I was hired a while back to help with developing insurance products for the poor. This was a particularly interesting challenge because it took me back to my roots in Mathare, a slum in Nairobi that holds childhood memories.
The poor live their lives in constant peril from many directions. Economic, health, security among others. They need to feed and school their children, keep a roof over their heads and keep their families healthy. Given the fine margins in their earnings, disruption in their routines e.g. due to disease for the main bread winner or any unexpected expenses spell severe difficulty for the family. They therefore in fact, make the most sense to insure due to the high risk.
How do you create viable insurance products for families in an environment where day-to-day survival is the priority.
The process was pretty interesting, We employed contextual in-depth research and paper prototyping with a cross section of families and individuals to help us shape the most viable products for each demographic. The most important element for me was observing the purchase decision-making process. It was also incredibly insightful to interrogate the survival psyche in relation to purchase decisions.
It is often very difficult for the poor to think too far in the future. Insurance is therefore a fairly foreign concept. They are too concerned with survival today. This had a great influence in the design of products we prototyped. Rapid prototyping and iterations help dispel major assumptions on pricing and products. In this case, paper prototyping proved a cheap, fast and effective tool. The client is currently working on developing the final insurance products.