Nikhil Apte: Fortifying The Insurance Landscape Through Product Excellence | CEOInsights Vendor
Nikhil Apte: Fortifying The Insurance Landscape Through Product Excellence

Nikhil Apte: Fortifying The Insurance Landscape Through Product Excellence

  Nikhil Apte,    Sr. Vice President & Chief Product Officer (Health)

Nikhil Apte

Sr. Vice President & Chief Product Officer (Health)

In a rapidly changing economic landscape marked by the acceleration of digital transformation the need for innovative, customer-centric products and services - a new role in the C-suite is emerging: the Chief Product Officer(CPO). The rise of the CPO represents a shift in focus toward a customer-centric approach, from startups to established enterprises. As a result, the multifaceted mandate is critical in increasing a company's intellectual property (IP) value by developing, protecting, and monetizing assets through the implementation of cutting-edge products and solutions that can be patented. Evidently, when it comes to driving a company's success, the CPO is now a critical piece of the puzzle. They are uniquely placed to bridge the gap between product innovation, customer experience, and financial performance, enabling businesses to deliver value faster and more effectively.

Nikhil Apte is one such visionary, spanning an impressive 26-year career marked by exemplary leadership in sectors such as Insurance, BFSI, and Industrial Marketing. Renowned for his steadfast dedication to creating value-driven products and cultivating an environment of innovation, Nikhil has been a cornerstone of Royal Sundaram's success for the past decade. His distinguished track record is characterized by a commitment to long-term vision, evident in the introduction of over 50 successful products that have significantly contributed to the advancement of India's health insurance sector.

In a conversation with CEO Insights, he delves deeper into his professional journey and impact in the insurance industry.

Give a brief account of your professional background and experiences?
I hold a B.E. Honors degree in Electrical Engineering from VJTI and a PGDBA in Marketing from Welingkar Institute of Management. My professional journey highlight is a 20-year tenure in the health insurance sector. Presently, I serve as the Senior Vice President & Chief
Product Officer(Health) at Royal Sundaram, where I've contributed for the last 10 years. Prior to this, I spent four years at Max Bupa and seven years at Tata AIG General. In the initial phase of my career, I explored diverse industries, including industrial marketing, indoor lighting, and ICICI Bank. However, I discovered my passion in Health insurance at Tata AIG General in 2004, and I've remained in this field since.

I've spent two decades shaping about 50 significant products in health, accident, & travel insurance

You possess over twenty six years of experience. How has been your path to success and what is your success mantra?
My journey to success entails a commitment to product management in the face of shifting industry landscapes. Despite the unavailability of private opportunities in insurance when I completed my MBA, I've spent last two decades shaping about 50 significant products in health, accident, and travel insurance. Regarded as a subject matter expert, my work is widely recognized, reflected in over 50 interviews and articles in leading Print and on line media in India. Notably, three of my products consistently rank among India's top 10 health insurance products by Mint, a prestigious business and finance magazine. Being acknowledged for my contributions as a product manager is immensely fulfilling, especially in an industry as dynamic as insurance.

How would you define Royal Sundaram as an organization and its current position in the market?
We expect to cross Rs. 4000 Cr in gross premiums this year, a team of 2500 employees across 160 branches. A renowned brand in India, particularly the southern region, we stand as a formidable brand with our joint venture with Aegas of Belgium, a major European insurance company. Notably, we prioritize customer satisfaction over market share, earnestly addressing individual customer needs. Our core values revolve around customer fairness, empathy, and service excellence.

As the CPO, what are the quality control measures you have adopted helping to deliver the best quality products? Share your leadership approach, emphasizing key guidelines/methodologies you follow as a leader.
I view product development as a blend of science and art. The creative aspect involves being
sensitive to evolving customer needs, especially in a digital-savvy, younger demographic. However, there's a scientific component, particularly in crafting health insurance policies, which are long-term commitments lasting up to 30 years. To ensure top-notch quality, we rigorously follow a stage-gate process, involving idea generation, prototype development, concept testing with diverse target groups, fine-tuning based on feedback, Product filing and Go to Market.

My leadership style is hands-on, grounded in direct experience across diverse functions. Consistency is a key trait. An emotional stress-free office environment, where work blends with comfort, is vital. Additionally, I provide a strategic perspective to motivate and guide my team. Regular interactions with team members from various backgrounds ensure low attrition, and I firmly believe in the power of diversity, comprising an all-India team to tap into collective wisdom.

What is the future destination you are heading towards? In the light of your strong experience within the industry, what advice would you give to the budding industry leaders?
I am passionate about making healthcare access affordable. The regulatory environment is becoming more conducive, and India aims to ensure every Indian has life, personal accident, home, and health insurance policies by 2047. This presents an incredible opportunity to impact millions in a country with low insurance penetration. I'm excited about India's growth potential and my role in shaping it. My advice to emerging industry leaders: Love your work, develop a long-term career passion, gain sales experience, and treat your products like children, nurturing them for the long term. Think beyond the next few years and envision how your work can positively impact society at large.

Nikhil Apte, Sr. Vice President & Chief Product Officer(Health), Royal Sundaram General Insurance
Nikhil Apte, Senior Vice President & Chief Product Officer at Royal Sundaram, is a seasoned Chief Product Officer (Health) with 26 years of experience known for leading successful product strategies across industries, especially Insurance.

•Hobbies: Running and playing with my Pet dogs
•Favorite Cuisine: Mexican
•Favorite Book: The Heat will Kill you First
•Favorite Travel Destination: New York City, Washington, DC and London

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