells insurance

By Victoria Bischoff and James Burton For The Daily Mail

Britain’s biggest insurer last night vowed to end a rip-off hitting millions of families.

In a victory for the Daily Mail, the boss of Aviva said it was wrong to charge loyal customers more every year.

Mark Wilson admitted the market was dysfunctional and promised to overhaul the way his firm sells insurance to ensure that all his 16million customers would have the best prices.

He called on the rest of the industry to follow suit.

The boss of LV=, which is the biggest car insurer, rallied to his call last night, admitting more needed to be done to help customers who stay with the same provider.

A Money Mail investigation revealed on Monday that loyal customers routinely pay three times the lowest market price for car and home cover.

In the worst cases they are charged £1,000 more than new customers, whose cut-price deals they effectively subsidise.

Speaking at Aviva’s annual meeting yesterday, chief executive Mr Wilson said: ‘There’s the broader problem of steep price rises when artificially low introductory discounts come to an end.

‘This means across the whole industry in the UK, when customers come to renew, they often get quoted more.

‘The market is broken. I don’t like it and neither do our customers. This dysfunctional market is a problem for the whole industry. And it requires an industry-wide solution. But we aren’t waiting for that.’

Mr Wilson promised to introduce a new product to ensure customers always got the best deal.

However, the firm would not reveal any more details. Richard Rowney, chief executive of LV=, told the Mail: ‘We agree that more needs to be done to support loyal consumers and we strongly believe that we need to tackle this together as an industry.

‘We will work to ensure that we continue to do what’s in the best interests of consumers, focusing on providing them with value for money and a great service.’

A spokesman for Direct Line said: ‘We will look at this new launch with interest.’

Mr Wilson told the Mail last night: ‘We’ve been working for the last 12 months on a product which rewards loyalty and offers our best prices to our existing customers and we plan to launch this later this year.

‘It’s time to tackle the broken system of steep price rises for insurance after artificially low introductory discounts end and we congratulate the Daily Mail on its campaign.’

Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said: ‘Well done to the Daily Mail.

‘I’m delighted to see that Aviva is acknowledging these problems and it’s a really good step forward. It’s very often the most vulnerable people – the elderly and disabled – and those who work too many hours of the day who lose out because they don’t switch.’

Usually customers are offered better prices only if they threaten to leave.

At some insurers, as many as 80 per cent of customers roll over their insurance with their existing deal. The longer customers stay with their insurer, the more they are likely to be overpaying.

The renewal rip-off is thought to cost drivers £1billion a year.

James Daley, of consumer group Fairer Finance, said: ‘It’s great that Aviva are taking a stand and I hope that other insurers will follow suit … I’m sceptical that others will stop playing the game without heavy-handed intervention from regulators.’

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: ‘The UK insurance market is highly competitive with most customers shopping around and lots of switching.’

Edited for ILSTV


Aviva sells stakes in Spanish insurance businesses

LONDON–Aviva PLC (AV.LN) said Wednesday it is selling its stake in life insurance and pension joint ventures Unicorp Vida and Caja España Vida, as well as in retail life-insurance business Aviva Vida y Pensiones, for 475 million euros ($515.9 million).

The sale follows a restructuring of the Spanish banking system, which started in 2010, the company said.

Aviva will still have some exposure to the insurance sector in Spain after this divestment, it said.

Trump: Retailers and insurers get taxed more, tech less

By Marley Jay


NEW YORK _ To understand taxes, you have to think about geography. Don’t worry, this will make sense eventually.

The U.S. has high corporate taxes compared with other developed countries. That means companies that make most of their money inside the U.S. pay more in taxes than companies that do a lot of business overseas.

Retailers, utilities, health insurance companies have relatively high tax bills for those reasons, while technology companies, pharmaceuticals makers and energy companies can make a lot more money in other countries.

On paper, the top federal corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 35 per cent. Companies generally don’t pay that much, but they can have dramatically different tax bills depending on where they make their money.


Take Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Nike, all retailers. Macy’s, a department store operator, makes all of its revenue in the U.S., according to FactSet, while Wal-Mart gets about a quarter of its revenue outside the U.S. and Nike makes almost 60 per cent of its sales in countries other than the U.S. That’s one important reason Macy’s pays higher taxes.

FactSet says that over the last five years, Macy’s average effective tax rate, or the percentage of its net income that it pays in state and federal taxes, has been more than 35 per cent. Wal-Mart’s tax rate was 31.5 per cent and Nike’s tax bill was around 23 per cent.


Alphabet, Google’s parent company, had an effective tax rate of 19 per cent over that five-year period and IBM’s rate was 18 per cent. Both companies get most of their revenue outside the U.S.

Prescription drug distributor AmerisourceBergen is also entirely U.S.-based, and it had a tax rate that topped 50 per cent over that period, but Gilead Sciences, a biotech drug manufacturer that gets a lot of revenue from other countries, paid less than half that much.


JPMorgan calculates that most corporations pay a rate closer to 20 per cent because of a wide variety of tax credits, tax reduction strategies, and those lower taxes on earnings from outside the U.S. The Trump administration is proposing cutting the top corporate tax rate to 15 per cent, and it wants a “territorial” system where only profits made in the U.S. are taxed.

Because of the higher tax rates in the U.S., companies are motivated to say as much of their income is made outside the country as possible. If their products are made in another country, or assembled there, or will shipped there, or if they have a licensing deal with a non-U.S. company, the company may say that income comes from outside the U.S. so it can pay a lower tax rate.


Companies that earn money overseas don’t want to pay the U.S. rates on top of the foreign taxes they’ve already paid. As a result, money they earn overseas often stays parked in banks and businesses outside the country. Major companies like Apple have billions of dollars sitting outside the country, and the ability to bring that money back to the U.S. without worrying about a big tax bill might be far more significant than a tax cut.

