Personal finance aggregator Zibika relaunches after 2 years [Interview with founder Vivek Doraiswami]

Have you seen online search forms for insurance???? The first thing that bothered me and continues to bother me is this whole call centre based chasing model that is rampant in online insurance, which means forms that can make people go crazy even before they see a quote!

One of the early evangelizer of personal finance aggregation space in India – which had shut its operation in January 2010, has made its comeback once again after 2 years hiatus. At present, Zibika is an online ebroking portal operating with an IRDA broking license allowing consumers to compare and buy and manage insurance products.

The revamped Zibika boasts of over 100+ online insurance plans providing more than a million quotes spanning across term life insurance, health insurance, travel insurance for individuals for leisure or business, family travel insurance, student travel insurance as well as property insurance. Founded in 2007 by Vivek Doraiswami as a personal finance aggregator, Zibika went offline for about 2 years due to capital issues and the founder,  Doraiswami later joined Policybazaar.

Speaking candidly about his experience as entrepreneur and stints at PolicyBazaar, Doraiswami pointed out that working with Policybazaar was an interesting experience but the model was not for him as he wanted to build and run an Internet company and not a call centre. So, after consulting and managing other ecommerce ventures for a year and half, in the beginning of 2012, Doraiswami felt the time was right to take the plunge as entrepreneur and revive Zibika. To understand more about thoughts behind relaunch of Zibika and its differentiators, we spoke to Vivek Doraiswami. Edited Excerpts:

Pi: Why relaunch Zibika and what are the major differentiations between previous and new Zibika?

VD: Have you seen online search forms for insurance???? The first thing that bothered me and continues to bother me is this whole call centre based chasing model that is rampant in online insurance, which means forms that can make people go crazy even before they see a quote! I do not say do not call consumers ever, I would like to see a world where that option is left as a genuine OPT IN process for the actual user. The challenge in building an online insurance site is tremendous from a technology perspective, somehow we were unable to adapt and develop the correct system in the earlier version (an issue that is still hard to address as one can see across the plenthora of insurance sites online today).

The key difference between Zibika earlier and now is our ability to have consumers compare and buy from a wide range of online insurance plans. We have successfully integrated our platform with the systems of many leading insurance companies in record time. On the general insurance side we have online plans in health, travel and motor from HDFC Ergo, Bajaj Allianz, Royal Sundaram, Reliance, TATA AIG, IFFCO Tokio, Max Bupa, Star Health and more players coming on board regularly. On the life insurance side we are at present only focussing on Term Insurance plans and we have again integrated with several leading Life Insurers, HDFC Life, ICICI Prudential, Bharti Axa, Aviva, etc

Pi: How do you differentiate Zibika from other insurance aggregators and sellers?

VD: I think our key differentiator is our non insistence of capturing mobile numbers and contacting users for only performing searches. That is a business decision but what really sets us apart is our technology. We can say with confidence that without a shadow of doubt, we are the fastest platform for online insurance in India. A lot of thought has been put into the design of every element of Zibika. The intention is to make the experience of buying insurance as hassle free as buying a book online or buying an airline ticket online. On any of our health, motor and travel plans you can actually experience that efficiency. Life insurance online however has a lot left to be desired and we will be hopefully getting better products for online consumers over time.

Pi: Tell us about –  current funding status, team size and future plans.
VD: Zibika is currently being funded by myself and some help from well wishers. We have adequate capital to move along and keep the site alive and scale. We currently have a team of under 10 people and we are in the process of ramping up our marketing campaigns and increasing our revenue base. We would be aiming for a Pre-Series A or Series A round of capital to make a real dent in the market in 2013. But for now, we are still in research and development mode and we want to keep our options open.

Pi: How has been the traction so far including growth projections by the end of this financial year?
VD- Over the last few months we have been growing steadily, we are scaling up to about 50,000 unique visitors in this month and will be maintaining a traffic base of about 100,000 visitors a month by the end of the year. Searches on Zibika are growing rapidly and that’s also been encouraging. Revenues are too early to speculate as we do not indulge in lead generation, the bread and butter of most startups in online insurance. But we are seeing positive traction in online sales and yes we are generating online sales for the past few months.

Also see: Online Insurance Industry in India : Past, Present and Future.

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