Ethika: Adding Happiness Index to Your Business With Employee Insurance & Wellness Programs

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No matter how great an organisation may be, it is highly impossible to carve a growth path without a healthy ecosystem of happy employees. Employee compensation that used to be the benchmark for measurement of employee well being has truly been relegated to the back seat.

Employer concern for the overall well being of the employee trumps most other considerations today. A carefully curated employee benefit insurance program, not only ensures employees and their families are taken care of, but this sense of security fosters a culture of belonging which propels the Company towards its intended objective.

Ethika is a new-age insurance broking startup that focusses on curating such Employee Benefit programs intended toward keeping employees of their clients happy. Such programs provide innovative solutions to not just make Insurance (mediclaim) easily manageable but also provide several value-added services, that ensure holistic well being of an employee and make them feel valued by their company.

Read to know more about Ethika insurance broking, its founders, their USP, business model, marketing strategy, and the story of its starting up.

Ethika - Company Highlights

  • Startup Name-Ethika
  • Headquarters-Hyderabad
  • Industry-Insurance/ Happiness Coaching
  • Founder-Susheel Agrawal, Sarath Reddy, and Sandeep Mukka
  • Founded-2016

Ethika - About

While providing Insurance Broking Solutions for Employee Benefit Insurance to Small and Mid Size Corporates  is their core business model, they also add value to their clients by offering innovative solutions for creating happier workplaces.

Employee Benefit Insurance, their core offering, includes Group Health Insurance, Group Personal Accident Insurance, Group Term Life Insurance, Group Top up Health Insurance, and OutPatient Health Expenses Insurance.

At Ethika, they believe, an Insurance Brokers' role should not be limited to helping clients receive financial assistance when their employees fall sick, but to prevent employee sickness in the first place. One of the pivotal parameters in preventing employees from falling sick, is to make employees happy. Moreover, they do not advocate this belief in some spiritual sense;  science backs the fact that happier workplaces are more productive ones. Creating happier workplaces therefore not only results in lesser employee sickness (translated into lost man-hours) but also increased employee productivity.

They are infact so driven by their vision of creating a culture of happiness at work that they do not charge for it. Yes you read that right; they offer their service of creating happier workplaces as a free add-on to their Employee Benefit services.

Their journey as an Insurance Broker started in 2016. Today, about six years into business, while insurance remains the core of their business model, they have also diversified into servicing the Employee Value Proposition via the happiness route i.e. increasing employee engagement levels at the workplace by making the workplace happier.

Ethika - Industry

India is home to around 10 Lakh Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) - these enterprises form the coal to the engine that keeps India running, month on month, day after day. Unfortunately, when it comes to health insurance, these organizations are also the most neglected ones in the country.

Imagine the kind of impact they could create for this huge segment if they could use Group Health Insurance as one of the tools to create a happier workplace for them. Not only would the employees come to work without a thread of worry about how they would manage their expenses in case a calamity struck, but they would also be better equipped to concentrate at work, which in turn would act as feedback and they would go home happier.

Wouldn’t that be a wow experience, for the entire country? Their goal in the next two years is to reach 1 Lakh SMEs and spread this happiness.

Covid-19, has altered the human landscape completely. Before Covid, the basic necessities of life were Roti, Kapada, and Makan; after Covid, their necessities have one added element - Health Insurance. In the next five years, they believe every Indian will be covered under Health Insurance in some form.

They are looking at 2 lacs crores of Health Insurance premium within next five years.

They also feel the industry has reached the inflection point where it is finally ready to tango with technology.

Insurance would stop being a push product in the next five years. By 2027, they would have reached a point where people will be able to understand and appreciate risk; they would no longer need an incentive to insure themselves.

Ethika - Founders and Team

Susheel Agrawal 

Susheel Agrawal was not happy with his professional life, and after some deliberations decided to quit. Sarath and Sandeep, his colleagues then, decided to follow his footsteps and put in their papers as well. They trusted him even when he did not have a roadmap, but they did, and the rest has been history.

It is the element of trust that has gotten embedded in their DNA today. They work with clients who they trust - ofcourse the feelings are mutual in this case. They hire people they can trust, so on and so forth.

Sarath Reddy, who handles client relations, is a post graduate in business administration and has extensively worked in client servicing before Ethika.

Sandeep Mukka,  who looks after operations, is a postgraduate in computer applications and has been associated with the insurance industry for about 13 years.

Sarath takes care of client relationships, Sandeep takes care of operations, leaving Susheel with handling people responsibilities.