“The tax cut is very important for principally domestic companies, but for these multinationals it’s not nearly as important as the repatriation opportunity,” said Bob Willens, a CPA who teaches a course on corporate tax policy as Columbia Business School.

If those companies pay a one-time tax on all of those earnings and then don’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the money they make overseas in the future, they could invest in their businesses by buying more equipment, return money to investors by buying more stock and paying bigger dividends, or acquiring other companies. All of those moves could boost stock prices.

Insurer Centene commits to shaky ACA exchanges for 2018

By Tom Murphy


One health insurer is eager to dive back into the Affordable Care Act’s troubled insurance exchanges next year, even as competitors waver and President Donald Trump tweets doom about the law’s future.

Centene Corp. said Tuesday that its exchange enrolment has swelled 74 per cent since last year, up to nearly 1.2 million people.

This comes as competitors like Aetna back away from these public marketplaces after absorbing steep losses, and others like the Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier Anthem await signs of stability before committing to 2018. Trump has warned repeatedly about the collapse of the law and its exchanges, which provide coverage for around 12 million people.

Insurers have struggled to build a stable business out of the exchanges, in part because they can’t attract enough young, healthy people to balance out sicker customers who use their coverage. Soaring premiums haven’t helped that push. Companies also say they’ve been stung by expensive patients who wait until they need the coverage before enrolling.

As a result, exchange choices have grown thin, with many markets down to a single insurer. Some in Tennessee have none.

Heading into 2018, insurers also are nervous about the future of billions of dollars in cost-sharing assistance for some exchange customers with modest incomes.

Despite all this, Centene Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff said Tuesday during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter results that he sees “nothing out there” that will change his company’s participation next year.

“We have the agility and the ability to adjust,” he said.

Centene sells coverage under its Ambetter brand on exchanges in 12 states. That includes key markets like Florida, Texas and Ohio.

What makes it more bullish than its competitors on these still unstable markets? Analysts say Centene sticks to customers it knows. The insurer specializes in managing the state and federally funded Medicaid program for the poor. On the exchanges, it targets low-income customers in markets where it has already formed networks of providers for its Medicaid business.

That means the insurer doesn’t have to build doctor networks for its exchange business from scratch. It also means Centene generally serves customers who get big subsidies that can shield them from price hikes. This makes it more likely they keep their coverage.

Neidorff said Tuesday that 80 per cent of Centene’s 2016 exchange customers renewed their plans in 2017. Repeat business like that makes it easier for insurers to figure out prices.

Centene has added some new exchange business through its acquisition of fellow insurer Health Net, said Stifel health insurance analyst Thomas Carroll.

It also has gained customers as competitors like UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. have left markets, noted Ana Gupte, who follows insurers as a senior analyst with Leerink Partners.

St. Louis-based Centene Corp. didn’t detail financial results from its exchange business. But the insurer said Tuesday it earned $139 million overall in a first-quarter performance that topped Wall Street expectations.

Insurers are still sorting out their coverage plans for next year, so others may still come forward with their own exchange testimonials. They have until late spring or early summer, depending on the state, to make an initial decision on where they plan to sell next year.

Another big exchange participant, Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc., will report Wednesday on its first quarter.

Jefferies analyst David Windley said late last month in a research note that he thought the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer was leaning toward leaving a “high percentage” of the exchange markets in which it participates.

An Anthem spokeswoman said in response that the insurer was still pursuing “policy changes that will help with market stabilization and achieve the common goal of making quality health care more affordable and accessible for all.”

An Anthem pullback would be a huge blow to the exchanges. Heading into 2017 Anthem was the lone insurer on exchanges in 300 counties in seven states, according to data compiled by The Associated Press and the health research firm Avalere.

Social Media Posts Could Be Used Against People in Insurance Claims

Social Media Posts Could Be Used Against People in Insurance Claims

NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / April 24, 2017 / 4AutoInsuranceQuote, a company that offers free auto insurance rate comparisons, has just posted an interesting article on their website that may inspire people to be more careful about what they post on Facebook and other social media websites. Titled “Social Media Being Used For Insurance Investigations,” the article explains how certain posts could possibly get people into trouble with their insurance companies.

According to the new article, insurers and law enforcement officials are monitoring social media posts to check for insurance fraud. As the article notes, people sometimes file a police report, contact their insurance company to let them know about the accident and then make posts about it on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Unfortunately, the article says, if people reveal incorrect details about the accident, the insurance claim could end up being denied.

Interestingly, 4AutoInsuranceQuote is not the only website that has posted an article about the connection between social media posts and possible denials of insurance; the CBS News website also ran a story on the same topic, claiming that because so many people are on social media, the sites are routinely monitored for evidence of fraud. An article on the Claims Journal website agrees with this premise, stating that investigation and social networking research are “a required tool.”

As the new article on 4AutoInsuranceQuote noted, insurance companies could also possibly check a driver’s social media account for photos of what the vehicle looked like prior to the accident. And if the driver was injured during the accident, adjusters could possibly look at current photos to see if and how the incident has impacted the person’s life.

“There are currently no laws or restrictions on an insurance adjuster’s ability to scour social media sites for information to aid their investigation,” the new article noted, adding that in the law’s eyes, any information listed on public websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and others is fair game.

“Often times, the first step in a claims investigation is to run a simple Google search on the claimant to reveal all of their social media profiles.”

About 4AutoInsuranceQuote:

4AutoInsuranceQuote is a car insurance rate comparison engine located in New York City. Since 2008, 4AutoInsuranceQuote has provided more and one million free car insurance quotes to Americans. Please visit for a free insurance quote today.

Brad Whitman


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