Mumbai: At the age of 16, Dev Karvat found himself waiting five hours one day at an insurance company, trying to help a friend get travel insurance to avail a visa for the next day. In those days, where it would usually take two days to get a policy Karvat managed it in five hours. The travel agent was thrilled and asked him if he could deliver travel insurance policies at the same speed more often, of course for a small fee. It became Karvat’s first source of income in 1999 and the genesis of TrawellTag, established in 2005.
Innovation has been the mainstay of Karvat’s philosophy. So apart from offering travel insurance, TrawellTag built the first online luggage tracking system in India. In 2010, the company started providing 24×7 emergency medical assistance services to its clients. Today, other signature travel ancillary services such as concierge services, family protection and emergency medical assistance abroad are also part of the offerings bouquet. Certain customised insurance benefits that TrawellTag has designed along with its underwriters are also ‘industry-firsts’ including adventure sports cover, cruise cover and self-drive cover, among others.
“It has been a journey of discovery and learning, highs and lows. Firstly, no prospective client trusted the set-up, so I started servicing them via a third party vendor. Secondly, a new brand could not attract experienced professionals, so I hired pizza delivery boys for delivering policies,” recollects Karvat, Founder & CEO, India & Emerging Markets, TrawellTag Cover-More, a Zurich Insurance Group company.
Privatisation and FDI brought global players into India causing Karvat to think ahead of the curve. TrawellTag’s dedication and focus on ensuring customer delight, plus sustained profitable growth, attracted the global giant of travel insurance industry, Cover-More, to invest in Karvat’s dream in 2012. “Adding momentum to our aspirations was Cover-More’s proprietary software ’Impulse’, which delivers the capability to improve interactions with customers and enhances sales of ancillary products,” adds Karvat.
TrawellTag Cover-More Group today represents the third largest travel insurance provider in the world after its acquisition by the Zurich Insurance Group, in 2017, and provides expert travel protection solutions to over 3.8 million travellers with global presence across 244 territories.
According to leading research firm, Finaccord, the market for travel insurance policies in India is expected to reflect continued trip growth over the period up to 2019, and grow at a faster rate than previously. Finaccord estimates a CAGR of 10.6 per cent in outbound trips with gross written premiums expected to grow to $235 million in 2019, equal to a CAGR of 20.8 per cent in nominal terms.
Currently, the conversion rate of travel insurance in India is stalled at ~20 per cent and TrawellTag Cover-More aspires to be instrumental in boosting this number with its unique travel assistance and insurance services. The company is investing further in technology to enable its partners to move towards achieving this goal by utilising travel ancillary services as a key tool for enhancing conversions and achieving business success.
Karvat is also preparing to expand their global medical assistance services, with Zurich’s dedicated travel medical assistance wing – WTP (World Travel Protection). “I believe providing such expert care and assurance for travellers while away from home, beyond basic travel insurance benefits, can surely turn the table for the insurance market in India.”
FY 2017-18 was significant for TrawellTag Cover-More as it witnessed a growth of 16 per cent in the business of overseas travel assistance and insurance. TrawellTag Cover-More has a client base of 11,000 including tour operators, TMCs, OTAs and airlines in India.
“Almost 61 per cent of our revenue is derived from retail channels catering to a huge chunk of leisure travellers. The revenue earned from the corporate channel is close to 12 per cent and has consistently grown over the years. We also forayed into e-commerce and have earned 27 per cent revenue from this sector,” informs Karvat.
As a group, Karvat says they receive over 8,70,000 calls for the various assistance services including medical emergencies. “We’ve supported more than 62,000 travellers annually during travel emergencies such as medical evacuations and each year, nearly 500 repatriation cases are handled,” he adds.
The company boasts of dedicated doctors and nurses present across 21 countries. It has a dedicated in-house claims assistance team which liaises with underwriters and annually provides assistance to around 3500 travellers.
Awareness about travel insurance among leisure travellers still leaves room for improvement. “Our Travel Agent’s Engagement Programme (TAEP), launched in 2013 is conducted across Indian cities and is a great learning platform for travel agents. We have been on a mission to elevate travel insurance and assistance to a ‘must-have’ instead of just another obligation to avail a visa,” says Karvat.
With the advent of the digital revolution, customer requirements lean more towards real-time assistance. Hence TrawellTag Cover-More is focussing on developing a one-stop access app. “We typically earmark anywhere between 10 and 12 per cent of our EBITDA for technology investments, especially in data analytics and consumer trend analysis, given that this is the age of the ‘Digital Consumer’,” Karvat signs off.