Ethika - The Idea and Startup Story

At 33, Susheel Agrawal, the founder of Ethika was an average employee working in the highly competitive corporate world. While most of his material needs seemed to be satisfied, Susheel Agrawal wasn't happy. Something seemed amiss; he kept feeling a void for far too long than was bearable.

After some introspection, he realized that the soulless corporate world was taking away his peace of mind. That was when he quit his corporate job.

Susheel was fortunate to have been exposed to the insurance industry in India. He started with what he knew best - selling Group Health Insurance to organizations.

He knew from experience that one of the main pain points in the health insurance ecosystem was the insured's experience during claims and that became his first point of focus.

Sarath Reddy and Sandeep Mukka, his co-founders, shared the same vision from Beginning.

They started bridging the gap between employee, hospital, TPA, Insurer, and doctor by fine tuning the claim process. This in turn enhanced the experience of employees during the claims process and positive reviews started pouring in. The kicker used to come out of cases where they could indirectly intervene, and help employees when they needed it the most. One critical observation was that most of the health insurance claims could have been avoided, if they had intervened at the right time. This insight led them into innovating low-cost solutions which could be offered along with group health insurance to their clients to prevent work disruptions due to employee illness. A lot of tweaking and tinkering later, they built their inhouse software and an employee wellness team. This turned out to be their tipping point. The word of mouth referrals spread and business started pouring in. The foundation for self-belief however came out of client testimonials and referrals.

At one such new referral meet, a client said, "I'm surprised that you can run a company without having a website or visiting card." Yes, they were so focussed in creating a positive impact for their clients that they didn't have their own website in the first two years.

As a matter of fact, to this date, the ratio for the number of employees focused on generating business to the number of employees focused on support is the lowest and in inverse proportion to the standards in the Insurance Broking industry.

Now that they have stabilized their group health insurance offering, they have added a new element “Employee Happiness” to their portfolio, which is helping their clients create a happier workplace.

Ethika - Vision

Their core vision however remains enabling facilitation of the push product (insurance) to a point where the first thought that comes to your mind, when you think of insurance, is a happy one.

Broking services across the Employee Benefits vertical which includes Group Health Insurance, Group Super Top up Health Insurance, Personal Health Insurance  and other Lines of Businesses.

  • Employee Happiness Program.
  • Employee Assistance Program.
  • Employee Engagement Program.
  • Employee Wellness Program.
  • Group Insurance Software &
  • Red Carpet Claims Assist.

Numbers don't drive them, happiness does; it remains one of their core beliefs. They go the extra mile in incorporating this belief in the way they do business. They keep evaluating themselves on how happy they are as a company; they advise their clients to follow the same methodology.

Earlier, when they had just started, there used to be genuine apprehensions in clients, especially with regards to objective measurement of translation of their Happiness Index into business. Their objective answer to that question has been - increase in toplines, client referrals, and appreciation.

Most of their clients have now warmed up to the idea and the results have followed.

Meanwhile, their understanding of human psyche has thrust them on the path to finding new ways to increase employee engagement that can benefit their clients to a greater degree.

When it comes to their vision, in the short term, they would want to establish themselves as someone whose name is the first thing that flashes in a Customers mind when they think of the words ethics, insurance, and broking in one breath. They wouldn’t mind being called the TATA’s of the insurance space.

Their long-term vision is to facilitate the achievement of insurance literacy in our country. All of their energies over the next decade would be focused towards trying to expand insurance penetration in the country.

Ethika - Core Belief

The core belief of Ethika stems from a root-cause analysis they did for one of their clients in the early days.

Employees form the foundation of every business; they spend about a third of their day at the workplace; a happier workplace translates into

the employee wanting to turn up for work, every single day

increased engagement levels at work &

increased productivity.

Keeping the workplace happy, therefore is the chief responsibility of the employer. They help them shoulder this responsibility.

On the technical front, they also want to help un-jargonize insurance.

It is a sad reality that despite being one of the oldest professions in the world, they are still married to wordings that should have been buried a long long time ago.

They also feel these wordings are one of the main reasons why people remain skeptical about insurance - it is difficult to convince someone of buying something they cannot understand.

Ethika - Name, Tagline, and Logo

An insurance policy can be likened to a currency note in the sense that an insurance policy is a promise that the insurer makes to the insured to fulfill a certain obligation. But that is where the similarity ends.

