The Five Ingredients of the BIMA Magic
One thing the majority of us have in common is our cell phones, our lifelines – that’s what binds us. A phone is a powerful tool as an equalizing measure. What if you could protect yourself against life’s biggest health risks through your phone in every corner of the world? That is exactly what BIMA does.
BIMA is fuelling inclusion through a mobile platform offering life and health insurance, in some countries integrated with telehealth services, to lower to mid-income, financially underserved people in nine countries across Africa and Asia. Within a few minutes of registration, through a minimal number of simple questions, customers can insure their families – providing them access to their healthcare needs – with easy paperless claiming and pay-out within a few days. You don’t even need a smartphone for this. BIMA customers can also get access to tele consults with qualified doctors, personal health records, discounted medicines, lab tests, and hospitalization cash cover through their phones. They can pay through prepaid airtime, post-paid monthly bills or through their mobile money wallet. This way, BIMA is reaching millions of people, including many first-time insurance buyers in their life.
Here are the five unique lessons we can learn from BIMA and why BIMA is such a successful innovative model.
I. DAILY LIFE IS THE PLAYGROUND
BIMA offers the services at the doorsteps of people with low(er) income, through their phones, adapted to the families’ needs, in their own language, addressing all their questions through a hands-on call centre service and a physical network of on-the-ground agents. This is what BIMA calls the key factor to its success, the “human touch.” BIMA has built a network of 3,000 sales agents, as well as doctors, that are out there in the communities to offer “education and build trust around our product,” according to Gustaf Agartson, founder of BIMA. Their clients can pick up the phone or visit a nearby office to get support. BIMA is out there, in their clients’ daily lives. “We have discovered that it works best for sales agents to educate customers about the products, so they understand what they’re buying.” Calls from the agents and perhaps a visit to the office is what helps to build trust. BIMA’s agents support thousands of people a day with registration and questions about the products.
II. PEOPLE AT THE HEART
All BIMA’s services are designed to support the customers in the different life phases. Life insurance when you get married; a text message service with health information when you become pregnant; an option for hospital insurance when you fall ill. BIMA is encouraging customer engagement to become a trusted partner in their life. Making it easy and simple for the customer is core to BIMA’s business. According to Gustaf, from the start, they were aiming to design a product portfolio that is useful for their users, lower income-people. They were not going to limit their product portfolio to what is technically or legally defined as insurance. They always look at it from the customer’s perspective. “What we learned from the feedback from customers was that they wanted access to doctors. We could provide it through an insurance policy and cover it. But what we discovered was that a cheaper way of doing it, and a way that is more convenient for the customers, was to say, ‘You buy insurance from us and you’ll get unlimited access to a doctor on a phone.’ And then we bundled these two products,” according to Gustaf.
And you know what? It turns out that staying healthy is way cheaper than (paying for) curing people. When you bundle health insurance with preventive care through the phone, it appeared not just to be a “cheaper way of providing access to doctors for the customers. It was also creating an opportunity for us to offer a more engaging product portfolio,” according to Gustaf.
III. LINKING ALL PLAYERS – COVERING THE CHAIN – HIGH ON COLLABORATION
According to the latest Micro Insurance Network Landscape research, by far the largest distribution channel for microinsurance are microfinance institutions. BIMA has built its own unique network of sales agents. On top of that, they have built their model in close collaboration with a substantial number of strategic partnerships – both insurers as well as mobile network providers.
So, BIMA is linking all players, of the whole ecosystem, in a highly networked organization model, through partnerships with mobile network operators, insurers. Linking it with their extensive network of sales agents and doctors. BIMA recognizes that insurances fall outside of mobile telephone operators’ core business and strategized to bring all insurances and mobile health services through these mobile networks. In partnership with insurers, BIMA manages everything from product design to distribution and sales. BIMA provides the technological platform to run the insurance service all the way from awareness raising and education, to sales, up to claims administration and payment. In addition to that, partnering with doctors too, and offering mobile health services as well. BIMA bundles their offering, health services and insurances on the phone. In such a way, BIMA bundles its service and offers it in the daily lives of its clients. BIMA has built a last-mile infrastructure by differently tying together these partners. Playing the role of value chain coordinator, creating a win-win-win for all partners. Mobile network operators are able to add value with financial services, insurers are able to enter new markets, and customers get access to products previously not available to them.
IV. PRICES PEOPLE CAN AFFORD
Through these collaborations, BIMA is re-engineering the services back to the needs of their customers, while keeping the prices affordable. “Some people think there’s a cultural reason why these people don’t get insurance but it’s really because people haven’t been able to profitably offer insurance to the mass market,” according to BIMA’s Deputy CEO Mathilda Strom. She adds: “The reason we can do this profitably is the physical network …. The most important thing is distribution.”
Educating first-time buyers, selling and distributing to them, collecting premiums on a recurring basis, all of that is key to offering insurance. The challenge is, to do all of that affordably. “We solved this through going into partnerships”, according to Gustaf. In partnerships, BIMA develops new services, enters into new markets, and builds and strengthens local promotion networks. This collaborative approach is what enables them to keep the price affordable. Due to their redesign of service, and the fact that they integrated parts of the value chains -working with mobile phone network operators-, they spread cost differently across the value chains. And jointly they become more efficient than each one of them alone could have been. This is the magic mix that enables BIMA to keep its services affordable while speaking to the customer’s needs.
V. COLLECTIVE EFFORTS
Five years ago, BIMA got its very first telemedicine license attributed by the Health Facility Regulatory Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in Ghana. BIMA’s licensed mobile health service was a big step in recognizing the importance of bringing prevention into the mix with insurance. BIMA doctor subscribers can make unlimited calls to a medical practitioner to seek advice and medical consultations over the phone, before their condition gets worse, for a small monthly fee. The mobile health service is also offering discounts for medicines and tests at laboratories, it offers home medicine delivery too, and through the BIMA platform apps, wellness tips and inexpensive medical tests are accessible. This sweet spot – offering (bundled) services to stay healthy – including insurance but not limited to the ‘traditional notion of insurance’– is where the system change kicks in.
It’s now a matter of a joint collective effort to make this the new normal.
The pearl in the oyster are the 3 C’s: people are CORE, the most inclusive models are COLLABORATIVE, and the system changes through a COLLECTIVE new notion of insurances: bundled services to grow our wellbeing.
BIMA was launched in 2010 in Ghana, by co-founders Gustaf Agartson, Mathilda Strom and Oscar Westergard. They had the vision to disrupt the traditional insurance industry by bringing affordable insurance to underserved customers. Leveraging on this experience, BIMA expanded rapidly to provide families with all-in-one health solutions. BIMA’s purpose is to provide 100 million people who can’t get specialist care, and who don’t have insurance, with affordable access to high-quality healthcare by 2026. BIMA now operates with proven business models in 10 markets across Asia and Africa. They have generated 74 million positive health interventions via their consumer health programmes in 2021. 75% of their subscribers are first-time buyers. With subscriptions starting from US$1 per month, they have helped 10 million people access affordable health solutions.
Curious about Erlijn’s view on how to reach Financial Inclusion? Erlijn will take the stage at ITC DIA Europe 2023 in Barcelona, 28-29 June! Financial Inclusion poster childs BIMA and Asistensi will also be on stage.