COO Manu Lavanya On Max Life Insurance’s Digital Journey

An alumnus of Indian School of Business and IIT Kanpur, Manu Lavanya is the Director and Chief Operations Officer at Max Life Insurance. He comes with almost 25 years of experience in creating, transforming and scaling businesses across industries. 

Before Max Life Insurance, he was the Global Chief Operating Officer at Incedo. He has also served as the Managing Director of Silicon Valley-based digital services and consulting firm Brillio; Head Markets (IT Infrastructure Services) at Cognizant Technologies Solutions; and worked with ITC Limited. 

At Max Life Insurance, Manu drives the operations value chain, leads the digital transformation agenda and strengthens the quality culture, helping the company deliver seamless customer experiences. He is responsible for providing leadership to operations, underwriting and claims, digital transformation and information technology, quality, innovation and service excellence functions at the insurance company. 

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In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, Manu traced the tech journey of Max Life Insurance and explained the operation of Max Life’s ‘AI Works’ team. 


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AIM: Take us through Max Life Insurance’s digital journey.

Manu Lavanya: The digital journey of Max Life Insurance happened in various phases. Right from inception till around 2010, the focus was on putting on the enterprise foundations for digital. The production systems, policy administration systems and CRM systems were on-boarded till about 2010. 

Until 2015-16, it was a journey of building a system of experiences: the front-end systems, expanding the CRM, and driving customer interactions. That journey accelerated significantly after 2016-17. Today, we are the largest private online seller of protection business. 

Since 2016-17, Max Life Insurance has focused on building world-class customer onboarding journeys for our B2C business. 

From 2018 onwards, the focus started shifting towards building the underlying data infrastructure, cloud, scalable and responsive adaptive infrastructure that genuinely enabled us to launch the next level of differentiation to embed digital into our business processes. 

Over the last 18 to 24 months, Max Life Insurance has invested over a three-year transformation roadmap. The firm has put together to drive cloud, data infrastructure, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and DevOps, to leverage the foundation to become a playground for implementing all the tools in analytics. The company is working on five pillars: 

  • Intelligent prospective 
  • Automation of Customer Onboarding
  • Customer Servicing 
  • Sales management and sales enablement 
  • Making the enterprise more digital

With digital transformation, Max Life Insurance has cut down onboarding time from 22-hours to 10-minutes. The goal is to do it in six minutes. 

We had less than 10 percent of our portfolio that used to get issued in 30-minutes. Now that number is up to about 45 percent. The number of workloads we self-service has increased almost 400 percent over the last three years. Nearly 76-77 percent of all our business transactions are self-serviced today. The goal is to take it to 90 percent in the next two years. 

AIM: How did pandemic impact Max Life Insurance? 

Manu Lavanya: Our total NOPs (Number of Policies) sold on B2C platforms, that is, the online business itself, increased from 12 to 16 percent this year. Self-service numbers have increased from 43-45 percent to about 73 to 74 percent in the last two years. Post pandemic, business onboarding has become 100 percent digital. This means all policies go through our digital onboarding platform, mPRO. 

In the first four months of the COVID-19 led lockdown, 100 percent of our business was acquired by digital interactions. Having said that, insurance selling is a trust-based model. In India, primarily, a large amount of trust is vested upon the seller. Therefore, I do not foresee that the process of buying insurance ever going completely digital. It will always be a phygital model (a part of the process is executed on a digital platform with some human intervention). 

AIM: Give us a sneak peek into Max Life Insurance’s AI Works team

Manu Lavanya: The AI Works team was formed in 2011 and consists of data engineers, data scientists, ETL Engineers, and data modellers. The team does a wide variety of analytics. We have integrated analytics across three pillars: 

  • New business onboarding
  • Purchase and issuance of insurance 
  • Servicing and retention of customers 

Across these three pillars, we use machine learning, deep learning, Speech AI, Vision AI, Computer Vision, OCR, Conversational AI, NLP and BOTs. 

AIM: Tell us about the intelligent chatbot MILI and how it has made processes more efficient at Max Life Insurance? 

Manu Lavanya: It is the brainchild of the AI Works team. It automates incoming query management. 

When we started the journey, the intent prediction with MILI was as low as 10 percent. So 10 percent of the time, the bot would be able to narrow down on the problem that it was required to solve. Today, the bot solves almost 90 percent of our servicing transactions. If there is a specific nuance or a twist, the bot connects the user to an agent. 

The intent prediction has doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent over the last year for email bots. 

AIM: What technologies power Max Life Insurance?

Manu Lavanya: We have made significant investments in the cloud journey leveraging Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. We use the following technologies: 

  • MEAN stack
  • React JS  
  • Pyspark 
  • TensorFlow 
  • Dialogflow 
  • Docker

AIM: What’s next for Max Life Insurance? 

Manu Lavanya: We have just completed one year of our three-year digital transformation programme. Our biggest priorities are:

  • Building a scalable data infrastructure so that the company can become as intelligent and pervasive as possible
  • Revamping some of our core enterprise systems — especially our HRI and investment management systems
  • Make Max Life Insurance an intelligent enterprise — revamp the experiences for all our stakeholders 
  • Transformation of digital culture in the organisation 

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