Swiss Re India Agriculture Insurance Forum - Better Technology, Better Harvests and Better Lives

Insights and intent meet debates and decisions in a first-of-its-kind forum in India

Agriculture is a major economic sector in India and contributes 18% of GDP and engages 47% of workforce in India (Economic Survey 2014-15). We see significant growth opportunity for insurance/reinsurance in the Indian agricultural sector − India is now the 3rd largest agriculture insurance market worldwide. However, only around 44% of farmers are currently covered under various agriculture insurance schemes launched in India, in spite of the government's focused support, as evident in its various crop insurance schemes. The new crop insurance scheme PMFBY (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana) launched in January 2016, generated premium of USD 3.3 billion in 2016, and it is expected to reach USD 4 to 5 billion in the next two years.

India, owing to its vastness and geographical diversity, is also vulnerable to natural catastrophes – floods, earthquakes, storms, droughts and landslides – most of which directly impact agricultural output. On the ground, there is much left to do to increase cover as well as successfully implement insurance solutions specific to the region. For example, although PMFBY brings the right focus of data accessibility, technology and acceleration of claims escalation process, there is tremendous scope for improvement in data collection methods and data quality, as well as adoption of technology across the board. Protection Gap is significant in livestock and aquaculture, even as there is a need for farmers to diversify from crops into these areas for sustainable revenues and so on.

The Swiss Re India Agriculture Insurance Forum 2017, held in Mumbai on 1 September  2017, sought to get the ball rolling on discussions and dialogues about these challenges and opportunities among key stakeholders in the agriculture ecosystem, and thereby move towards establishing a strong and sustainable market. Power-packed with interactive sessions, it was an enlightening day for the audience of nearly 70 stakeholders − comprising primarily insurers, as well as technology start-ups, bureaucrats and policy influencers working in insurance and relevant areas.

Highlights

Introduction: Setting the context for agriculture insurance in India, vis-à-vis key and emerging markets globally, was the introductory dialogue among Kalpana Sampat, CEO, Swiss Re India Branch; Beat Schnegg, Head of Agriculture Reinsurance, Swiss Re; and Mike Mitchell, Head of Property & Specialty Underwriting, Reinsurance, Swiss Re.

Kalpana detailed nuances of the Indian agriculture insurance market, while Beat explained India's position with respect to  other key markets and areas for improvement – tech adoption, data quality, exposure-driven pricing and closing Protection Gap in Livestock and Aquaculture. Mike emphasized the growing importance of agriculture, although nascent today, in Swiss Re's portfolio and the need for alliances with clients, long-term view, and investment in technology to close the Protection Gaps existing in this sector.

Keynote address: Dr. Ashok Dalwai, Secretary, CEO of National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) provided sharp insights into agriculture in India – risks from natural catastrophes and uncertainties of economic changes characterize Indian agriculture. Therefore, those looking to invest in this sector should work on building sustainable revenues for agriculturists and collectively focus on converting this sector into a net profit-generating enterprise.

Special remarks by H. R. Dave, Deputy Managing Director, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) emphasized the need to design insurance solutions focused on farmers, not merely on governments and other entities.

Panel discussion: Focused on 'Impact of Technology in Agriculture Insurance', it deep dived further into some of the issues raised by the initial sessions. Moderated by Harini Kannan, Head of Agriculture Reinsurance Asia Pacific (ex China), Swiss Re, the panel discussed the lack of competition due to a paltry number of insurers, challenges in localizing data because of dearth of soft versions, need for speed and transparency, as well as exposure-linked pricing. The panelists were – Nilesh Garg, MD, Tata AIG, General Insurance Company; Alok Agarwal, Executive Director, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company; Anurag Rastogi, Member of Executive Management, Chief Actuary and Head-Retail UW & Claims and Crop, HDFC Ergo. The moderator ensured the discussions touched upon the brass tacks of issues – challenges in PMFBY; technology to overcome simple challenges; and the three things the government can do to improve insurance coverage for agriculturalists.

A session on 'Technology Applications in Agriculture Insurance' focused on the potential of transforming abundant agricultural raw data into useful information for end-users. Presented by Hans Feyen, Head of Agriculture Reinsurance, EMEA, North America & Innovation, Swiss Re, the session showcased the Swiss Re Opti Crop platform. This platform combines a number of apps such as ones monitoring crop health, soil moisture, weather, as well as an index tracker (comparing parameters over a timeline) to present meaningful information to the user. The platform will continue to add apps, including ones that will be co-created with stakeholders.

The Solutions Café segment comprised presentations from five of Swiss Re's partners as well as one from Swiss Re on its Opti Crop apps toolbox that helps monitor crops from space. The breadth and depth covered in the Solutions Café presentations stirred a lot of interest among the attendees:

  1. Big Data, Precision Agriculture and Data Analytics : CropIn Technology Solutions
    Enables its clients to analyze and interpret data and derive real-time actionable insights on standing crop and projects across regions.

  2. Smart monitoring in livestock : Stellapps
    Uses IOT, Big Data, Cloud, Mobility, and Data Analytics to improve agri supply chain parameters such as milk production, milk procurement, cold chain, animal insurance and farmer payments.

  3. Remote sensing based on crop yield prediction and crop monitoring : Niruthi Climate & Ecosystems
    Uses satellite remote sensing, crop-weather simulation modelling, mobile technologies and deep learning (AI) for yield prediction.

  4. Tech platform in managing underwriting : CelsiusPro AG
    Enables insurers to efficiently price, administer and settle policies – including automated PMFBY pricing on any administrative level.

  5. New distribution channels through online retailing : AgroStar
    An mCommerce platform selling agri inputs directly to farmers – thereby addressing challenges of product unavailability, unfair pricing, substandard products, etc.


  6. Monitoring crops from space: Swiss Re Opti Crop
    Web-based platform that helps farmers compare relevant information about the state of health of their fields.

In the afternoon, a session on insuring floods for the agro sector closely examined a few recent case studies that leveraged remote sensing technologies - including a flood risk mapping exercise in Bihar, India. The discussion also touched upon ways to reduce the significant Protection Gap that exists in natural catastrophes in India and risk transfer solutions for floods. The session was conducted by Mangesh N Patankar, Senior Underwriter, Agriculture Reinsurance, Swiss Re, and Dr. Giriraj Amarnath, Research Group Leader, Water Risks and Disasters, International Water Management Institute.

The final session, by Rishi Raj Singh, Vice President and Principal Officer, CSC e-Government Services India, explained how stakeholders in the Indian agro ecosystem can use Common Services Centers (CSCs) of the government's Digital India program. These centers are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby helping build a digitally and financially inclusive society.

This first-of-its-kind agri forum in India continues Swiss Re's practice of facilitating dialogues in potential markets. Last year, the company organized the Asia Health Symposium in Mumbai that had over 100 participants.


Photo Gallery

Introductory Remarks

Panel discussion on 'Impact of Technology in Agriculture Insurance'

Keynote address by Ashok Dalwai with special remarks by H.R. Dave

Networking

Solutions Café

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