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InsuranceMarket.ae needs no introduction. Whether it’s Alfred’s voice all over the airwaves or the proud announcement of 18,000 Google reviews on Sheikh Zayed Road billboards, the provider’s always top of mind. But what’s more beyond that? Founder and CEO Avinash Babur tells us all
With a capable team 500+ professionals that have come together to bring value to customers by ensuring a seamless insurance buying and claiming experience in the UAE, InsuranceMarket.ae, along with its parent company AFIA, has successfully served the needs of its clients for almost three decades in the UAE. AFIA was founded by Nandu Babur AIII, an insurance industry veteran who had been praticing insurance broking in the UAE since 1980. His son, Avinash Babur ACII, came on board in 2010 and founded InsuranceMarket.ae as a digital- first insurance service platform to reaffirm AFIA’s core values and contnuing commitment to help customers become secure whilst ensuring they save time and money when doing so.
InsuranceMarket.ae today has risen to become one of the leading insurance providers in the UAE, with a household brand name that can hardly be compared to any other in the insurance world. From complex commercial insurance to family health insurance and life insurance to pet and yacht insurance, InsuranceMarket.ae is your saviour when life takes an unexpected turn. Today, it is among the highest producing platforms for most of the leading insurance companies in the UAE, including names like RSA, QIC, Oman, GIG (formerly AXA), AIG, Zurich, Orient, Tokio Marine, CIGNA, AETNA and more.
Business and Technology Review follows up with Avinash Babur on his vision to retain the position of the insurance provider that leads the way in the UAE.
InsuranceMarket.ae’s 4.9 rating on Google is a statement on how renowned the brand has become today. Can you take us through the journey of how it reached the point of becoming the largest and the leading insurance provider in the UAE?
We have over 150,000 policyholders and the number is growing consistently. Alongside new business, we have witnessed a consistent growth in our portfolio organically through the highest possible renewal retention, with reputation and recommendation being the core of our model. The ratings are formed by over 18,000 Google reviews. So not only are we by far the largest and most reviewed but also the highest rated at the same time.
To us, the formula was simple: inspiration and perspiration. We worked hard and did very complicated things in order to make insurance buying and claiming simple for our customers.
Our success is a combination of the efforts of our team who take such good care of our customers and insurers, and our trusted panel of insurers who have become strategic partners and supported our growth on a long-term basis. We thank them.
Alfred is a known name across the UAE. What’s the idea behind his creation and marketing?
I am amazed at how Alfred appeals to so many people. The idea was to add a friendly face and a distinctive voice to our brand, someone the public can trust and recognise. Trust is very important in insurance and hence marketing in Alfred’s voice consistently for over 11 years has shown that we’re here to stay and always around to help (as we so famously promote ‘Call 800 ALFRED 24x7!’). Insurance is all about reliability and sustainability and Alfred is part of that, in addition to making what may be perceived to be ‘boring’ a bit more fun!
Speaking of fun, Alfred and I have started appearing on TikTok and Instagram. So make sure you find us there for some cool content.
AFIA has just celebrated 27 years in business. Please tell us about the inception of the brand and its legacy?
AFIA, the parent company of InsuranceMarket.ae, was formed 27 years ago by my father Nandu Babur where he started trading from a small apartment in Al Karama in Dubai. AFIA means ‘Health’ in Arabic and is a testament to our firm’s fitness that we’ve grown into the force that we are today.
Whilst our beginnings were humble, our ambitions have always been lofty — built on a strong desire to do our best to be the best and to offer the UAE market what it deserves, which is great products at great prices backed by great service. It’s this mantra that’s got us where we are today.
Since taking the helm in 2010, I’ve built the company on a growth mindset and a performance-based culture. This means we spend a lot of time looking forward and focusing on the future. It’s this kind of aggressive ambition that constantly grows the business. However, sometimes we need to get a bit reflective as well and appreciate of just how far we’ve come. That’s why we just held our inaugural AFIA Day recently and it was a great chance for all our employees to celebrate 27 years of success and recognise just what our hard work has delivered.
Insurance is seen as an expense rather than a value proposition in this region. However, InsuranceMarket.ae has reversed this view. Your thoughts about it?
It’s true that insurance isn’t viewed as the most exciting commodity but it is the responsibility of the industry to change that perception. Most people do see the value of insurance when it matters most to them, and that’s at the time of a claim. You can’t claim if you don’t have the appropriate or adequate cover in the first place and that tracks back to the recognition that you need a certain insurance product or a certain standard of service and advice.
