By Henry Ojelu
Kemi Ayinde is a techpreneur with an uncommon passion to reinvent health insurance in Nigeria. She is co-founder of several tech startup companies among which is Healthpoint — a firm which is making it possible for virtually everyone to afford health insurance coverage. In this interview, she shares her passion for creative tech solutions and the motivation behind her latest innovation.
I was born into a wonderful and tightly bonded family of five. My parents are from Abeokuta, Ogun state. I finished secondary school at 15 and progressed to the University of Lagos where I studied Mass Communication and graduated with distinctions. I received the award for Most Outstanding Graduating Student in my Department. After NYSC, I first worked at Ringier Nigeria, one of the foremost digital platform companies in Africa, where I was exposed to technology and IT. At Ringier, I learnt how to develop products from scratch. I developed web and mobile platforms with continuous practice and research. I grew my digital marketing skills on the job and further refined it with a course in Corporate Identity and Brand Management in Pan-Atlantic University. I also studied Digital Branding and Engagement with distinctions in Curtin University. I recently took a course in Contract Law in Harvard Law School.
Challenges growing up
I must give credit to my parents who did well to guide me and shape my disposition towards life. I grew up in a home where I was bestowed with so much love. My father believed so much in me and positioned me to work with the mindset that there is nothing impossible to achieve. Throughout my primary, secondary and undergraduate years, I always excelled academically. I was always top of the class and won numerous awards for my schools in state and national competitions. So growing up was very smooth and fun for me. Even as a young girl, I found myself meddling in technical and male-dominated household responsibilities. I enjoyed creating and designing new things and my family would always encourage me in anything I set my mind to achieve.
I am always excited about creating innovative solutions driven by technology as an enabler and a catalyst. My firm, Healthpoint was born out of the passion to make healthcare more easily accessible to everyone, young or old, rich or poor, through technology. We do not only provide health solutions to bring healthcare closer to the people, but we also provide financial intermediation for individuals and organizations who wish to acquire health cover plans for themselves, their families, and their teams but do not have the fund. We buy these health plans in bulk and provide it to them at affordable monthly rates that are very friendly to their pockets and work well with their cash flows. This sets us apart from other players in the market.
Again, because of our passion and drive to promote health inclusion in Nigeria, we have an annual program where we provide free health insurance cover for widows, orphans and vulnerable children. We know it is difficult for this class of people to acquire a health plan for themselves, so we have a mandate to do this every year. This year, we have beneficiaries from Jakins Home, Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative (SCCWI), and Child Life Line Organization. This is part of our corporate social responsibility.
What we have succeeded in doing is simplifying the user experience of health insurance in Nigeria through enabling technologies. We have completely cut off paper works and the long process associated with securing an insurance plan. We retail health insurance plans to customers at monthly subscriptions via our easy-to-use online application. We are also providing tele-health care solutions to our subscribers embedded in our health plans. Our mission is to promote health inclusiveness in Africa by making healthcare more accessible and affordable to everyone. To achieve this, we partner with social health insurance schemes, Health Maintenance Organizations ( HMOs) and reputable hospitals in Nigeria.
It has been very impressive so far. We have corporate clients who are still very excited about our monthly payment structure, our quick response time and our performance generally. Our numbers are growing very rapidly. We are also encouraged by our individual clients who have gained trust in us and have overtime become evangelists of our services. We get feedback via phone calls and social media channels from people expressing their appreciation of our innovative solutions. We find this most encouraging.
Aversion for insurance
Typically, health insurance in Africa has been very expensive. This is the major issue Healthpoint is addressing. Many residents in Nigeria and other African countries presently don’t have insurance cover. They resort to paying out-of-pocket for medical expenses leading many of them into financial hardship and poverty.
Despite the significant benefits of health insurance, which has been proven globally as the most efficient means to finance medical expenses, many people are still not convinced to acquire one. Nigerians and Africans generally are very religious and spiritual people who believe that God will never allow them experience any mishap, until they eventually do. However, we are excited that a significant proportion of Nigerians have come to understand the importance of insurance and many can testify to how much insurance has saved them during mishap or accident.
We first needed to perfect our products to fit the market which we have done successfully. We have also successfully delved into new markets that needed cover. We are at a point where we are ready to scale and have opened rounds for investment from venture capitalists and other investors.
Every day we see young tech entrepreneurs spring up in Nigeria. In other for this to continue, the government needs to create an enabling environment that aids tech start-ups, create policies for friendly start-ups and encourage financial institutions to invest these start-ups. There should be a system that encourages start-ups to share resources and ideas as this will help the younger generation of tech start-ups grow.
My biggest lesson so far has been to raise funds on time. I have also learnt to Invest heavily in advertising and marketing of our products. This is to ensure that we maintain market lead so that we do not get pushed aside by other brands. I have also learnt that it is better to start manually especially when you do not have the funds to invest heavily in technology.
In business, family and life, Ibukun Awosika has been a great inspiration and driver for me. Her successes and teachings have helped me stay strong in the hostile business environment in Nigeria, while also upholding my responsibilities to my family, friends and loved ones. She is someone I like to listen to as she does not hold back the truth when she speaks. She has made me understand and appreciate my strength as a woman in the business world, in the society and in the global space.
My guiding principle has always been to do what I love. My love and interest in technology has brought me thus far. Hard work, focus and dedication is something I value a lot.
We are working towards the point where our innovative healthcare and health finance solutions wholesomely accommodates everyone from all social strata across the African continent to easily access healthcare without having to deal with financial risks. From Nigeria, we will be extending our reach to Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa.
Advice for upcoming enterprenuers
For budding entrepreneurs in Africa, I would say always maintain the passion, close your ears to all negatives, keep moving like a train, trust God and above all, let the vision keep driving you until you get to that point where you’ve always dreamt of.
Africa is a hub of emerging markets waiting for you to pilot.