Article: Talent is overrated, I prioritise intent: Policybazaar’s Co-founder Yashish Dahiya


Talent is overrated, I prioritise intent: Policybazaar’s Co-founder Yashish Dahiya

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Yashish Dahiya, Chairman & CEO, PB Fintech speaks about the challenges and opportunities that the insurance market faces.
Talent is overrated, I prioritise intent: Policybazaar’s Co-founder Yashish Dahiya

The adoption of traditional insurance products in India remains relatively low. According to data from PwC, the penetration of the life insurance market alone stands at a mere 3.2%. However, companies like Policybazaar are working to shift this paradigm by democratising access to insurance products. Through their efforts, millions of individuals gain the ability to safeguard themselves and their families against unexpected risks.

By pioneering a user-friendly platform, Policybazaar is recognised for championing transparency, choice, and convenience. With a diverse portfolio of insurance offerings spanning health, life, motor, travel etc., the company focuses on educating and empowering consumers, enabling them to make informed decisions about their insurance needs. 

To better understand the challenges and opportunities that the insurance market is faced with, People Matters’ Chief Business Officer Pushkar Bidwai spoke to Yashish Dahiya, Chairman & CEO, PB Fintech Ltd.  

The individual vs corporate insurance debate 

Each year, corporations invest millions of dollars in insurance policies. Do you think this ecosystem warrants further development?

In today's environment, the reliability of job security is becoming uncertain, presenting growing challenges. In such an environment, corporate insurance coverage may not suffice. I've seen cases where individuals nearing retirement age suddenly find themselves without adequate insurance coverage, leaving them vulnerable to a lot of financial hardship. 

That is why I believe relying solely on corporate policies for insurance can be risky, as they may not provide sufficient coverage in the long term. Therefore, my vision for the future emphasises the importance of early and proactive insurance planning. It's crucial to secure insurance coverage while you're still insurable, as once pre-existing conditions develop, obtaining coverage becomes more challenging. 

Now, the priority of a corporate insurance plan is to provide employees with a certain level of reassurance while they are employed. But let's face the reality of the situation – in my estimation, the window of employment post-diagnosis is limited. So, what value does a health policy hold in such cases? This is the dilemma. 

Keeping that in mind, should organisations not focus on strengthening their corporate insurance policies? 

No, I don't have a problem with corporate insurance coverage at all. However, the misconception lies in solely depending on it, particularly in India, where a significant portion of employment originates from SMEs.

Unlike in the US or Europe, where corporate employment dominates, here, 80% of employment is through SMEs. It's crucial to recognise that insurance is a necessary cost for the next 30 years. When people fail to understand this, they end up facing a lot of difficulties in the long run. For instance, consider the UK Government, which spends a significant amount per person on healthcare. Quality healthcare requires quality insurance coverage. 

Relying solely on corporate policies can be problematic and may leave individuals stranded when they face critical health challenges. 

Top takeaways 

  • Importance of proactive, comprehensive insurance planning: Dahiya underscores the need for individuals to secure insurance coverage while they are still insurable to mitigate the risk of facing financial hardships later. 
  • Need for diversification and understanding insurance limitations: Relying solely on corporate insurance plans in the long-term could come with serious financial risks. 

Creating comprehensive solutions for the insurance market

How does it feel to have built something as big as Policybazaar? What was your vision when you had just started?

Building something as significant as Policybazaar has been incredibly rewarding. Our vision was straightforward: to address the lack of financial security and recourse for India's middle class. 

We recognised that traditional social security systems like those in France, Germany, or the UK were not feasible for India due to their extensive scope and cost. With the decline of the joint family system, there was a gap that needed to be filled. 

Our goal was to provide a comprehensive solution covering education, pensions, healthcare, and housing. Despite the challenges, we were driven by the belief that every household deserves security. It has been gratifying to see Policybazaar grow, employing 17,000 individuals who share our commitment to empowering people. These employees, many of whom are young and aspirational, contribute to building a better future for India. 

We take pride in being an Indian company that serves our nation and is now expanding globally, including in the UAE. Overall, it's a proud moment to have built something that addresses a fundamental need and positively impacts thousands of lives.

Leadership style and advice to young entrepreneurs

How has your leadership style evolved over the years?

My leadership style revolves around delegation and empowerment. I firmly believe in handing over responsibilities to capable individuals fostering scalability within the organisation. From the outset, I've embraced the idea that excessive control leads to a lack of control. 

By empowering CEOs of different business units to take charge, rather than seeking control myself, we achieve greater effectiveness. For aspiring young entrepreneurs, I'd advise focusing on delegation, empowerment, and fostering a culture of trust and autonomy within their teams.

What is your advice to young entrepreneurs who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey?

