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Affordable pet healthcare insurance at your finger “Tips”

Image: Shutterstock

Over 78% of China's pet owners buy insurance to get the best services for their dogs and cats. Tips, an online platform for pet insurance and healthcare products, wants their business

Pet owners will be less worried when taking pets for medicals in China. A standardized charging system is readily available on Tips, an insurance and healthcare platform for pet dogs and cats. Founded in September 2017 by CEO Zhang Xiaotian, Tips is gearing up to tap into the lucrative market for pet healthcare management services.

According to the China Pet Industry report by consultancy Frost & Sullivan, the number of pet ownerships in China has grown by 43.9%, from 693.4m in 2013 to 997.8m in 2018. About 60% are dog owners and 41% own cats. In 2018 alone, 2.6m puppies and 2.4m kittens were sold. Chinese pet owners are largely well-off, with 34.3 % having monthly incomes of over RMB 10,000. Another 39.5% take home RMB 5,00010,000. Over 78% have indicated that they would buy pet healthcare services for greater peace of mind.

Tips has the advantage of first-hand industry knowledge. As the ex-CEO of pet dogs and cats breed data service provider Chongaibao.com, Zhang had launched a dog health insurance product in 2016 in collaboration with Ping An Insurance.

"The pet insurance market is developing fast. Pet buyers are generally well-paid and more likely to accept new ideas such as pet insurance. I believe the number of pet health insurance buyers will reach 23m," said Zhang.

To ensure that customers have the best local services for their pets, Tips is partnering with pet sellers, pet hospitals and insurers across China. It's also using big data to help business partners to optimize sales, analyze pet health data and expedite pet medical treatments and processing of insurance settlements.

Targets new pet owners

Business is growing fast through partnerships with pet shop retailers to promote pet insurance to their clientele. Like all new mums and dads, new pet owners are easily persuaded to splash out on health insurance and products for their "newborns".

Launched in November 2018, Chongbaba insurance covers eight infectious diseases commonly found in puppies and kittens. The sales staff will inform the buyers about the Chongbaba policies that the shop has already bought to provide cover for the pets on sale. The buyers will also be able to get more information about the types of pet insurance on offer.

Chongbaba insurance only costs RMB 88 per puppy or kitten and lasts for 90 days, much longer than the industry norm that only guarantees after-sale service for seven days. The insurance policies also help the pet vendors to limit the after-sale service costs and future insurance risks if the puppies/kittens become sick after leaving the shop.

Growth of up to 200% was experienced during the first few months when Chongbaba was introduced to the pet shops. Over 200 retailers joined Tips as business partners. Zhang estimated that Chongbaba will have average sales of 300 daily, reaching 10,000 per month by late 2019.

Besides Chongbaba, Tips has launched five more cat/dog health insurance products in 2018. There's a special one for accidental injuries, one tailor-made for cats only and policies to cover three different age-groups of dogs and cats.

Better services and big data

With well-known insurance giants and other competitors entering the market, Tips is quickly moving into the realm of big data. "We'll install a chip onto the pet. All the pet's basic information, such breed, owner's name and insurance policy; will be recorded in the chip," said Zhang.

This is a reliable way used by other industry peers to prevent pet owners, or even some pet hospitals, from cheating when claiming insurance benefits, an industry insider explained. A pet data management center can track each pet's identity, illness/medical reports, insurance claims and settlement history. The database will help insurers to assess the potential risks and costs associated with new insurance products and policy renewals for different types of pets.

"We'll use the pet data updates every year to calculate the most suitable insurance policy and price for individual pets. This will greatly increase the owner's willingness to buy our insurance products and also help the insurance companies to manage risks,"said Zhang.

Veterinary clinics, pet hospitals and even the pet owners themselves will also benefit from the data analytics. Customers can select a Tips pet hospital partner nearby by looking at the Tips website or WeChat social media page. They can also see the quality rating of various pet hospitals, clinics, vets and other pet healthcare facilities.

The vet can scan the chip and quickly access the pet’s illness history and insurance cover in real-time to choose the best possible treatment plan on the spot. Each partner hospital will be connected to the pet insurer's claim settlement system and can directly process the settlement without having to go through the formalities of conventional insurers. The pet owners can also start processing the claims when their pets are still being treated in the hospital. They don't have to pay in advance and wait for the reimbursements to be paid by the insurers at a later date.

With Tips, it's no longer a costly hassle to have pets and get the best care for them. Even if local authorities state that pet hospitals don't fall into the category of public services, pet owners and kind-hearted souls like Ting need not worry about being ripped off by unscrupulous pet hospitals. The employee at an exports firm in Shanghai took a sick stray dog to a pet hospital for treatment. Now a Tips customer, she no longer has to worry about spending her whole month's salary to get medical care for her new pet costing RMB 600 a day.

Edited by Suzanne Soh

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