During their earlier days, they had a couple of stark realizations - a lot of things on paper rarely translated in practice. Utmost good faith, one of the foundational principles of insurance was at times being shorted by the Insurer and at other times by the Insured. The fine print of the contract i.e. the wordings on paper were being robotically followed especially at the time of claim settlement i.e. the spirit of the contract was being overlooked in many a cases.

They felt their job was that of an intermediary who could interpret the fine print in the policy and thereby help the client select the right insurer - someone who was equally good at honoring the spirit of the contract as they were at underwriting it. Ethics was always the foundation stone that their business was built on; since they could not use ethics as their brand name, Ethika was the next logical iteration.

They have been sticklers for ethics in business. You could say their larger purpose is to debunk the myth that business and ethics cannot go together.

All our lives, we have been programmed that if we need to succeed in business, we need to learn to wear our ethics on the sleeves; they would beg to differ.

Their tagline says 'Insuring the risk of insuring'. It signifies their attempt at trying to reduce the risk for the Insured.

Ethika - Hiring Funda

Starting with humble beginnings of 3, they have today grown to about 50 people. That said, they are a lean setup - companies handling the same amount of business employ anywhere around 100 people.

They are a bunch of 50 passionate people. They are a young company who understands how pivotal culture is to an organization's success. To that end, they have a fairly open and considerate work culture. While it might sound simplistic, they try to foster a culture where all of their employees look forward to coming to office on  Mondays; this despite them having a work from home right since inception i.e. 2016.

Learning and relearning are also deeply ingrained in their culture. They get a kick out of teaching new things to colleagues and customers, these new things could be skills they pick up from platforms like Udemy or something new they learnt while transacting business.

They hire for attitude and train for skills. While they do need technical expertise to facilitate underwriting of the product, their topline growth has benefitted from a diverse team of passionate people.

Ethika - Products and Services

Insurance is basically spreading the risk thin. You try to insure as many people as possible and hope that calamity strikes the minimum number of these people; you charge a premium to insure their risk. When calamity does strike, you pay for the genuine claims out of the premiums collected.

Group Health Insurance, one of the prime offerings, is therefore not insurance in the true sense.

The renewal premium for Group Health Insurance is dependent on last year's claims i.e. if the claims for a company amounted to Rs. 10,00,000 in 2020, the renewal premium would normally be about Rs. 10,00,000 + administrative expense for the Insurer (in extremely price sensitive markets like Insurance, administrative expense can go as low as 0). Therefore the renewal premium for the year 2021 would normally be Rs. 10,00,000; if the claims in 2021 amount to Rs. 11,00,000, the renewal premium for 2022 would be Rs. 11,00,000, so on and so forth. This essentially means that the company is just about getting the benefit of reimbursement since the claim costs for a year are being borne by the insurer in that year and are being recuperated from the company in the subsequent year. Essentially leaving very little margin for the Insurer to operate on. The Insurer does try to bring down the claims quantum by negotiating better tariffs with hospitals, but a lot of the hospitals do not abide by the tariffs. Moreover, new Medical Treatments coupled with the occurrence of new diseases keep pushing medical claims inflation exponentially every year.

Moreover, all of Ethika’s other offerings enhance workplace wellness and are offered within the insurance premium that is paid for Goup Health Insurance.

They are therefore not only helping clients with risk placement, but are also helping them avoid workplace sickness, increase employees productivity and happiness - they are therefore treating the disease and not the symptoms alone.

They had started their journey, trying to solve the problems in the health insurance claim settlement vertical. They then graduated to addressing problems with buying group health insurance and then to employee wellness; they are now trying to create a framework to address employee happiness. They want to ensure that all of their clients' employees look forward to Mondays and not Fridays. They want to make Monday blues a thing of the past.

Their weekly workshop 'From HR to CEO', is a step toward that. The title for the workshop came about from the fact that when employees start working like the CEO, the CEOs job becomes that of an HR Manager.

Susheel Agrawal would like to take this opportunity to urge you to keep an eye out for their new products Learning Management System targeted towards learning - how they can learn better and Sustainable Living targeted toward Happiness - how to live happier by walking the path of sustainability.

They think insurance gives you peace of mind.

Imagine a meticulous and diligent factory owner; his factory is struck by an earthquake and it will take about 3 months to get the factory back in shape and another 2 to get the first product shipped after the earthquake.

Imagine the kind of mental toll such a peril could take on the owner; some of the considerations he has to keep in mind would include - How to convince the Customers of the delay, How to retain his workers during this period, How to pay them, What about the recurring operating expenses (like land lease, machine rent costs) that would need to be borne despite the factory being non-operational. While insurance will not guarantee how long it could take for the Insured to get back on his feet, or the mental trauma the owner might have to go through, it will certainly take care of the financial burden that would have otherwise compounded his problems.

