BENGALURU: In 2016, Bengaluru-based pet owner Aishwarya Vasudevan’s two dogs - Phoebe and Kiara - were diagnosed with kidney stones and mammary cancer, respectively. Along with sleepless nights, long medical bills also ensued. “For Phoebe’s kidney stones, every blood test was anywhere between Rs 2,000-Rs 4,000. And repeat blood tests would cost the same. The surgery to remove the stones cost around Rs 20 -25 thousand. There were similar costs for Kiara’s cancer treatment,” said Vasudevan.
Unfortunately, Vasudevan, like many pet owners in India, wasn’t aware that pet insurance can often cover these major costs. “Had Vasudevan covered her pets at an early age, i.e. before the diagnosis, she could have gained from the plan’s benefits,” said Prakash Khaire, CEO of Vetina Healthcare LLP, which has launched Pawtect, an insurance plan that covers the costs of major soft tissues surgery, major illnesses, third-party liability and accidental injuries.
According to CS Sudheer, founder and CEO of IndianMoney, a financial education company, the industry is still at a nascent stage and won’t pick up for another five years. He also added that tier I cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai will see the most growth.
Lack of awareness among owners leads to lower demand for the product from their end. “Insurance companies look at the viability of a product, which can be classified in two ways: Painkiller and vitamin. Just like painkillers, these products see an actual demand and people are willing to pay for it. Vitamins, like pet insurance, are things people need to be educated about,” explained Sudheer.
Agreed Karthikeyan S, partner at Pawinsure, a Bengaluru-based pet insurance company that was launched three months ago. “We haven’t gone all-out with our marketing since the product is still under process. But I think the product needs about two to three years to pick up in India,” he said.
CXO search consultant and pet parent Priya Chetty-Rajagopal is also in favour of pet insurance but not without some apprehensions. “This is a prime need, just as important as insurance for humans. But I have some concerns about the industry side of things: Generally, the industry would need bigger players to sustain this model. Smaller companies might fold. What will I do if the company shuts down the product after some time? Also, what plans do they have to prevent misuse?” she asked.