Wellx: Disrupting insurance in the Middle East with hyper-personalized wellness experiences

Starting February 2022, individuals, SMEs and corporates in the UAE can explore a brand-new, digital-first, wellness-backed insurance experience: Wellx. Founded by Javed Akberali and Vaibhav Kashyap, Wellx offers hyper-personalized protection plans as well as an ecosystem of wellness solutions that encourage individuals, families, companies and communities to stay healthy.

“The whole point of insurance was about sharing risk: but for far too long, we have only focused on the financial risk. In a post-Covid world, that doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to focus on preventing illness rather than just on paying medical bills during an emergency,” stresses Vaibhav Kashyap, the Co-Founder and CEO of Wellx.

In January 2022, the results of a decade-long study by the UAE Ministry of Health showed that obesity has been increasing dramatically in the country – 33% of married women and 40.3% of married men were found to be overweight. Similarly, 2019 data from the International Diabetes Foundation shows that UAE residents have one of the highest diabetes prevalence rates at 16.3%. Not only that, nearly 40% of adults between the ages of 20 and 79 years who have type 2 diabetes mellitus don’t even know that they have it.

“Traditional insurance doesn’t tackle the elephant in the room: despite overall increased financial security, lifestyle diseases and stress-related conditions are on the rise. As an industry, insurers must focus on our solution not being just a ‘rainy-day’ product that helps you only when you fall sick. Insurance must also provide you ‘everyday’ benefits – that’s Wellx,” explains Vaibhav.

This emphasis on promoting wellness – both physical and mental – runs through the core of Wellx’s proposition. The name is a play on ‘the wellness experience’. In addition to personal user benefits, the founders point out that a wellness-backed insurance solution benefits companies too. While healthier employees translate to better productivity, Wellx aims to drive bottom-line impact by reducing claims through tailored wellness engagements.

Studies from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and ScienceDirect’s Preventive Medicine Reports in 2013 and 2018, respectively, reveal that insurance-led rewards-based coaching programs produced a 3.5% reduction in weight, a 7.5% reduction in cardiovascular diseases, and a 13.2% reduction in cancer rates. One JOEM study even showed that there was an overall 10% to 13% cost reduction to the company in the 2nd and 3rd years of running such a program.

Javed Akberali, Co-Founder of Wellx, elaborates: “Our platform will recommend a hyper-personalized wellness experience for every individual, employee and corporate. Thus, everyone benefits – individuals, families and employees stay healthy; productivity goes up; and insurance expenses reduce.”

A report by the IMARC Group shows that the UAE’s health insurance sector was valued at US$6.6 billion in 2020, with the sector expected to grow at a CAGR of 8% between 2021 and 2026. However, the report also notes that, at the same time, healthcare costs are also on the rise. Therefore, while there is scope for growth, Wellx’s founders believe now is the time to take a closer look at how the whole ecosystem operates and propose solutions that benefit everyone, right from the individual end user to SMEs and corporates, not just insurance companies.

“At Wellx, we hope to change the way insurance works by using real-time data and an individual’s performance to price their insurance premiums. Insurance traditionally puts people in boxes – nationality, age, etc. We don’t. Instead, we hyper-personalize every insurance plan based on the individual user profile, with a benefits package and a dynamically priced premium that works best for each,” Javed explains.

The benefits Wellx offers include everything from advanced wearable technology and gym memberships, to access to health professionals, nutritionists and life coaches, and, above all, cashback rewards when members hit their personal fitness or wellness goals.

Javed concludes: “We want to make insurance a stress-free experience that emphasizes its core tenets: simplicity, protection and care. We want our members to focus on staying healthy in their body and mind – we’ll take care of the rest.”

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