By M Saraswathy
It's a dog's life – in insurance, too. Though public sector general insurers and some private ones have offered this cover to tap the growing number of canine lovers in the country, interest in the product has been languishing.
Dog insurance, sometimes a part of pet insurance and otherwise sold as a standalone product, is a popular segment in foreign countries. However, according to data from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, though dog insurance products have been approved, the number of policies issued continues to be low.
Take Future Generali India for example. The general insurer offers dog insurance, among other animal insurances like those for cattle, horses and camels.
K G Krishnamoorthy Rao, managing director & chief executive officer, admitted the firm has a maximum sum assured for dog insurance. "Though there is no limit on the sum assured and it depends on the breed of the dog, this segment is very small and we have only a handful of policies," said Rao.
Other insurers, both private and public, are facing the same problem. While segments like cattle insurance are seeing good demand in rural areas, penetration of dog insurance has been one to two per cent, according to industry players.
New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance, Future Generali and Bajaj Allianz General are among companies offering cover for dogs. Pet insurance is a category under which dog insurance is usually offered. However, insurers say dog insurance constitutes 80 to 90 per cent of this category, which includes other niche segments like cat insurance. The sum assured usually ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on the dog's breed.
Pure breed and mixed breed dogs are priced separately. A claim is considered only if the dog dies due to a disease (pre-existing disease not included) or an accident. Add-on covers are available for cases like accidental poisoning, third party injury and theft. Some, like Future Generali, offer add-on cover for loss of show entry fee: (limited to Rs 500). This is offered when the dog, which is registered with a kennel club, is unable to attend the show because of accident or disease covered in the policy, and entry fee is forfeited.
Ashok Patil, head of rural insurance at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, said veterinary doctors help assess a particular risk of a policy and help underwrite good risks. About one to two per cent of their portfolio of rural insurance is for animal insurance. "Pet insurance does not have a focused approach in India. But, it has a lot of scope, especially in the health insurance segment," he said.
Other players present in the animal insurance market have preferred to strengthen the cattle insurance segment, rather than offering new products like dog insurance. Anuj Tyagi, head-corporate business and rural & agri business, HDFC Ergo, said, "We offer livestock coverage like cattle insurance policy and sheep & goat insurance policy in the rural areas. It's a portfolio we look at with interest, though the portfolio at this stage is very small."
Lack of consumer awareness and unorganised practices in the segment are major reasons for dog insurance not taking off, say insurance players.
Consumers, on the other hand, want add-on services for the premiums they pay. Satish Mehra, a 35-year old owner of a five-year old Labrador, has not taken any insurance, because he feels the existing policies are too basic. "I purchased my dog from an international owner and would expect world-class services. There should be separate treatment for international breeds and cannot be standardised under one policy," Mehra said.
Another issue fellow owners would face is the low sum assured, he added. "If an individual purchases a dog for Rs 5 lakh and gets it insured for Rs 25,000; it doesn't make sense for him, both from the financial standpoint and risk perspective," he added.