Ethika - USP and Innovation

When most of the Brokers concentrated on premium reduction - which is a win-lose proposition and not sustainable in the long run, they went beyond and included the following services in their arsenal, absolutely free of cost.

Employee Assistance - where they offered psychological, nutritional, and doctor counseling as and when employees needed it. They hit a roadblock when their enrollment numbers plateaued. They did some introspection and realized there was still a certain taboo associated with seeking help and therefore focused on Employee Engagement.

Employee Engagement - where they had experts talking to employees about day to day life issues and delivering meditation sessions.

They then graduated to Employee Wellness, where they tried to address the entire lifestyle of the employee and not only her work.

Group Insurance Software - the software that they built in-house is a rage with their clients today. It helps them keep a tab on their health insurance requirements and frees up one of their most important resources - time.

Red Carpet claims assist was life coming a full circle for them. The vertical they had started their journey with, still had a lot of room for improvement and they thought it was about time someone addressed this elephant in the room. Red Carpet claims assist helps employees with their claims processing while keeping them as the focal point of attention.

Employee Happiness is their attempt to make workplaces happier. All of the Ethika team look forward to Mondays with as much excitement as they look forward to Fridays. They want to help clients incorporate the same energy at their workplaces.

They have kept innovating at every step along the way.

Their USP remains their ability to garner relationships. They are proud of the fact that 95% of their clients have been with them for the last five year. They love the Japanese way of doing business. They are extremely diligent before getting into relationships, but once they get into one, they don't fight over truffles.

They are one of the frontrunners, when it comes to leveraging technology to increase awareness. Their presence across social media has ensured their reach to the appropriate segment. That said, they do understand that if insurance is to percolate to the needy, the offline channel is as important as the online one. Toward that vein, they have their eyes and ears on the ground, all the time. They recently concluded an event where Ethika insured the journalist fraternity in Hyderabad.

When they got into insurance, their focal point was Group Health Insurance. They felt the vertical had a lot of room for improvement and they could add value. But every business is the business of trust, more so in the case of insurance. As they started providing solutions for group health insurance, their clients started asking them for more products. And that is how they increased depth in other lines of businesses like Motor, Liability, Fire.

While they haven’t pivoted from their initial product, they have definitely evolved to a place where delivering  happiness forms a significant part of what they do.

They are in Insurance for the long haul; that said, they have realized the problem they are trying to address is a spoke of a bigger wheel - Happiness. Insurance does try to ensure your risks do not rob you of the joy of the present moment.

But they look at it more from a perspective of backward integration than a pivot - something like what Reliance did in the petrochemical space and is trying to do in the agriculture retail space.

Ethika - Business Model and Revenue Model

Insurance is a highly regulated industry and the brokerage (commissions) which are paid by the Insurers’ are capped by the regulator IRDA. In the absence of differentiators in profits or pricing range, service quality becomes the prime driver of sales.

A Broker's technical expertise helps them underwrite a risk to perfection. The Broker however also needs trained manpower who can handle managerial and supervisory responsibilities.

They help clients identify the right insurer who can offer them the right benefits at the right price.

Ethika goes a step further by helping clients mitigate future risks by adoption of good practices and thus reduce their risk quotient at the time of renewal.

Ethika - Customer Acquisition

Their starting experiences were extremely humbling. They did not want to invest on office setups and were therefore working out of home, they did not have visiting cards when visiting clients, neither did they have a website. But, this humility worked for them with most of their clients.

Their zeal to help clients with health insurance policies probably came across.

While it was difficult getting the first 10 clients, word of mouth has been their best marketing tool subsequently.

In the initial days, when they were new and people didn’t know them, they were pretty straight forward about it - they used cold calling and told clients that they were new and would want to work for them.

While some didn’t even let them complete their pitch, some of the clients heard them out and gave the opportunity.

There was this one particular client who, when he did meet them, wanted help with settlement of about 17 of his pending claims. He was, as a matter of fact, reluctant to switch insurers just because he thought doing so would antagonize the current insurer and his claims would not be settled. Susheel studied the cases and realized, most of them were closed not on technical grounds but administrative ones i.e. there were delays with document submissions and things like that. Susheel wrote to the insurer and after sensing some reluctance on his part, looped the ombudsman in the conversation. This was when the insurer got serious and settled the claims, and he got a client, who by the way has been with Susheel, since then.

