“The corporate nine-to-five grind wasn’t for any of us,” said Shrehith Karkerawho along his Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, classmates Bhanu Harish Gurram and Pawan Kumar Rai, decided not to participate in on-campus internships. The virus of entrepreneurship had bitten all three.
For a business to succeed, it must meet a need. One of the things startups always have to do to work is solve a problem. The trio had discovered their problem statement early on by sifting through financial reports, market documents and analysis during their time at IIM.
“How would a layman understand all of this if he were to, for example, go public or buy insurance or do anything related to his engagement with the financial market or his personal finances?”
The objective of the founders is tosimplify financial reporting” for the public led to the creation of their two companies, finshotsa financial newsletter media company, and Same Insurance. Two very different startups in two opposite sectors but with a common goal at the heart.
The second venture Ditto Insurance was a “natural extension” of Finshots, with the “content community commerce model” in play. The founders managed to build a large community of readers through their content activity first and finally has built an insurance consulting and trading platform.
Launched in 2019, Finshots has gained a solid footing in the market while the relatively new venture, Ditto, is getting off to a solid start. Zerodha’s entry as an investor-mentor is significant here, as it helped the founders get a clearer view of their business models.
Making financial reporting “simple”
“We started by simplifying the stock market for millennials. Pawan was already working on a similar project and we finally joined him to explore our synergies together. The idea was to bridging the knowledge gap for people who are excited about the actions but do not know the nuances intimately. We set out to solve this problem with solid content that can help people better understand the complexities,” says Shrehith when talking about the incorporation of Finception (the brand name) or Finshots (the name of the popular 3-minute newsletter) in 2018.
Six months later, the founding trio was joined by Bhanu’s brother, Lokesh Gurramas the fourth co-founder.
For the first 12 months, the startup focused on publishing content around stocks. Initially limited to one article per week, they managed to squeeze a 30-40 page copy of a highly technical topic or an elaborate review into a 12 minute read to help people get the gist of the business or of a financial service/product.
“We never managed to grow because we were only able to publish one story a week.” The year 2019 marked a turnaround phase for the startup with the entry of Zerodha.
Interestingly, one of Finshots’ videos of Jet Airways’ business journey had caught the eye of the founder and CEO of Zerodha, Nithine Kamathwho invited the co-founders over for a chat.
“They (Zerodha) liked our content and we were asked to speak to Nithin. We were obviously more than happy to have this conversation. He thought a lot more could be done with our humble idea,” Shrehith says.
Zerodha invested around Rs 4 crore in a seed tower. After entering, the team began to outline Finshots’ appearance and growth. The content, expanded to daily financial news, explains the companies’ interesting business models, business journeys, acquisitions as well as other financial developments around the world. Some of the interesting reads include – Why did Amazon buy MGM studios, Zomato and the economic problem of unity, What is LIC doing with its money, Citibank’s $900 million blunder, etc.
Without any marketing spend, Finshots has around 5,00,000 subscribers and has published over 400 reads.
From Content to Commerce, Media to Insurance: Unleashing the Possibilities
Content was not the ultimate offering for founders, but rather the core around which different business models could evolve. The end goal, however, remains the same – simplify finance for the masses. Moreover, the startup had not yet channeled its monetization flows.
However, starting with “content” certainly helped them test the waters and better understand what resonates with the masses and the next big step was to plug in commerce.
In one of his blogs, Nithin Kamath writes, “I can’t think how many people have approached us asking for help on the investment front. The only thing we could do to help was suggest a few mutual funds, understand their needs and priorities, and help them get their finances in order. We even hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) asking our subscribers to write to us if they had any personal finance questions. And of the 2,000 people who saw the message, 600 people wrote to us asking for help. And that’s when we thought we had to do something about it.
After eight months of research, Ditto Insurance was officially launched in February 2021.
The founders correlate their journey with the Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s Adventure goopwhich started as a weekly email newsletter providing new age advice and eventually expanded into e-commerce, launched pop-ups, podcasts, print magazines, wellness, cosmetics, and more. .
“We wanted to see if we could do something in finance similar to what Paltrow did in fashion and lifestyle and how she built an empire from just a newsletter. It was meant to be a long-term game where we first build an active community who we educate on financial news, make sure the content pipeline is sorted, and then we build more by helping them take better financial decisions through our financial products,” says Bhanu.
Why insurance? Of all financial products, insurance is the most complicated. Therefore, our motto of simplification would bode well for the insurance industry, he adds.
What exactly does Dito do?
Right now, the insurance market is full of fintech players in the industry selling insurance. Idem clearly does not fit into this category.
We are a high-end consulting service, explains Bhanu. If someone is looking to buy health or temporary insuranceContinuation of Idem of 30 counselors trained will hold them effectively throughout the process.
They understand buyers’ needs and priorities and recommend 2-3 policies tailored to individual needs, make sure they understand what they’re getting into, simplify technical details laid out in policy documents, and overall , what the product actually offers, in the easiest way. They help with the buying process like filling out forms, making disclosures as well as post-purchase services in case the buyer needs to make a claim.
The startup earns money (commission) in case the buyer decides to purchase the insurance through the platform. On the distribution side, although Ditto does exactly what other platforms such as PolicyBazaar do, its core offering and focus remains advisory, which is free.
In such a scenario, it is important for the platform to optimize conversions and ensure that its lead funnel is sorted as it handles a limited number of calls/customers. Interestingly, 70% of people who purchased insurance from Ditto came through Finshots.
“Our major USP (unique selling point) is that we don’t spam people or make cold calls. We treat them with dignity and respect. You can buy directly from the insurance company or through Ditto “Again, no pressure! We’re building something for the long haul and not pushing sub-optimal products for commissions,” says Bhanu.
another major differentiator according to the founders, it’s the experienced advisors as opposed to the “agents” who are mostly trained for about a week and have limited engagement with clients through a script. “You ask them anything outside of the script, they won’t have a clue.”
Not influenced by commissions
Being driven by commissions and cross-selling products doesn’t quite align with Ditto’s philosophies, the founders point out.
“It’s a short-term game. We can sell a bad product on our platform but that wouldn’t get us too far. Eventually, the customer will know that he has been cheated. This does not go with our motto. We put users first and recommend plans that are actually good for them, not products that are good for us. »
Ditto has grown its team from 10 to 70 in the past 11 months and hopes to grow to a company of over 250 people in the near future.
Although still at an early stage, the founders claim that the number of conversions is currently quite high. It has partnered with nine insurance companies. (health, general and term/life).
“We are looking to increase our workforce and will certainly benefit from the Zerodha partnership. Right now the focus is on operational efficiency and customer experience,” says Shrehith.
Going forward, the Founders would continue to explore ‘content community commerce model’ through other financial products, once they manage to establish their competence in the insurance sector. That said, they don’t plan to do anything outside of insurance for the next 2-3 years and want to continue to focus on building Ditto while Finshots “runs on autopilot” .
According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the future looks bright for the insurance industry with several changes in the regulatory framework that will lead to further changes in the way the industry conducts business and engages with its customers. The online insurance market in India is expected to reach a value of around Rs 220 billion by 2024, according to consultancy firm Mordor Intelligence.
The founders in one of their blog posts say:
The most fascinating part of this whole endeavor?
The fact that for the very first time, a newsletter media company would become a full-fledged insurance company.