Sri Lanka tends to rank low in terms of insurance penetration compared to the rest of the region, with insurance premium amounting to little over 1 per cent (2019) of the country’s GDP whereas the average in other countries in the region are around 3 per cent to 4 per cent. One of the main [...]

Business Times

Mobile insurance: Enabling affordable insurance for all Sri Lankans


Sri Lanka tends to rank low in terms of insurance penetration compared to the rest of the region, with insurance premium amounting to little over 1 per cent (2019) of the country’s GDP whereas the average in other countries in the region are around 3 per cent to 4 per cent. One of the main reasons behind this is the low GDP per capita in the country (below US$4,000) which essentially means that not many Sri Lankans carry the required disposable income to protect themselves and cannot afford a level of insurance protection that they should have. Another very significant reason for the low level of penetration stems from the cost for insurance companies to reach the masses, where the premiums generated cannot sustain the selling costs of the traditional sales channels and thus a significant proportion of the population remain underserved in terms of being able to fulfil their insurance needs.

In such a scenario, one should appreciate the efforts taken by reputed corporates representing two well regulated industries which have come together to offer affordable insurance products to the masses and to the less privileged at grassroots-levels in our country. Through these insurance schemes, thousands of customers have benefited immensely at the time of bereavements, injuries or hospitalisations. If not for these products made available at a very low cost, these customers would have never obtained an insurance cover and would have never benefitted from the compensation they have received.

Role of mobile insurance

In this context, mobile insurance has enabled financial inclusion for over a decade, giving people access to affordable, transparent insurance solutions and necessary tools to better manage their financial lives. Undoubtedly, mobile has succeeded in introducing millions of people to insurance and widening their access to a diverse range of insurance products. The popularity of these solutions can be attributed to the convenience and ease of using mobile to enroll and pay for insurance, and make claims and receive claim payments. It is estimated that over 2 million customers have been served through mobile insurance which is nearly 10 per cent of the country’s population. It is also estimated that nearly Rs. 1 billion has been paid in claims and if not for the mobile insurance platform these customers would never have had the opportunity of accessing these products and benefiting from the compensation paid.

With over 30 million mobile connections by 2020, versus a population of 21 million, there is a significant market opportunity for Sri Lanka to leverage mobile to leapfrog traditional models by helping to protect the under-insured and offer a range of affordable insurance products be it from the life or general insurance segments. The traditional distribution segments of individual advisors, brokers etc cannot access this market in a meaningful manner whilst also ensuring that premiums are very small and affordable.

Taking the lead in Sri Lanka

Today, we are seeing that local insurers are realising the importance of mobile insurance and the impact it could bring for millions of low-income earners in the country. A number of insurers have  understood this significant gap and have established themselves on such a platform.

Technology has enabled simplicity and cost-effectiveness of on-boarding customers onto the platform. These customers would otherwise not have been able to access insurance solutions that were previously only distributed traditionally. Mobile insurance has disrupted the industry by eliminating a huge portion of the operational costs involved in the traditional insurance process and passing that cost-benefit directly to the customer.

When the whole world is moving towards technology-based transactions and services, this is an ideal platform through which to introduce insurance products to the masses. Promoting insurance through digitalised schemes is encouraged even in well developed markets and is fast becoming popular in developing countries and emerging markets. When the government of Sri Lanka is driving the country towards high tech and digitalised products and services, this could be considered an extremely successful and a smoothly run model operation for such projects. The vision of the President is to take development to the rural communities through various programmes such as ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ to uplift the lives of rural communities. Hence, all encouragement should be given to such schemes that offer benefits to these clients rather than hampering such efforts.

The Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (IRCSL) has adopted a very progressive outlook and supported the industry to innovate and push the boundaries of the traditional business models by providing an enabling environment for the industry. This is much appreciated. The industry has responded positively to this and we urge the authorities to continue to take further progressive steps in order to achieve a higher level of insurance penetration in Sri Lanka.

The growth of mobile communication-enabled insurance in recent years among developing countries injects a vital booster to Sri Lanka’s insurance industry. Furthermore, it seriously addresses barriers such as affordability, convenience and accessibility that people have when purchasing an insurance policy. The upsurge of mobile penetration lays a robust platform for the local industry to enable the lower-income segment to afford a wide range on insurance products.

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