They reached about 100 clients in the first 3 years; a lot of these hundred clients came to them as referrals from their existing clients.

Introspection led them to the belief that educating people would probably work as a good marketing tool; and they started organizing a workshop on employee happiness on a weekly basis. This workshop has created wonders for Ethika. Given the fact that the industry works on so many intangibles, a workshop helps put in some tangibility to the equation. They owe one third of their new clients to these weekly workshops.

It is only of late that they have started investing in PR and have started with about 0.5% of their topline from the last year.

Ethika - Challenges Faced

The founders faced one of the biggest challenges, right when they were about to set shop. Then IRDA guidelines required own capital of Rs. 50 Lakh to be deposited as a security, before they could commence business. While Susheel had managed about Rs. 25 Lakh out of his own resources, that still left him with a shortfall of about Rs. 25 lakh. The only assets Susheel Agrawal and his wife Possessed back then were their home and a car. Susheel decided to sell both of these. All of his family, parents, and in-laws seemed to be against the decision of starting up and requested him to give up on the idea. But he did not. He managed the additional Rs. 25 Lakh within the next month and registered with IRDA for a license.

Getting the license however does not guarantee a steady flow of clientele. Moreover, the industry is plagued by outward appearances - in the initial days, they lost out on some prospective clientele purely on aesthetic grounds. their simplicity was construed as a weakness. But they pushed through, working on what they knew best, and the rest has been history.

Ethika - Marketing Strategy

While not a marketing campaign, sometime last year Susheel Agrawal was hosted by Sandeep Maheshwari on his podcast. Sandeep Maheshwari, is a celebrity, considering his follower count on YouTube. Moreover, Susheel has always liked the way he presents and how he simplifies things for the general public.

Susheel Agrawal took this opportunity to try and leave his footprint on the digital space. In the hour that they conversed he tried to un-jargonize health insurance concepts.

Sometime during their interactions with HR Managers, Ethika realized how difficult mediclaim policies made their lives. Managers ended up spending about 40% of their time servicing stakeholders on mediclaim - this was wasted time that could have been otherwise used doing their actual jobs.

Ethika had its eureka moment and came up with the handbook for group health insurance, which has been a huge hit in the community. The handbook is available

Despite being aware of his biases, Susheel thinks it is by far one of the most comprehensive handbooks on the ins and outs of group health insurance. So much so that it could make Ethika’s job harder.

Ethika - Funding

Ethika is a 100% bootstrapped company.

While they are not looking for funds, they are always open to ideas for expansion. If someone can help them increase their happiness footprint, and reach a larger audience, they are always game.

Ethika - Competitors

Share the name of some top competitors.

  • Plumhq
  • Policybazaar
  • Marsh
  • Aon
  • Prudent.

That said, cliched as it might sound, they do believe in competing with their past selves. They try and better themselves year on year.

They also think healthy competition helps improve benchmarks, which in turn is beneficial for the Customer and they are always game for it.

Ethika - Tools Used in the Company

They are a lean setup and the administrative tools they use are basic in nature. That said, they are a tech-savvy company and their clients use their inhouse software to manage their group insurance policies exclusively.

Ethika - Future Plans

Ethika has future plans to create NGO, happy living, keep employees happy and healthier, and add more value to sustainable living.

The pace at which technology changes is incremental in nature. The technology we used in 2000 was obsolete by 2010, but the technology that was in use in 2015 is obsolete today.

They are at the inflection point where insurance, as an industry, is going to keep leveraging technology, to the point where they could witness a Singularity event, borrowing from Ray Kurzweil, by the end of this decade i.e. to say, that by the end of 2030, technology would be inseparable from insurance. They would have seamless data exchange between gymnasiums, health providers, and insurers and this would translate in renewal premiums. The possibilities seem endless.

In the short term they would concentrate on equipping themselves with the right technical expertise, both on the insurance and the technology front, to help them become enablers for this technological transformation.

They also want to make employees of their clients live happier and healthier - this resonates with their idea of creating a happier India.


What is Ethika insurance?

Ethika is a Hyderabad-based Leading Insurance Broker Company in India.

When was Ethika founded?

Ethika was founded in 2016 in Hyderabad.

Who is the founder of Ethika?

Susheel Agrawal, Sarath Reddy, and Sandeep Mukka are the co-founders of Ethika.

Is Ethika funded?

No, Ethika is a bootstrapped company.

Who are the competitors of Ethika?

Top competitors of Ethika are:

  • Plumhq
  • Policybazaar
  • Marsh
  • Aon
  • Prudent