‘ekincare’- A Pioneer, making India Inc. healthy

Ekincare | Dr. Noel Coutinho | Co-founder & Chief Business Officer
Ekincare | Dr. Noel Coutinho | Co-founder & Chief Business Officer

Healthy employees make their company healthy. Mandatory Group Insurances is just one facet of the entire Employee Healthcare Ecosystem, which was broken and disparate earlier.

Then came ekincare. And starting from a medical records platform, soon it became the B2B only provider in the corporate health benefits and group insurance area.

Today with products like Care Link – India’s largest cashless OPD network, Data Sense – Leveraging AI in real-time health analytics and solutions for Enterprise, Start-ups, Insurers and Brokers, and services from online Health Checks, e-pharmacy, gyms and fitness centres, mental health, to telemedicine, the company has grown into the only one on a mission to make India Inc. healthy.

To date, ekincare has not only been associated with more than 400 companies helping more than a million of their employees, but it has also administered more than 3000 COVID-19 vaccinations, completed more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests, and serviced more than 250 organisations, including many big names in the industry during these trying times.

Let us hear more about this pioneering firm, from its Cofounder and Chief Business Officer, Dr. Noel Coutinho, in his exclusive interview with us.

Describe us about ekincare in detail.

Starting in 2015, ekincare began its journey as a medical records platform. The idea was to bring order and standardization to India’s disparate, broken healthcare ecosystem with the help of AI, deep analytics, and our patented technology.

However, we soon identified a more challenging problem in the corporate health benefits and group insurance space, thus pivoting to become a B2B-only provider, and never looked back. With services like telemedicine, pharmacy, mental health, and fitness, we made the natural progression to become India’s most advanced enterprise-ready health benefits platform.

What made you venture into the Insurance Tech Sector?

I have been a part of the insurance sector since 2001. The insurance sector, especially in India, needs to address various market requirements differently. This is true not only for the product but also for the service aspect of insurance. Nearly a decade ago, at an actuarial conference, I had emphasised this while speaking on innovation in health insurance. Distribution, access, and fulfilment are crucial to insurance as much as the risk carrying product itself, if not more. The only way to personalize and scale every key aspect is by the use of tech. Having identified the gaps and problem statements through years of experience, the only way to give back to the industry was to take the plunge from being traditional and mainstream in approach to doing something definingly different by leveraging tech to do the heavy-lifting for insurance.

What kind of offerings do you provide to your clients?

In the pursuit of being the one stop solution for our clients, we offer a range of services such as Vaccinations, Annual Health Checks (AHCs), e-Pharmacy services, Telemedicine services, including 24×7 access to doctors, among others.

What kind of challenges have you faced while entering the Insurance Tech Sector?

First, insurers are good at understanding and carrying risk, but they are definitely not good at building and innovating on tech, and rightly so. Hence, it is important for insurers to focus on what they do best and leave the building of tech to those who specialize in it. It is obviously about time, money, and effort, i.e., the resources one can dedicate to their specialized and non-specialized areas of business and manage it on an ongoing basis to keep it up-to-date. A half-baked poorly maintained solution is worse than not having one!

Secondly, tech opens boundaries and is expected to break the ceiling, while insurance tends to think conservatively due to the nature of the business and risk. If that mindset enters the discussion, leveraging tech becomes a non-starter. Hence, having a thought leader champion the discussion becomes critical. A technical person will never let go of the baggage!

Lastly, insurers need to see technology as a solution that helps them differentiate and grow the business by bringing in their layer of experience, expertise, and philosophy over what the tech offers. This could be in the areas of distribution, underwriting, operations, and business philosophy. Often, insurers want to own the entire process, making it prohibitive for both the insurer and tech partner.

How was Ekincare affected in these pandemic times, and what were the steps you took to curb the damages while helping your clients and maintaining the safety of your employees?

It was a challenging time for ekincare. With such a large number of people facing health issues, it was a testing time for our teams to focus on our clients’ health and well-being needs. Even during the country-wide lockdown, employee health was the utmost priority.

Employees across all our clients were encouraged to undertake EAP sessions to improve their mental health during such a stressful time. Online doctor consultations and RT-PCR tests were made available to all users at the earliest possible time.

Once the COVID vaccines were approved and made available, vaccination drives for organizations were the priority. Now, with COVID cases going down, we have begun the “Back to Office” initiative to help HR leaders seamlessly and efficiently track their employees’ COVID-19 vaccination and infection details. This will help them follow the government’s recommendations and bring their employees back to the workplace as soon as possible.

What would you like to advise the young generation of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who want to venture into the Insurance Tech Sector?

The opportunity is great. However, we don’t need to “solve for everything” when facing a problem, but we need to solve for some part of it at a time and solve it well. It is an evolving process, and as long as one is focused on the problem areas and doesn’t get distracted, one can do a great service to the industry. I believe this is universal in application.

Where do you envision Ekincare in the long run, and what are your future goals? How do you plan to embrace the changes happening in the Insurance Tech Sector?

We want to be the best in what we do, and we are leaders in our space in India. In a relatively shorter span and with much fewer resources, we have already done what many larger organizations have failed to do to date. Kudos to the team for that. Expanding to other markets in the region and knocking doors in more mature markets is on the cards since we already have inbound interest coming from these regions.

Change is what makes it interesting and challenging. New is welcome, but our focus to make a long-term impact will remain the same. We have always preferred that over short-term gains. It has helped us set a path for ourselves.

What is the current industrial scenario of the Insurance Tech Sector?

The InsureTech sector is booming. Many startups are working on similar problem areas, and several are working on unique problem areas. The ultimate success will depend on the approach and focus of the entrepreneur and team. Distractions like getting into rabbit holes, trying to find a quick-fix solution for every scenario, and picking too many or incorrect problem statements can lead to failure. One also has to weigh what kind of a solution is being offered – is it indeed tech or a “jugaad” with just a tech façade?

Visionary Leader

Dr. Noel Coutinho has over 24+ years of experience, most of which have been in the health and life insurance space. From health management organisations to broking and reinsurance, he has been involved in product design, risk management, and services, giving him a close view of insurance, its nuances, and the impact on insurers and policyholders over the years.

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