I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Ilyas who is one of the co-founders of “BuyAnyInsurance.com” – a new and upcoming insurance comparison site in Dubai aimed at providing a “solutions-driven” experience to customers in the UAE who are looking to buy any kind of insurance be it car, home, life or health. Michael has also been running Cactimedia since 2003 – a web design agency in Dubai providing creative, strategic and technical expertise to small, medium and large companies in the region, thereby enabling them to drive their business further and dominate the digital space.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Michael: I have been in the digital space for 10 years and I have worked very closely with companies of various sizes and in diverse industries. I would like to think I now understand the unique challenges of the market here in the UAE and therefore I firmly believe that there is room for improvement in the online insurance space and that things can be done better – on the digital side, the UX and also on the sales and customer service side.
When I met Mark Bachayani, co-founder, an insurance veteran in the UAE, we both felt strongly that a platform that only does insurance comparison but does it perfectly, would definitely be worth investing in.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
There are so many interesting stories, but one that really comes to mind is when we began discussing PR and the launch strategy for BuyAnyInsurance.com. I hadn’t realised the task at hand and how instrumental PR would be in developing our brand, and some of the ideas for the launch ranged from Flash mobs, through to coming down the longest zipline in Ras-Al-Khaimah holding an umbrella, to painting a whole island blue.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Michael: We have just started so there are not many funny mistakes yet. But we are hoping to keep a lid on the mistakes and if we do make any we want to make sure we learn from them and adapt quickly
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Michael: What makes us stand out is our relentless focus on providing a seamless and hiccup-free experience to anyone who wishes to buy insurance in Dubai and from across the UAE. I specialize and have been doing digital for 10 years in the region and Mark has been doing insurance for a decade in the region. With our powers combined we can ensure our customers get the best of both worlds.
Our company is built knowing that we only hire the best people to do the job and we share a common goal, to be the most trusted and transparent insurance company in the UAE. We take care in choosing the right people, whether it takes 7 plus interviews, we want to be sure that everyone who joins what we call our “family”, all share the same common goal, so through thick and thin, we support each other.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Michael: It’s about working Smart and not long hours. Take the time to understand your customers better. Orient and optimize your company and value proposition according to the pain-points of those customers. I think a lot of businesses in the region make the mistake of following industry leaders but don’t take the time and make the effort to learn about customer’s wants and needs first hand. I know this is easier said than done and it takes tremendous discipline to ingrain this principle into sales teams, client management teams, technical teams and customer service folks.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Michael: It’s still early days for us, but without a doubt, I would like to thank the team that has worked on the company and the investors and brought it to life. These guys are an invaluable resource. Other than that I would obviously like to thank my family and friends who have stuck through thick and thin.
Having mapped out the business plan for BuyAnyInsurance.com, the next steps were to find an investor. I met with a potential client for Cactimedia and over a coffee, I spoke of BuyAnyInsurnce.com and within 2 days we were at the lawyers office signing the paperwork.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Michael: The reason BuyAnyInsurance.com exists is to make life a little bit easier for people in the UAE – and we want to do that by making their insurance buying experience easier, cheaper, friendlier and pain-free. With BuyAnyInsurance.com you can have an insurance coverage at the best price in under one hour. That’s how we want to begin spreading goodness and then work our way up and find other ways to do more good.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Michael: It’s a bit cliché nowadays to say this but I really relate to the Steve Jobs quote “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. For me it means that one should always push oneself to achieve greater things and better things and to never settle. In today’s world where technology changes so rapidly, it’s absolutely imperative to stay “foolish” – to keep the thirst to know more and learn more alive. You can say that another word for “foolish” is “curious”, but I like “foolish” more because it has more punch and it takes guts to be foolish and I really admire that quality.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Hire the best team possible. Do not compromise on that.
Be embarrassed about your product, don’t wait until the product is perfect to launch. We launched 6 weeks ago and have version 2 ready to roll out
Listen and learn from your team and keep an eye out for your competitors.
Build out processes with checks and balances that are independent of your input.
Keep a flat structure and promote lots of communication
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Michael: I would create spaces in which people of great talent could develop their skills in. I have seen a lot of talented people struggle, and as a result I am initiating an internship programme to help grow and retain talent in the UAE.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/BuyAnyInsurance/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Michael: Thank you!