SA’s Granadilla relies on slick customer service to boost insurance uptake

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South African startup Granadilla is combining a slick customer experience, complete with chatbot, and Series A funding to encourage uptake of insurance services amongst underserved groups.

Formed in September 2017, Granadilla is one of a number of startups operating in a busy South African insurtech space, and targets people that do not necessarily have household cover, such as students or lower-income individuals, or who have specific gadgets which are often not covered by mainstream cover.

The startup, which currently offers gadget, travel and jewellery cover, believes it stands out from the competition as a result of its strong customer service. 

“Our business is built on innovative technology, which allows us to offer a very slick customer experience. Through machine learning and artificial intelligence we are able to get a new client cover within two minutes, and all onboarding and claim processes are paper-free and lightning fast,” Jonathan Walker, chief executive officer (CEO) of Granadilla, told Disrupt Africa.

Walker said he counts Nandi, Granadilla’s AI bot, as one of the team, as any app user will be speaking to “her” most of the time. This tech-based user experience has resulted from successful fundraising, with Granadilla receiving seed funding prior to its launch with just twp products in July 2018, with Bryte as its underwriting partner. Since then, Bryte has provided the startup with Series A funding in order to help it expand its product portfolio to 14.

“Through this partnership we did not only secure funding, we are able to access the local market in a way that has allowed us to scale the business significantly since launch,” Walker said.

“We launched with smartphone cover and today we have a variety of products. As we continue to build our base, our data also continuously improves – an important part of our successful use of machine learning.”

Granadilla was borne out of Walker’s personal frustration when he lost a laptop and cellphone to a car jamming incident. 

“It took the insurance company eight weeks from claim to payment, which led me to question, and thus consider, the feasibility of developing a better alternative,” he said.

“I was running a software company at the time and immediately started developing a technology solution that would both validate customer information up front to speed up the process and simplify the claims process.”

This solution was Granadilla, which is now going head to head with conventional insurance companies, and faring quite well. Walker said it has been hitting, and even exceeding, all of its initial targets, with strong grown in terms of users, policies and premiums across 2019.

“We’ve received positive feedback and interest from the commercial and private markets and people are really excited about this new alternative to traditional insurance,” he said.

“We’ve experienced consistent strength in figures across all three metrics for growth since the start of 2019. Proof that the demand for do-it-yourself, cost-effective, fast app-based insurance is on the rise amongst South African consumers.”

Granadilla’s users have not come from where the team initially thought they would, however.

“We initially thought we’d attract a young audience, in their early twenties. However, our average customer is 32 years old, with the bulk of customers between the ages of 28 and 43,” Walker said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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