WOMEN MAKING HISTORY
The Southeast Asian Insurance Startup Cracking the Code on Rapid Growth
Using data and a B2B2C model, the online platform Sunday, led by visionary Cindy Kua, is reinventing how insurance works across the region.
Cindy Kua grew up watching her dad build Malaysia’s largest insurance conglomerate, KSK. After living and studying in the UK for a decade, she moved back to Southeast Asia, settling in Thailand to focus on building and growing an online general insurance company for the region. Thailand was an obvious choice as the country with the largest insurance revenue across the region. The potential was there, but the innovation was lacking, with inflexible outmoded insurance options limiting who could get insurance and what coverage they could receive. Kua quickly identified the three top priorities consumers wanted to protect in this part of the world: their health, their automobile and their gadgets.
Founder and Visionary
Under the tutelage of KSK, Kua started conceptualizing how an insurance company might look in 20 to 30 years from now. Across the world, more than half of all insurance revenue was in the automotive space, which made that sector a logical place to start. In 2015, under the KSK umbrella, Kua founded the Bangkok-based used car marketplace Carmana, which gave her an in-depth look at the automotive industry in the region.
Two years later, in 2017, she founded the insurance platform Sunday with the goal of figuring out how revenue might look for an insurance company given that automated cars were sure to fundamentally shift the way people drive. “How do you create an insurance company that truly adapts to the way the world is changing?” she asked. Her answer? By using data.
Kua’s team began building a risk prediction algorithm that used a broad range of data to measure complex sets of risk on individual consumer health. They did a data scrape in order to figure out how to best measure and calculate risk and rates. “The issue with insurance now is that it’s not data driven. A lot of assumptions are being made,” she says. “We want to replace underwriters with a data model. That’s how you scale.”
B2B into Big Growth
The way to acquire customers quickly, Kua understood, was by focusing on a B2B model that brought in a large base of individual consumers with each new business partnership. Partnering with a company that had 1,000 employees meant Sunday had just gained 1,000 new customers. It was a no-brainer approach to scaling efficiently.
An early partnership with a ride-hailing company helped launch Sunday’s B2B2C distribution focus, with employers buying group level health insurance and offering different tiers that their employees can choose from, says Dhanadam Pokthitiyuk, Sunday’s Chief Marketing Officer. “If a person has a 1000USD credit from their company, they can use that for insurance and they can also go beyond the limit with their own money,” he says.
Sunday also began working with B-Quick, Thailand’s biggest car tire and automotive repair service, with more than 140 branches and 300,000 customers across the country. Tire changes are the company’s largest source of revenue and B-Quick partnered with Sunday to underwrite its one-year tire protection guarantee offered to all its tire buyers. The same goes with DTAC, the third-largest mobile phone provider in Thailand, which partnered with Sunday in 2018 to offer screen cracking protection and other insurance options to its 27-million mobile customers. “We realized we have a lot of customers. They are the customers of our customers,” says Pokthitiyuk.
Sunday was built to automate the role traditionally played by an HR Director, says Pokthitiyuk. Rather than navigating an unruly maze of paperwork, companies are able to keep track of their claims data via an online platform designed for employers. The platform automates the process of signing up for insurance so that it’s far faster and easier to accomplish. For employees, the technology creates an easy-to-use platform where they’re able to access resources like telemedicine, medicine delivery services, and a chatbot for individualized help.
Looking into the future of Indonesia
Since the end of 2020, Sunday has also been expanding outside of Thailand and into Indonesia, tailoring its approach to meet the unique needs of the region. “Indonesia is a very interesting market. It’s like a whole EU of its own,” say Kua. “Every island has a different culture and different community. How do you create a mass brand that’s relatable to most people?”
With more than 60 million SMEs across Indonesia, a B2B model simply won’t work the way it does in Thailand, insists Kua. Instead, Sunday is using a community referral model and agency partners across Indonesia, offering more micro-insurance options that enable consumers to choose from a greater array of lower-cost insurance offerings. In the future, Sunday is working toward becoming full-stack and establishing a licenser based in Indonesia to more directly issue insurance products to consumers.
And more broadly, Kua is excited for the potential of connected health devices, which offer an in-depth set of personalized health information, to deepen the data used in order to develop more advanced and accurate risk assessment models. “It’s not about the quantity of data,” she says. “It’s about the quality.”
Quona is proud to be an early backer of insurance startup Sunday and its visionary founder Cindy Kua! Learn more about our portfolio here.