I would say discover a problem that ignites your passion and purpose and invest your energy into solving it wholeheartedly. Of course, discipline, the right attitude, and self-belief are also essential. Another thing I would say is focusing on your own vision and goals, rather than being overly concerned about investors or external expectations. Maintaining clarity of thought is key.

Apart from insurance, which other sector has fascinated you?

Besides insurance, the healthcare and education sectors have piqued my interest, but never to the same extent. However, insurance remains unparalleled in its complexity and intrigue. Over my 16 years in the industry, I've observed that insurance is often misunderstood, with many aspects remaining elusive even to seasoned professionals. 

For instance, while healthcare and education have fixed manpower requirements, insurance operates on a different paradigm - manpower needs to grow alongside expanding business demands. This nuanced understanding underscores the depth and longevity of the insurance sector, making it a particularly fascinating domain to explore.

Top takeaways 

  • On delegation and empowerment: Dahiya believes excessive control hampers effectiveness and instead empowers CEOs of different business units to take charge. 
  • Staying true to one's entrepreneurial journey: Young entrepreneurs should prioritise their own vision and goals 1st over external expectations, including investor concerns. 

Focusing on talent and facilitating learning for a large workforce 

Organisations are increasingly focused on crafting a talented, disruption-proof workforce. How are you focusing on nurturing the right talent?

Let me say this: Talent isn't my primary focus, rather, I prioritise intent. When someone's intent is aligned with the right values, talent naturally develops. Selling insurance doesn't solely require technical talent, it requires individuals who prioritise the consumer and the company over themselves. Without this fundamental ability, individuals may resort to manipulating the system. Therefore, I believe talent is overrated, while attitude is undervalued. The most valuable qualities I seek in employees are patience and trust, which don't necessarily rely on talent. 

Given the emphasis on talent, it's imperative to establish learning frameworks that facilitate ongoing skill development. How would you characterize the learning culture at Policybazaar?

That is exactly why I believe attitude is key – because learning hinges on one's mindset. Consider how children learn: they absorb knowledge because they understand they have much to learn. Conversely, when you believe you know everything, learning becomes challenging. 

At Policybazaar, we prioritise learning for our 17,000 employees based on attitude. Our training approach emphasises fundamental understanding rather than specific tools. We value curiosity in our management teams, ensuring they critically assess proposed ideas and solutions. 

We focus on the team leaders who oversee the workforce and invest significant resources in training them, as they play a crucial role in integrating learning initiatives. 

Leveraging various AI tools, we ensure continuous learning through daily briefings and incremental skill-building activities. Cultivating a culture where the leader serves the team fosters a cohesive and supportive environment. 

Top takeaways 

  • Focus on intent over talent: Talent is overrated, while attitude, patience, and trust are undervalued qualities that are crucial for success.
  • Learning culture based on attitude: Policybazaar invests resources in training team leaders, who play a crucial role in integrating learning initiatives throughout the organisation. 

The future and India’s growth trajectory

What will the coming decade bring for Policybazaar? 

We never plan beyond three years. Operationally, it's impractical to do so because the world is constantly changing. Strategic planning, however, extends beyond three years. For example, I can envision that we will hire and train more people over the next three years. But, it's like knowing how to swim – once you're confident, you don't need to keep measuring the water's depth. 

Also, while we do anticipate having more manpower, eventually, as our products become simpler and transactions more automated, the need for manpower will plateau. This evolution mirrors the trajectory of online travel services which has transitioned from phone-based interactions to online transactions.

Beyond India, we see vast potential in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East with its billion-strong population, and eventually, Africa with its half a billion people. The opportunities are immense, and we're prepared for the journey ahead.

What is your vision for the future – of work and Policybazaar? Will it be focused only on B2C or will B2B have a role to play as well?

I fundamentally distrust large organisations. Over time, the concept of what constitutes an organisation has evolved. Traditionally, it's been about individuals collaborating within a physical office space due to the lower cost compared to external collaboration. However, the cost of external collaboration is decreasing rapidly, challenging the necessity of large organisations.

I foresee a future where there will be fewer large organisations and more small enterprises. The workforce itself will also change, with not everyone being traditional employees and many opting for gig work or freelance arrangements.

In this part of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia and India, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) dominate, contrasting with other corporate-heavy landscapes. With the emphasis on small businesses, there will be a move towards individual policies rather than rigid corporate ones.

What are your thoughts on the forecasts that suggest a significant boom in India's market over the next two decades?

I believe it's a remarkable opportunity for investors, both domestic and international, to focus on India. I feel India is home to some of the brightest minds in the region, including Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and considering the diverse challenges and unique demands present in such a vast demographic landscape, solutions originating from India possess the potential to address not only local needs but also those in regions like China, Europe, and the US. I see immense potential for India to emerge as a hub of innovation and a provider of adaptable solutions for the global market in the coming years. 

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Topics: Leadership, C-Suite

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