Big C Supercenter, Thailand's leading hypermarket store, plans to penetrate the insurance market with its 560 branches seen as the best channel to access the mass market, says Sarintip Satitsatian, Big C's vice-president for business development.
Under the name Big C Care You, the company joined hands with four insurers to launch a retail assurance service, offering both life and non-life policies. The four partners are ACE INA Overseas Insurance, ACE Life Assurance, Thai Cardif Life Assurance, and Coronate Broker.
In the initial stages, insurance products will be available at 50 hypermarket stores across the country later this year. The service will expand to 118 of its hypermarkets by the second quarter of 2014.
The final phase is to expand the service into its 276 branches of Big C Mini stores in the third quarter next year.
The hope is this will provide folks in provincial areas easier access to insurance protection. Though the retail insurance market shows high growth potential, only 30% of Thais hold insurance policies, said Ms Sarintip.
Big C targets insurance premiums of 1.2 billion baht under the service channel by 2016, she said.
Product development is the key focus of the programme rather than partner addition.
Big C's rival Tesco Lotus entered the insurance game last year to take advantage of its strong network, offering personal loans, credit cards and insurance products.
Vorawan Vechasut, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC), said the growth rate of insurance business is still below its target, partly due to the channel problem, especially in provincial areas. Some 37% of Thais hold life insurance policies and 70% hold non-life insurance.