Interview with Harprem Doowa
Co-Founder & MD @ is part of EdirectInsure Group, which operates leading online insurance platforms in Asia, offering online motor insurance to consumers in a way that is Fast, Simple and Yours. was born in 2016, with the aim of changing how Thai consumers buy their insurance. Their ambition is to be the best insurer as measured by their customers and employees.
Hello Harprem! Could you please introduce your work with and what led to your co-founding the company back in 2016?
Hey guys! My name is Prem and I'm the co-founder and M.D. of I founded this company in 2016 after I left my previous company which is an e-commerce company. So, I've always been an online kind of guy and, I've always wanted to grow and sell products online. What happened was, I realized with e-commerce, essentially, you needed more money to keep growing and, it would just be an endless game of fishing around for vcs after, vcs after vcs, raising, you know, dollars just to essentially, burn it on marketing and logistics, warehousing and, buying more and more inventory. And, there a lot of people in that game already, you know. You have AliBaba, you got Amazon now in Thailand, you got Lazard, you got a few other companies. They're all fighting for this space. I realized, you know, I need to move away from this space, where the competition is really high and my competitive skill set is not that competitive, to be very frank. So, we decide to go a complete different way. So, I found a new group of investors to start Frank with and, we decided to go into a category that did not require any physical goods so, I don't have to worry about, you know, logistics and, not to worry about warehousing, I don't have to worry about a lot of the things that e-commerce companies normally do. But, at the same time, I get to sell product online. And, in this case, is that your product with higher renewals. It's also an industry that's not been touched for a while. If you look at the types of people that have been in this industry, generally, it's actually been, you know, very stagnant for the past 50, 60 years, barely anyone has come into the insurer tax base. But, I found it, you know, a quite interesting market to enter. So, that's why we started Frank.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from your time with the prior companies you founded? What did these experiences teach you about your own work style and preferences?
So, some of the biggest lessons I learned from my previous company that's, you know, that I co-found it, was annoying what hill to die on like, they're always going to be battles that you have to fight. And, not all battles are consumer, you know, getting the consumer or trying to find customers to buy your products. Some battles are internal, some battles are political, some battles are with your investors, you always need to know which battles to, you know, to fight. You can't fight all of them, because as a M.D., as a co-founder, you're constantly putting off fires, you constantly looking for ways to grow the company and, if you keep putting out, if you keep battling with everyone, what's going to end up happening is, you're going to drain yourself and, you're not going to get anywhere. So, picking which hill to die on, essentially, picking that battle that you really, firmly believe that it's going to help the company grow or, help you survive or, help the company survive, help your employees or, whatever it is you're trying to achieve. If you pick the right one to fight, that's the one who's supposed to go for and, that's when you put everything out to get. And, that's one that matters the most, everything else, if you lose, it's like, you know, you lose a battle but at the end of the day you win the war. And, these experiences, honestly, they taught me about, my own working style as well, because, I realized that, because of this, I can't micromanage people. I can't start looking at the small details all the time, I have to start really, really looking at the big picture and, that's helped me quite a bit, has helped me step away from the operational role that, initially, I took in the company. And, I started fanning that out to more staff and, letting other people handling the day to day operations and, yeah, a lot of the time and, it looks like I'm not really working because, I'm just sitting there quietly at my desk, looking and staring out but, it's actually me thinking and, believe or not, that's actually one of the most valuable things an M.D. or a co-founder can do. Because, you're thinking of opportunities and, thinking of new leaps and steps that the companies can take. Everyone else within the company can keep maintaining it and keep, you know, growing in a few percent points but, everything you're thinking off is going to grow it in multiples and xs.
What are some of the biggest pitfalls of the current insurance ecosystem in SE Asia? How rapidly is this market changing?
So, regarding the insurance industry in Thailand as a whole, I mean, when I first started in 2016, insurer tech was a word rarely used by startups in Thailand, it was fairly new at that time. But, I knew it was going to be big because, I mean, think about it, every industry in the U.S. or, in other developed countries happened the same way. So, I knew it was going to come to Thailand but, it was still very, very slow. Insurance companies had a lot of money. They were making a lot of money from the way they were originally doing their business, they didn't want to touch their current business model. And, it is rapidly changing now because, they are starting to realize that, you know, insurance can be sexy, selling insurance online it's a possible thing to do. Initially, everyone's just selling through agents and brokers and, you know, it's still 99 percent of the working, 99 percent the market still sells insurance to agents and brokers and, that's fine. But, the way I see it is that, eventually, if you don't step, you know, if you don't swim ahead of the wave, you're not going to catch the wave. If you're, you know, you have to be ahead of the wave. So, we don't want to be too late knowing that this is going to be the market in the future. People are going to be transacting online more, people are going to be buying these services online more. I rather start now.
What role does play in the overarching landscape of insurance and how the public accesses insurance?
So, behind me you can see, here is where the magic actually happens. This is where our call center usually sits, is pretty late at night. Everyone's sleeping right now. So, they've all gone back. I'm still at work but, you know what? This is what it takes to make the magic happen and, what we've done so far, in the industry, is not just wake up other people in the insurance industry to the fact that online insurance is possible. We've also woken up, to be honest, about 20 other competitors since I've started to realize that, insurer tech is actually a huge and booming space, where not only can you make some amazing startup that actually become profitable very quickly compared to other startups but also, changed the way customers get insured like. For example, we are the only company in Thailand, at the moment, that can actually ensure a customer four or five to six different products and, get them their policy online instantly. Previously, nobody had done that before and, if you ask me, was their technology available to do that? Yes, they did. But, the insurance companies did know how to market it. The brokers weren't interested in it because they were busy buying leads and selling to their traditional call centers. But, once we started doing it and, once other competitors started seeing the effects that it started having on customers, they realized that this is actually a big space. So, right now, I can see that competitors are quick on our heels and, you know, we have to keep moving forward. We have to be that, the driver of change. We don't have a lot of marketing dollars spent so, obviously, we've not made any big campaigns or done any TV advertisement to get customers to buy products from us. But, just the way we've done things, the way we've approached it from a very e-commerce perspective, that alone, has changed the insurance industry quite a bit because, it's getting everyone else to think like us as well and, honestly, the more we think like e-commerce experts in the insurance industry, what's going to end up happening is consumers are definitely going to benefit from that.
What's next for your work with, as well as your other projects and ventures? What will be your main focus in 2019?
For 2019, I have one and only one goal and that is to expand the number of products that Frank sells. Right now we have car insurance, we have motorcycle insurance, we've got personal assets, we've got travel, we've got compulsory for car and compulsory for motorcycle. I want to expand into a whole other different category of products, I want to have pet insurance, I want to have product insurance and, I want to have it for multiple carriers on the site. Essentially, I want to be not just the marketplace where anybody can come in and buy any type of insurance they want but, I want to be the place where they can get their policies issued right away. I want the place to be where they can manage their policies, even though they're not our customers. I want to be the first place that customers think of when they can think of insurance and, to do that requires a lot more work on my part. It requires a lot more work on our part as a company but, we're going to keep working towards it and, that's our one single focus on 2019. It's to, you know, stick to what we've said always in the beginning. That Frank is to make insurance fast, simple and yours. And, if we can't do it fast, if we can't do it simply and, we can't make it customizable to what the customers want, we're not going to do it. So, we're going to stick to our vision and, we're going to keep driving towards it.