Despite a boom in pet care facilities in India, the concept of pet insurance has not become popular here due to unorganised nature of this sector, say experts.
While pet insurance is hugely popular in the western countries, it is still relatively unknown in India, as insurance companies do not advertise about it and a large number of people do not get their pets registered, they say.
"Pet sector is not organised in India. There is no proper care and vaccination for pets, due to which the death rate is high. Such high mortality rate repels the insurance companies and they hesitate to get in," says Dr Vishal Sharma, a city-based veterinary doctor.
Majority of the insurance policies are dog-oriented, but other animals like elephants, cows, buffalos, cats, sheep, horses etc are also insured by different companies.
Companies offering pet insurance in India include the Oriental Insurance, United India Insurance, National Insurance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance and New India Assurance.
"Pet insurance is not the priority of people. They think what will I get in return. If the dog is of Rs 3,000, we can buy another one if something happens to his one. There is no target audience as such so companies do not spend on costly advertisements also," says R S Madan, Chief Manager, Oriental Insurance.
"Insurance has been there for costly racing horses. Buffaloes and cows in villages are insured as people depend on them for livelihoods. But for other pets, the situation is grim," says Madan.
According to a research conducted by Research and Consultancy Enterprise (RACE) of Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad, there are about 2.2 million dogs in the Indian household with the population increasing by 26 per cent every year.
The total pets are estimated to be around 4 million in India by experts. Internationally, pet insurance market seems to be experiencing a steady growth of about 10 per cent -15 per cent.
"Pet insurance is almost negligible at the moment. People want to get their pets insured as the cost of their treatment and maintenance has gone up. Also, there are not enough recognised hospitals that can recommend the expenditure on treating a pet," says Binoy Sahee, one of the organisers of the India International Pet Trade Fair.
Another factor is that a lot of people own pets which are not costly enough to lure insurance companies.
"Dogs in India are not much costly, You can get a pet in Rs 3,000 easily. Since number of such pets is higher, companies do not find them attractive as the premium for them is very low," says Dr Vishal.
He recounts an incident when a pet owner abandoned it due to increasing medical cost. "A man admitted his dog in my clinic in critical condition. After a few days, he stopped taking our calls as the medical expenditure was shooting beyond his limit. Pet insurance in this case could have been handy for him," says Dr Sharma.
According to Sahee, its right time for the insurance companies to tap this market. "Pet owners are increasingly becoming more concerned about their pet's welfare. Veterinary doctors also employ modern and expensive techniques and drugs for treatment. Both these factors result in a high maintenance cost of pets. So, it makes sense for insurance companies to seize the opportunity," he says.