The phone call changed her life, but little did I know it would also change mine. Last March, my house-keeper, Sheela didi, was informed about her husband’s demise in a road accident; a trucker, he lacked health insurance and therefore received no potentially lifesaving medical care.
She was beside herself with worry about who would earn for the family and how she would manage alone without him. Her constant tears and my own thoughts about the financial implications of her loss shook me. Seeking to find a way to help her, I delved into term insurance statistics. I discovered that over 16 people die every single hour in a road accident in India, and out of them over 56% are not covered by medical or term insurance. I was shocked and taken aback. I had to find out why this was the case.
Lorry drivers were the unsung heroes of the Indian Economy: they are vital but invisible. With sophisticated technology in transportation engineering, a complementary increase in globalisation has led to an expansion of demand for truck drivers, while the supply is constantly decreasing. With 6 million lorry and truck drivers in India, the trucking industry represents a sizable proportion of the labour force (2.5 %) and an estimated 14% of the GDP. These drivers are the backbone of the freight and transportation sector.
What could I do in this situation?
Apart from the human cost, which I couldn’t heal, there was something I could actually do to help. Upon discussions with my friends and family, I realised that insurance was the key to the lock of their problem. Further conversations with groups of drivers allowed me to discover that their lack of insurance was due to the lack of awareness about low-of-cost health insurance options. I understood that the dire need was to educate people on the importance of insurance. Post this would come the empowerment challenge - how to make them sufficiently able to purchase insurance. This was the inception of Freemium.
With an aim to build resources and direct access to free-of-cost term and health insurance options for the underprivileged communities in India, I founded Freemium as a social venture in June 2019. Since then Freemium has been functioning to spread awareness about the benefits of health insurance along with assisting people to apply for government insurance policies.
Firstly, I created a Freemium Infobook, an integrated guide to help people from low-income backgrounds in India, to understand the various insurance policies available. This guide covers specific details about numerous insurance policies and step-by-step instructions on how to apply for insurance.
With the help of my parents, I zeroed in on an organization called Kapoor Diesels, a logistics company with over two thousand truck drivers and allied staff on their payroll. The MD of Kapoor Diesels, Mr. Vikrant Kapoor, gave a patient hearing to my request of addressing their employees on this crucial issue. My emphasis on the company being a stakeholder in the health of its employees hit home. I was allowed to conduct a workshop and share the Freemium Infobook so that more and more workers could access insurance.
In addition, I also created a series of six pamphlets detailing the signing-up procedures of health insurance. They include: ‘Cashless Claim: How to Get One’, ‘Reimbursement Claim: Worth the Trouble?’, ‘Individual or Family Insurance Plan: Which One is Better for YOU?’, ‘Steps Involved in Signing up for Senior Citizen Plans’, ‘How to Get a Critical Illness Health Cover: Step-by-Step’, ‘Documentation Required for Applying for Health Insurance: A Checklist’.
These resources have been used to offer insurance support for the domestic and daily wage laborers. More than 100 workers have signed up for government-offered health and term insurances such as the “Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana’ and ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’, in partnership with the NGO, Wishes and Blessings.
In collaboration with Kapoor Diesels, Freemium assisted over 200 truck drivers in India to benefit from government insurance. In 2019, I spearheaded two insurance camps in which I guided 250 truck drivers about the insurance options. In these camps, I lectured on the importance of insurance and ways to get insured, and held a Q&A session about common misconceptions. The Freemium Infobook and pamphlets were shared with the participants.
I also assisted 24 rafters in Nepal to obtain term insurance through Freemium, in collaboration with Sherpa Outdoor, a travel company.
On account of the work done in this sector, I was invited to deliver a speech at the Women’s World Economic Forum, London, on 7th November 2019, and was conferred the Young Leaders award by Harbeen Arora, chairman of Women World Economic Forum.
After the COVID-19 lockdown, I highlighted the urgency for blue-collar workers to safeguard their futures by disseminating the Infobook and by hosting immersive online sessions for interested individuals. I conceptualized and created a YouTube series for spreading awareness about the benefits of life insurance. The topics that I covered in the videos are ‘The Road Ahead for Health Insurance in India’, ‘Key Market Trends’, ‘Documentation’, ‘Key Entities for Health System Governance’, and ‘Types of Insurance’, to name a few. I conducted lengthy zoom sessions with anxious workers and interested employers. As an important part of Covid protection measures, Kapoor Diesels agreed to continue covering around 75% of the total health insurance costs, along with deducting Rs.25 every month from the accounts of truck drivers so that it can go towards their health insurance. Each employee was provided with COVID health insurance, as they were part of the essential services mandated by the Govt of India.
The year 2020 is mostly about engaging with the teams and general managers of other logistics companies. The pandemic has highlighted the need for medical and term insurance for everyone.
I aim to bring a revolution in the insurance sector by doing my best to secure the precious lives of people who are marginalised and unrepresented. I believe that every human being deserves to lead a quality life. As responsible global citizens, it is our collective responsibility to protect the underprivileged communities in every way possible.
This article is written by Prekshaa Lohia, Prekshaa Lohia is a young and passionate social warrior who is creating value by securing the lives of hundreds of people with health and term insurance. She is studying at Nord Anglia International School, Dubai campus. She expresses her creative self by way of art, music and reading. Her dream is to make the world more inclusive and impartial.Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.