Fast. Elegant. Effortless.
Three adjectives usually not associated with the commercial insurance quoting process. A new Boston-based Insurtech, however, is aiming to change that notion.
Tarmika, a new commercial insurance platform for agents, was co-founded by Raghav Tanna and Geetha Sreedhar, both Massachusetts natives who have extensive agency and carrier experience. Mr. Tanna, who is the chief executive officer, has spent time as both a commercial insurance producer as well as an underwriter. Ms. Sreedhar, Tarmika’s chief operating officer, is herself a seasoned insurance and technology executive. In her career before co-founding Tarmika, she held senior leadership positions at Fidelity and Liberty Mutual. With Tarmika, what they offer has a simple objective—Redesigning Commercial Insurance, and more specifically, the laborious quoting process, for the independent agent.
Agency Checklists happened to meet Mr. Raghav by chance during last year’s Big Event. He mentioned that he was with a start-up working on a new insurtech platform. We told him once the product is launched to get in touch. Which they did. Ms. Sreedhar and Mr. Tanna got in touch to show us their product as well as to discuss their plans and the initial response.
So far, it seems, the message is being embraced in all quarters. The company, which launched in early 2019, already has on board some of Massachusetts most highly rated and well-known insurance carriers and agencies. Mr. Tanna envisions even bigger growthon the horizon for the platform, in the coming year.
“Right now, we are based in New England,” says Raghav Tanna. “We see ourselves having, by the end of 2019… about one hundred-fifty to two hundred agencies on the platform. And that is based on our current wait list, plus the agencies that have shown interest.”
The beginning of 2020 is when we will begin to see substantial agency growth,” he continues. “Our goal is to have twenty-five regional and national insurance companies on the platform [by then].” Going forward Mr. Tanna sees a “mostly regional” focus.
This formula, he explains, was devised with the agent in mind. “In every new territory, we are going to try to bring six regional carriers and four national carriers to the platform. Agencies place a lot of their business with regional carriers on the commercial lines side. We think that by only working with national companies, we would not aid our agencies as much as we could.”
When Agency Checklists interviewed Ms. Sreedhar and Mr. Tanna, Tarmika already had more than thirty agencies on its waiting list. The explanation for the waiting list was that:
- “the waitlist consists of agencies that are waiting for us to add some additional carriers that they work with to the portal so that when these agencies sign onto Tarmika, they will have multiple [carriers] to quote from on the system,” or,
- “They are agencies that we put on the waitlist because we do not have the support staff onboard yet, that we are in the process of hiring.”
The birth of Tarmika from a prediction of the imminent demise of the independent agent
Mr. Tanna said the idea for Tarmika came to him after attending an insurance conference. “I go to a lot of these conferences, Accord, Insurtech Connect… We were at one of those meetings…” recounts Mr. Tanna, “Someone went up in front of all these agencies, and in front of all these Insurtech guys and said ‘We do not think that agencies are necessary anymore. In the commercial line space nor the personal line space.’” This statement did not go over well with him but did get him thinking.
“I grew up with an agency. My dad has been in the insurance business and owned an agency for years. So, I was not a huge fan of that comment, as you can imagine.” “But, I had the background on how we could build a system that was for the agents instead of these direct to consumer system this speaker had claimed would put independent agents out of business. And that is how the idea started.”
Soon after that conference that spurred Mr. Tanna to start thinking, he and Ms. Sreedhar met.
A couple of years before she met Mr. Tanna, Ms. Sreedhar had seen the opportunity of insurance tech. “And I wanted to jump into that new Insurtech space,” she said. “I saw the benefit for large carriers, but I also understood the challenges. My goal was to help agencies and carriers jointly drive the digital revolution.” Her initial thought was to create a digital marketplace to help independent agents. “I wanted to make [placing insurance] simple for the agencies.”
When she first met Mr. Tanna, they saw they were each working on similar business models. “So we both came together about nine or ten months ago to work together to develop our ideas in one platform.” “We loved the idea because both of us were working to solve the same problem. Moreover, both of us brought very complementary skill sets. I brought the technology side, and he brought all the carriers, the agency side, and together we ended up putting every together very fast.”
Mr. Tanna concurs. He says once they joined forces, it was only ten months before they launched the Tarmika on January 1 of this year.
“When we launched on January 1st, we [reached out] to aggregators, clusters and big agencies, and got a lot of traction. We signed some of them up immediately. Today, we have a large list of agencies that want to join,” he notes. “We have the four carriers on the platform now, with about ten to twelve carriers interested in joining the platform.”
Engineering innovation from the agent’s perspective
So, what is it that makes Tarmika different from the other commercial lines insurtechs out there? Technology and innovation from the agent’s perspective according to the co-founders.
Mr. Tanna explained. “My dad, Dinesh Tanna, has owned an insurance agency in Woburn for over twenty years” “While working there, I realized that the way agencies have to rate commercial lines with the companies they represent is inefficient for the agency.” The inefficiency, he contends, stems from agents having to access anywhere from five to ten different company systems depending on the agency contracts a particular agency might have, to generate quotes for a proposal for the client. The result is an arduous process for an agent to obtain a simple commercial lines proposal for a client.
“Now they will have the five proposals, they will look them over, find out which one is best and then send them to the client,” he says adding, “It could take anywhere between an hour and two hours just because of how long a quote takes within each company.”
Ms. Sreedhar concurs in Mr. Tanna’s assessment of the benefit for agents Tarmika brings to an agency commercial insurance application process. “The technology we have is state of the art, cutting edge technology using an artificial-intelligence-based (“AI”) engine. This technology is all integrated, so it makes the whole application process a lot easier for agencies and carriers using Tarmika”.”
How the Tarmika application process works
An agency using Tarmika’s portal to apply for one of the above policies from a Tarmika partner company would sign onto the system. Once on the system, the agency would initially answer simple typical questions regarding a new application.
Then the agency would find on the interface the type of business for which the agency is making an application. So, if for example, the agency is applying for a restaurant, all the normal supplementary questions for a restaurant would appear for the agency to fill in to get a quote.
The questions on the system are interactive. Depending on an answer, more questions may appear, or questions on the application screen may disappear if irrelevant based on the prior answer.
In the case of the restaurant, the questions may include information on cooking methods, fryers, seating capacity, the square footage of the restaurant, and seating capacity, etc. If the restaurant owned its location, additional insurance and rating questions would appear.
Also, during the application process, Tarmika would show additional coverages that the agency might consider for its customer, based on the answers given.
For other types of businesses, the application process would work the same way.
The agency only has to enter the underwriting information once Tarmika’s portal. Once all the information has been entered the portal’s AI-based system takes over and enters the information automatically into multiple Carrier’s Agency Portals simultaneously. The quote generated by each carrier’s website is picked up by Tarmka’s system and combined into a simple comparative quote report from multiple carriers sent to the agency. Assuming the submitted risk does not need review by a company underwriter, the whole quoting process takes less than 10 minutes.
Agencies can refer questions and claim documents to underwriters through the Tarmika portal
We have built in quite a few additional features, with agency inefficiencies in mind,” added Mr. Tanna. “Agencies on the Tarmika platform can upload loss runs, print referral messages and refer to an underwriter all within our dashboard.”
All in all it Tarmika appears to have created and launched a real, viable, option for agents and carriers to compete in the commercial lines sphere without having to lose the carrier-agent relationship.
Update: Agency Checklists’ checked in on Tarmika to see how its was faring. You can view that article here: Tarmika – 6 Months In On Re-Designing Commercial Insurance.