Updated on: Thursday, July 29, 2021, 11:22 PM IST

Health insurance is ‘financial vaccination’: Sapna Desai says in conversation with BrandSutra

Sapna Desai, head marketing and online sales, ManipalCigna Health Insurance, talks about her commitment to champion affordable and simple health insurance products, service and communication to meet the specific needs of consumer segments.

How did Brand ManipalCigna fare over the last year? How are you coping with the challenges posed by the pandemic situation?

As a partner in illness and wellness, we navigated the COVID pandemic health crisis and social unrest by staying focused on the needs of those we serve and on keeping our promises. This meant: Living our brand purpose – to improve people’s lives by delivering health, well-being and peace of mind and taking meaningful steps and robust actions throughout the year such as digitally enabled health care processes, co-payment waiver for senior citizens for COVID treatment, infectious disease tele-consulting programme, etc. Further, to help bring our brand purpose to life, we launched consumer-insight driven campaigns, such as ‘Mask zaroori hai’ and ‘Baat kijiye’ to inspire people to play an active role in supporting society's fight against the pandemic.

What did you seek to convey with ManipalCigna’s recent digital campaigns ‘Health ke saath, health insurance bhi zaroori hai’, ‘Savdhani ke health insurance zaroori hai’ and ‘Baat kijiye’? What is one message that needs to go out to the public from the health insurance sector?

Historically, health insurance has been somewhat of a push product. However, in the pandemic situation, health has claimed primary position in the hierarchy of needs, because the control we had over our health has been taken away by COVID.

Therefore, through ‘Health ke saath’ and ‘Savdhani ke health’ campaigns we wanted to communicate a message that health insurance is no longer an option but an essential ‘financial vaccination’ to take care of increasing medical expenses and protect the wealth of individuals. With the ‘Baat kijiye’ campaign, our intent is to encourage people to reach out and start checking on each other’s well-being and to stay virtually connected with their friends, family or someone needing support. In India, health insurance is still a highly under-penetrated category. As an industry, we want to amplify the message that having a comprehensive health insurance plan is a must today.

“Health insurance is no longer an option but an essential ‘financial vaccination’ to take care of increasing medical expenses and protect the wealth of individuals.”
Sapna Desai

What are the measures needed to ensure a speedy business revival and how are you going about it?

To provide reassurance and safety to our employees and to respond better and faster to customers’ needs, we have been on top of our game through continuous innovation in our product and processes, driving distribution efficiency, digital enablement, and customer service. We also used a structured approach and all actions we initiated were segregated under three pillars.

o Protect: Short term actions for immediate survival like activating and running in the BCP mode as well actions relating to cash and liquidity and most importantly employee and customers’ health and safety.

o Recover: Medium term actions for stabilizing the business such as building resilience and mental health of our employees, protecting our investment exposures, planning for any business failures of our critical vendors, rebuilding access to new customers as well as managing our claims, costs and solvency margin requirements

o Retool: Planning for a post-COVID world. These are new opportunities coming our way due to the fundamental shifts in what our customers actually want or need from us.

Further, we want to reimagine our business operations to secure growth and build high efficiencies across services. We strived to work as ‘one’ ManipalCigna. This sense of ‘oneness’ among the employees helped us to make a crucial impact in addressing emergent issues and reimagine our potential together.


What next from ManipalCigna? What are the strategies you are looking at for the upcoming quarters?

At ManipalCigna, every day we ask ourselves what more we could do to be a force for positive change, both inside and outside our company. Thus, to ensure the health and well-being of our customers and their families, we stand committed to champion affordable, predictable, and simple health insurance products and services to meet the specific needs of different customer segments. The pandemic has spotlighted the need for healthcare financing, and it has accelerated trends that are reshaping the health insurance landscape. As such, there are a number of areas that we will continue to lean into in the year ahead, through all aspects of offerings – product, service and communication, which we believe will make a difference for those we serve and for our company.

Please take us through your interesting career across diverse service sectors such as Advertising, BFSI, Telecom and Education – at Ogilvy, BPL Mobile, ING Vysya Health Insurance, the Indian School of Business - and now ManipalCigna Health Insurance. Tell us about some learnings in this journey.

I started my career in advertising. I had the unique opportunity to work with great minds, building great brands right at the beginning of my career. Here’s where my leaning towards customer insights and the love with the art of story-telling started. At BPL Mobile, I joined as a management trainee and later moved to the marketing team. I recall, it was an amazing feeling of being able to sell this new concept of mobile communication to early adopters. I worked closely with the distributors and sales teams in taking this product to market and growing the business. At ING Vysya Health Insurance and ManipalCigna Health Insurance, I joined both the organisations at start-up phase. The teams were lean and we contributed to various aspects of building these businesses. Setting up a marketing function from scratch - right from defining the brand logo, building the teams, working in rhythm together and enabling growth has been an enriching experience for me as a marketer. Working on campus at the Indian School of Business, I had a chance to both learn and contribute to this institute. I have had an opportunity to build lasting relationships in my journey and incidentally worked at most of these organisations in two different stints and roles.

I believe today marketing is a balance of art, science and maths. With precision marketing methods of personalised marketing, we have come a long way from a ‘one size fits all marketing’. Data and consumer experience give a further edge to marketers today to drive growth. Being an infinite and agile learner, willing to add value to others and adopting a ‘beginner’s mindset: curious, hungry and willing to change with new learnings has been intrinsic in my journey.

What is your leadership mantra - one motto or rule that you adhere by?

Leadership is not wielding authority; it's being authentic and adding value to others’ lives. It is all about creating an enabling environment, engaging with team members on a personal level, and helping drive business success.


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Published on: Thursday, July 29, 2021, 11:22 PM IST