Ashvin Arora was born in India. He completed his Bachelor in engineering from BITS Pilani, a premier institution in his home country. Ashvin then migrated to Australia and completed his MBA from the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He has been an Australian citizen for more than 30 years, and his permanent residence is in Sydney, although he is currently living and working in Singapore.
Ashvin has worked for large multinational companies in middle to senior management positions for the last 30 plus years. His most recent experience was with Nippon Life in Australia, before which he was Global/Asia Product Director for Aviva with responsibilities across Europe and Asia. Prior to that, Ashvin was with Metlife Ltd. as the Head of Retirement Solutions, Australia. Before that position he was a Managing Director for Hartford Life Ltd, where he was based in the US and later in the UK. Before that, he was with ING Life for over ten years in senior management roles.
Ashvin Arora is recognised internationally within the life insurance industry for his expertise in product management related to critical illnesses, disability income, wealth transfer products, and annuities. He has a wide arrangement of expertise in areas related to strategic business planning and execution, managing the product development process, process improvement and transformation, cross-jurisdiction regulatory and compliance, advanced computing, and mathematical and financial modelling. Ashvin Arora is a strong believer in the power of animated video to simplify life insurance concepts and is now engaged in creating a high-speed learning environment for a global audience with his new company Visible Life.
Where did the idea for Visible Life come from?
I saw an opportunity to be of service and do something useful for the community based on the experience I had gained over the years and on my own area of expertise. Everyone needs life insurance, however insurance policies are too complicated due to the number of medical definitions involved. Insurance products are continuing to become more complex over time due to an increasing array of features being offered in response to increasing competition. I believe that even the most complex and obscure concepts can be transformed into simple animated stories which can be told with speed. The human eye is capable of processing entire images in the blink of an eye, thus materials which use well-designed animations can help reduce training time dramatically. As a guide, 5 hours of reading can be reduced to 5 minutes of watching video for similar learning outcomes.
This was the inspiration behind Visible Life—to simplify complex life insurance concepts into a series of animated stories people would love to watch, thus creating a high-speed learning environment aimed at helping customers secure their financial future.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a long-term habit of getting up early in the morning, formed when I got into rowing in Sydney some ten years ago. I have been able to put this habit to good use working on this project. My day is busy with a lot of operational work typical of a startup. However, I am also the content creator (animated videos) which means I must also develop initial concepts for animations and write the scripts. So, I dedicate two hours every morning from 4 -6am for this purpose.
A snapshot of my day would look something like this:
4-6am script writing and video production
9am-6pm normal working day, dealing with operational matters and meetings with stakeholders.
7pm-8 pm go for a walk with my wife
8:30pm-9:00pm some TV
9:00pm – 10:30pm some more work
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have extensive product management experience across investment management and insurance, and in many countries, as well. In addition to my BE (Hons) and MBA qualifications, I have also received specialist training in managing innovation from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The main job of a product manager is to bring new product ideas to life, so this is something I have plenty of experience doing. Bringing products to life can be thought of as a 5 step process. The process starts with defining the concept—what exactly is the idea? In the second step, a prototype is made and some basic market research is carried out to answer questions such as (1) is it feasible to produce on a large enough scale (2) what will it take to produce it, is the capital required feasible (3) what are potential customers saying about it and what changes are required (4) will there be demand and how much would customers be willing to pay—is this price point feasible? A business case is prepared to determine financial feasibility and a product spec is finalized (It doesn’t matter if the idea is a product, service or software) and a go/no go decision made. The third step is implementation, where production capabilities are put into place, tried, and tested. In the fourth step, marketing plans are put into place. In the fifth and final step, the product is launched to market.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am inspired by the pace of change in human longevity. Due to remarkable breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture, and medical technology, we now live twice as long as we did in 1850, and an average lifespan of 100 is not so far away. What changes have taken place within us? What life risks do we now face, what threatens our future and what do we need to do to protect ourselves? What do we need to learn about these life-risks, and how can we understand the complex information we are now presented with? I am excited by these topics, which form a key theme in the materials that my company will produce.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think my habit of getting up early in the morning and dedicating the two hours from 4am to 6am to work puts me at an advantage. Another advantage I feel is my ability to type fast (it’s no use thinking fast if you can’t type emails, reports and other materials fast) and also a high level of competence with basic office packages such as Microsoft Office. This allows me to get basic things done fast, leaving room for more important activities such as stakeholder management and producing materials that go to market.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I think I was in too much of a hurry—I’d say “go slow” to my younger self.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Staying on topic (life insurance), I have long argued that pooling all customers in the same bucket in an annuities product is not fair. People who live shorter lives end up funding income streams for those who live longer lives. This type of pooling is okay for products where accidents or chance illnesses are involved based on random luck, however not when it comes to longevity products, such as when you pay a lump sum of money (say $300,000) to receive a guaranteed income (say $15,000 per annum) until you die. Healthy people will likely live longer than not so healthy people—what if you are obese, or have high blood pressure and cholesterol, or have other health problems? In such products, unhealthy people who probably lead shorter lives end up subsidizing the income streams of those who are healthier and live longer. However, all this has recently changed, I am glad to say. The latest annuity products carry out some underwriting, and if you are suffering from something like high blood pressure or cholesterol, or are obese or a smoker, you will be paid a higher annuity income than someone who has none of these illnesses and is healthy.
Another area is the ability of customers to understand life insurance products. Most in the industry will argue that our products are too complicated, whereas my view has always been that efforts should be made to explain them in a simple way, without using industry jargon, so people know why insurance is important and understand what they are buying. Simplification has always been considered too difficult (pardon the pun), so that is why I started Visible Life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think the most important thing an entrepreneur can do is to manage your (1) customers, who are the reason your company exists and (2) your stakeholders who support you along your journey.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The three magic ingredients of growth are (1) a genuinely good idea, service, or product that helps people ,(2) technology that enables growth with no barriers, and (3) low cost of growth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Lower than expected take up rates in the beginning. This required a more detailed understanding of segmentation, understanding why people were not as responsive as originally expected, and putting marketing strategies in place to improve response.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I would say the four books I read during the last 12 months which, all together, cost me around $100. (1) ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2) ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles (3) ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch (4) ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi. These books showed me the ability to convert difficult topics into powerful, emotional stories that customers love—which is the overarching theme of Visible Life.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I tend to use Google’s Calendly a lot for making appointments, and I am planning on integrating this with my website to allow customers to make appointments directly with advisors on my panel. I think this is one of the most simple and powerful tools available for free from Google.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Can I suggest two? ‘Simplify’ By Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood. In this book, the authors show how the great winners over time have been those who can (1) simplify their proposition and (2) simplify their pricing. This advice is priceless, especially when you’re starting up. In his book ‘Further Faster’ coach and author Bill Flynn provides a great framework for how to grow your business once you’ve made it through the first couple of years.
What is your favorite quote?
“I firmly believe that any man’s (or woman’s) finest hour, the greatest fulfillment in all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out and lies exhausted on the field of battle—victorious.” — Vince Lombardi
• Simplify complex concepts into easily digestible pieces of information when explaining them to other people.
• It is highly valuable to wake up early each day.
• Be slow and methodical when addressing business matters. It pays to do things right the first time rather than speeding through tasks only to find you have to go back and re-do things.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.