A few months back, I tried searching the web for options on employee benefits – ‘what are the best employee benefits for startups’. What turned up on the results was, not surprisingly, an eclectic mix of thousands of ideas. Thanks to marketers doing SEO, none of the articles actually answered what I was looking for, but were a massive collection of ideas grouped in no meaningful way.
One search led to another and I was soon in a rabbit hole about employee benefits. And that’s when I learned that traditionally, there are four types of employee benefits – medical, life, disability, and retirement.
Where are the lunch coupons, travel perks, WFH kits, Spotify subscriptions, free WiFi? Where is all the cool stuff? Turns out, those are not benefits. They are just baits to lure millennials.
A month later, we ended up making health insurance our first employee benefit. The rest of the article is about how and why we made that a priority over other plans, and why you should too.
2000s – The rise of tech giants and cool perks
The first decade of this century was when the FAANG wave hit the world and software engineers started earning more than investment bankers. The giants realized who they were hiring – the millennials. A whole new generation of talent, the one that had been exposed to the internet at an early age.
The mandate was clear – Get the highest potential talent early in their career to write code for them. In the second half of the decade, CTCs in job offers were being topped with free gadgets, subscriptions, great food, movie tickets and what not.
The cool perks were a bait to lure millennials.
However, these companies ensured that the perks were always offered on top of actual benefits – Health, well-being, disability and life insurance. I repeat, these were offered on top of benefits, and not replacing benefits.
2010s – The VC-backed startup boom
By the time we entered the new decade, we were in the post-recession era when money followed technology, and newspapers were headlined with seed rounds and Series A/B/C/D/Es for startups.
Venture capital had to beat FAANG in the hiring race.
Cool perks and employee benefits, and certainly a better compensation package (in cash or equity) was being served to the new kids. So far, the meaningful employee benefits that are meant to take care of employees have not lost their place.
But as the decade progressed, a few unhealthy trends came up. For millennials and the generations that followed, Spotify subscription was more exciting than health insurance. Millennials didn’t know the value and importance of health benefits – And some startups chose to not care about their employees too.
I know how this sounds, but it’s true.
The talent market was crunched and the startups were mushrooming. Individual ambitions kept pushing people to smaller startups in hopes of bigger wins – everyone wanted to make a dent in the universe.
More time passed and now millennials were turning into founders and of course, a Macbook with a Spotify subscription was cooler, and insurance was not needed.
Three things have happened so far:
- Macbooks and Spotify subscriptions are established cooler than health insurance.
- Founders and early employees are both sets who have not needed to claim health insurance in their life – So they don’t know what it could cost them.
- The complexity of health insurance is keeping teams and leaders away from essential knowledge about insurance – How much does it cost, how to choose the right plan?
We are living in an age when early stage startups pay extra to insure their Macbooks against damage but shy away from spending a little money for health insurance.
Enter 2020, with a Covid 2019
I can’t speak for the global landscape, but at least in India, I know of first-hand experiences where employees went up to founders asking if there was an employee health insurance plan. The response was heartbreaking for both the parties in this dialogue.
The pandemic made everyone realize the cost of not having a group health insurance plan for employees was much higher than paying the premium for it.
It’s funny how it took us a pandemic and so many let-downs to realign our priorities and reimagine employee benefits. But I am glad we’re getting there. I hope we are getting there.
Employee benefits in India today
It’s unfair to point fingers here. And if there is a finger to be pointed, it’s at the healthcare insurance industry. The details are so foggy that a decision gets buried under the weight of terms and conditions. What should have been as simple as possible is tending towards infinite complexity, more complex than the average term sheet, frankly.
Another finger needs to be pointed towards the government (as usual). The government of India did release a vague statement during the onset of Covid which kind of mandated health insurance. But did you hear about it? Me neither. Hopefully, it will be mandatory soon.
What got me started in this direction in the first place was a conversation with Sanchit Malik. I have known him since his days at TownScript. He is now building Pazcare – A promise of covering every startup in India with comprehensive health insurance.
There has been a ton of growth in the insurance tech industry but very few are addressing this for startups (B2B). And why we chose Pazcare was because their thought is in the right direction – From insurance coverage to mental health and virtual wellness programs, they seem to be headed in the very right direction.
I will mention four points below as I close the article, and that should be enough for you to reach out to Pazcare without a second thought and get your employees insured. (Or share this article with your founders/HR if you don’t have an insurance plan of if your insurance plan sucks):
- It costs, roughly, between INR 3000 to INR 12000 per employee per year
Companies purchase a group health insurance plan for employees. Because of a bulk purchase (multiple employees), the prices are extremely cheap.
- Pazcare makes insurance plans simple
For us, Pazcare handpicked 3 plans with the benefits clearly listed out, and asked us to choose one basis for our budget. This is unbiased because they are not agents.
- Pazcare takes care of claim processing
If and when your employees need to claim insurance, Pazcare does the claim process for you – You don’t have to talk to the bank or agent or anything like that. It’s literally like a whatsapp conversation on their mobile app.
- Mental health, virtual wellness and more
It comes packed with many more interesting offerings like health checkups, mental wellness modules inside the app, virtual yoga sessions from trainers and more.
- You should take care of your employee
Really? Do you need a subtext for this? Just go here.