Pooja Bhatt is perhaps one of the most successful young women entrepreneurs in Kenya. She is among the few fully qualified actuaries from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK). Ms Bhatt holds a BSc degree in Actuarial Science and Finance from Drake University and an MSc degree in Actuarial Management from Cass Business School. Over the years, the young entrepreneur has worked with various top global companies including Ernst & Young, Allianz Life Insurance, Willis Towers Watson and XL Catlin where she acquired knowledge and work experience. At the age of 30, she is the co-founder and head actuary of QuantaRisk, an insurance firm established a year ago. Destin Africa caught up with Ms Bhatt and here is her story.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I quit my job in March 2018 and moved back to Kenya. In May the same year, my business partner and I decided to establish QuantaRisk. We saw gaps in the market. To start with, there is a lot of misinformation and distrust in the insurance industry. Secondly, the local industry has not been as quick to embrace technology as the rest of the financial sector.
Being exposed to different areas of insurance including reserving, pricing, reinsurance, and emerging markets gave me the confidence to set up an insurance consulting firm. It was great experience to work in the Lloyd’s insurance market, an environment where the industry itself and the concept of insurance first started about 400 years ago. I believe that bringing solutions that have already worked in other developed markets will make it easier for the local industry to embrace them.
Tell us more about QuantaRisk?
The company provides consulting services to insurance companies in the Actuarial and Risk Management space. We also advise large corporate clients on their insurance portfolio and how to optimize it.
We are passionate about bringing technology to the insurance market. While adoption of technology is still low in the industry, there is no doubt that breaking the status quo is inevitable and companies must embrace InsurTech to remain ahead of competition.
Your experience in the last one year?
There is a lot of potential as the Kenyan economy has been growing almost 5 per cent year on year. However, insurance penetration is still low due to the large gaps that exist in the market. People don’t realize that anything in this world has a risk attached to it, and where there is risk, you can insure against it.
For people to see value, they have to trust insurance companies, and that genuine claims are paid on time. However, there is a big fraud element in the industry and we believe that technology will solve such challenges. We therefore need to reduce the rate of fraud and at the same time, make sure that genuine claims are paid on time so that insurance buyers can see the value for premiums paid.
What sets QuantaRisk apart from others?
I think we have a unique proposition for two reasons. First is the synergy of my business partner’s deep understanding of the local market and my international experience gives the company a unique insight into the present and future insurance landscape in East Africa. Secondly, being a fully qualified actuary and working together with a qualified specialist risk manager means that we cover a wider spectrum.
What can you say you have achieved so far?
Over the span of my career and education, I have been awarded several accolades. In 2018, I was featured in the Business Daily Top 40 Under 40 Women list. In 2015, I was awarded the Stars of the Future (Top 30 under 30) by the Actuarial Post magazine in the United Kingdom.
During my master’s degree, I was the Co-president of women in business for my university. I got an award to acknowledge my contribution not only academically, but also generally through our women in business efforts.
It was an honor to be on the list with other inspirational women. I strongly encourage women in business. Anytime women are promoted and encouraged, it inspires younger women to keep going and be strong in their careers or businesses. It is a great inspiration as I want to see more women take senior roles in businesses.
Your most satisfying experience?
In business, is when we close a deal since a lot of work goes into pitching to a client, and addressing their concerns against a competitor who might be around for years.
Most satisfactory is leaving behind a legacy and impacting people positively, both as an entrepreneur and as a professional woman.
Any challenges faced?
Am working in a different market and the pace is a bit slower than I’m used to. The culture is also slightly different but I’m learning along the way. However, these are life lessons as they are teaching me to adapt to different situations.
Growing QuantaRisk and adopting technology as we believe that it is the future of insurance. We want to increase penetration through technology and hope that more people will understand the value of insurance.
Piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The people who I consider to be inspiring leaders read a lot because it really opens up your mind and perspectives.
To students, don’t study a degree because people are saying you will make money. Yes, money is important, but if you’re passionate about something, you will work hard and success will follow. Once you set a goal, just make sure you put in 100 per cent effort to succeed.