We’ve always realised the value of marketing and the importance of storyboarding. And the product includes us too — InsuranceMarket.ae and Alfred. Our focus has always been to create a proposition that appealed to customers at scale i.e., product-market fit (as opposed to building tech just for the sake of tech or to show to investors).
The vision was to create a household name for an insurance platform that the public can trust, and trust is everything in financial services.
There were many small brokers and over 60 insurance companies before we began, but we have been instrumental in creating the best insurance products that are easy to understand and easy to access, and that’s been a key to our success.
Scooping awards and creating partnerships — what has been the driving force behind InsuranceMarket.ae’s success and its value-added services that make it exceptional?
We’ve always believed that our customers deserve the best and that it shouldn’t just stop with the purchase of a policy. It’s not about providing insurance at best rates; it’s about giving the greatest value and that means added value over and above our core commitment of being there for the clients and proactively helping them out at the time of claims.
We’ve collaborated with our sister concern, myAlfred, which has the vision to become the region’s leading rewards super app and loyalty platform. Right now, we have compelling offers from over a hundred offer partners (and growing quickly), enabling customers to save thousands of dirhams by being a part of our ecosystem.
The past 18 months have been fantastic for us in terms of being recognised by our peers and the industry for the great work we’ve been doing. Zurich Insurance named us a winner of their prestigious ‘Sustainability Award’, recognising our outstanding support of their life portal and digital-based business. AIG has rewarded us for our significant contribution to their SME business portfolio. Both Oman Insurance and QIC have honoured us for our contribution to motor insurance and, last but not least, we were winners of the coveted ‘Customer Service Award’ at Insuretek Golden Shield Excellence Awards in February 2022.
Tell us about some key trends for the insurance industry going forward?
The market has certainly seen some changes in the past couple of years. Take Motor insurance for instance — we’re seeing real market hardening driven by several factors (pun intended). First, the effects of Covid-19 on the climate cannot be ignored. Traffic on the roads (and resulting claims frequency) has returned to post pandemic normalcy with increased vehicle utilisation equalling increased exposure to incidents. When coupled with inflation in the costs of both labour and replacement parts, we’re seeing claims costs exponentially on the rise and naturally this will feed back to premiums. Changes in the regulatory environment with the imminent imposition of a new piece of legislation known as IFRS17, also means that insurance companies will need to reserve more capital and this could well be a factor in a premium hike in the next few months.
Medical insurance has seen a ‘healthy’ position, with consumers electing to purchase more comprehensive products rather than the basic coverage as mandated by visa requirements. Again, Covid-19 can be credited as an influencer in this altered buying behaviour. Medical pricing will also likely fall victim to the influence of inflation: with treatment costs, including that of prescription medication, on the rise which shall have a bearing on premiums paid.
For the SME market, we have been seeing the emergence of more standardised and pre-packaged products specific to a business activity, size and industry segment, and we expect this to continue. Insurers are trying to commoditise this class as much as possible to make it easier and faster for businesses to insure the risks they face, and with SMEs accounting for more than 52 per cent of all commercial enterprises in the UAE, this is a buoyant, well-supported market.
We also have evidence of increased take-up and awareness of non-mandatory products like life, critical illness compensation, travel, home, pet and golf, with insurers both creating new and modifying existing products, and consumers making their first foray into purchasing a particular product (Covid-19 again being an influencer in classes such as life and travel).
What are the benefits of buying insurance with InsuranceMarket.ae?
I can summarise with five S’s — Service, Security, Sustainability, Savings and Satisfaction. With Service, we help customers at point of purchase in helping them to find a product that’s right for them and their wallet. And at the time of a claim, we make sure insurers deliver, and we provide a dedicated claims manager to handle the claim from initial notification to final settlement.
Security is about providing deals only from the leading insurers meaning you can trust your cover to be there when you need it the most.
Sustainability means trust. Alfred is instantly recognisable in the UAE serving for over 27 years and by far the largest team of insurance professionals.
Coming to Savings, with myAlfred, customers can save thousands of dirhams on other spends by being policyholders of InsuranceMarket.ae (see myAlfred.com). And for Satisfaction, the proof is in the pudding – check out our 18,000+ Google reviews with 4.9-star rating!
What’s next for the industry from InsuranceMarket.ae?
We might have 27 years’ worth of achievements but the best is yet to come and it feels like we’re just getting started. We are excited to continue in our pursuit of making the process of buying and claiming on insurance even easier, as a result of our proprietary technology that will digitally transform how insurance is delivered in the UAE and beyond. We are also looking forward to continued collaboration with the myAlfred team to develop it further as a leading rewards super app. More partnerships and more rewards from a whole host of top brands will make it a market leader, I believe. It really is a case of ‘watch this space’.
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