Innovation-the stuff that distinguishes a leader from a follower

Today I would like us to ponder on innovation within the Uganda insurance Industry and I will attempt to stimulate your mind in two parts:

 

PART ONE: INNOVATION

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

 

Innovation is not restricted to product development as most would think but this also entails processes and methods that are new and that have a positive effect on the growth of our individual companies and the industry at large.

 

The top companies in the world are constantly innovating and this stems from research and development that give them a competitive edge.

 

Take for example Apple: Spent 10 Billion dollars in research and development in 2016 alone.

Why would they spend so much?

 

It is because research and development gives them an edge over their competition.

Uganda has an insurance penetration rate of less than 1% and a density rate of 5.4($), this means that there is a large population that has need for insurance and this constitutes a market.

If there is a market why is the uptake slow?

 

There are several reasons for this and the usual suspects are lined up; from poor product knowledge to poor industry image. However, I would like to suggest another reason by posing this question:  “Are we designing products to meet the needs of the potential market?”

 

“Insurance products embody each insurance company’s understanding of the future,” writes Donald Light, senior analyst in the insurance practice at Boston-based research and advisory firm Celent LLC, in his March 2006 report detailing product development best practices.

 

To answer the question I have asked, the way to do this is to innovate and this comes about when not only Uganda Insurers Association (UIA), Insurance Regulatory Authority of Uganda (IRA) or the Insurance Institute of Uganda (IIU) conduct research, but also insurance companies. This involves resources both financial and human capital. The market research would involve millions but the data generated would be used to design new products that actually meet the needs of the individual targeted segments. Products of relevance.

 

Every insurance company does some product development, and, to a greater or lesser extent, every insurer should see its product development capability as a contributor to its overall competitive strategy. Getting innovative with product development is the only way to stay ahead in a heavily regulated industry such as ours.

 

 

The next question is “how do I protect my research or new processes?”

The answer is Protection, which is one of the three pillars that all companies stand on:

 

 

PART TWO – PROTECTION

“Innovation without Protection is Philanthropy.” – Mr. Rivette (Former vice president of intellectual property strategy for I.B.M)

 

Protection takes the form of patents, which are government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.

 

So how do we protect the ideas that come from the hard work and financial effort put forth by one particular company in its attempt to meet the needs of a targeted segment?

Let us try to figure this out together.

 

Now obviously to patent a product would be impossible not only in Uganda but also worldwide this is something difficult to do and really impossible. Then how do we prevent the imitation of a product by another company that has been developed through research?

The solution has to be one tailored for the Ugandan market and one that is specific to our market environment.

 

One plausible solution is a Reproduction or Product imitation moratorium.

 

What is a moratorium? A moratorium is a temporary prohibition of an activity.

This would apply to products developed by insurers after showing evidence of their research (not just an idea) that would show how they came about to this particular product and the money spent to formulate the product. If approved the moratorium would be for a period of say 18 months after which the product would be open for duplication or tweaking.

During this period, the company would have time to recoup its investment and would have gained customers, before the rest of the companies could replicate and the prestige of being the first to market.

 

The knowledge that their research would be protected would give insurers the relevant security they would need to pursue research and development of products, which would be designed to meet a target market and increase the take up of insurance. There are obviously going to be questions on scalability of some of these products but I say we sail forward with the winds of change in our sails.

It is time to disrupt the status quo.

 

By Bobby Ssendagala

Marketing – APA Insurance (U) Ltd