To kick off our new member profile series, we feature the Kashf Foundation, based in Pakistan.
The Kashf Foundation is the largest provider of microinsurance in Pakistan with more than 400,000 clients and 1.5m lives covered under health insurance. Kashf - who joined the MiN this year - started by offering microcredit in 1996, added credit-for-life in 2002 and health cover in 2007. They currently operate 291 branches covering 50 districts across Pakistan. We caught up with CFO Shahzad Iqbal at the June Member Meeting to find out what lies behind the Kashf success story.
MiN: What is Kashf’s main focus?
Shahzad Iqbal: From the start, our Founder and Managing Director Roshaneh Zafar had a clear vision to work with and for women. In Pakistan, women do most of the work but are often excluded from financial decisions both at home and in business. We train women in financial management and budgeting so they can make informed decisions. Fifty-five percent of our clients are women who use our loans to start or expand their own businesses. They have just as much to offer as men if they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
MiN: How do you spread the message?
S.I: We use lots of innovative ways to reach people and teach them about the benefits of microinsurance - for example, through street theatre. It’s incredibly popular, it’s amazing to see three or four hundred men and women watching a play about the benefits of health insurance!
MiN: Why did you decide to offer health insurance?
S.I: Our research showed that any household money for hospitals or medicine was being spent on men and children - the women were really missing out and were suffering as a result.
MiN: What were the main challenges?
S.I: When Kashf first offered health insurance in 2007, it had only limited success and we withdrew it after the pilot. It took years of development before we were confident to bring it to market again in 2013, partnering with a different insurance provider. It was really hard to persuade clients, and even our own staff, of the benefits, so we carried out an extensive staff re-engagement and retraining programme. That was the turning point, and it went on to be a successful product.
MiN: Were there any surprises?
S.I: There was a huge uptake in the first year, much bigger than we expected. As soon as the women realised they could claim on the insurance they started using it for themselves. There was a 155 percent loss ratio in the first year!
MiN: What were the key lessons?
S.I: Firstly, when it comes to health insurance, you need to cater for all a client’s needs - not just cash payouts, but easy access to hospitals, medicines and other services. Next, you need a strong distribution system - we use our network of branches to engage with existing and new clients. And most importantly, the choice of insurance partner is critical. We worked with Jubilee Insurance because they shared our vision, they understood the challenges and they were prepared to be in it for the long haul.
MiN: Why did you join the MiN?
S.I: As we expand and want to offer new microinsurance products, we can learn from other members in other countries about what they are piloting, what has worked and what hasn’t. It would be impossible to get all that information and experience if you weren’t part of the network. We can also share our experience from Pakistan and help other members develop similar products in their own markets. We are quite new to the MiN but already we’ve found it to be mutually beneficial - we learn from each other and we share our expertise.