Komal Joshi founded Planned Departure after her father died and she had difficulty accessing his online accounts.
This article is provided by the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Millions of people across the world have migrated large parts of their lives to the internet. Shopping, banking, socialising, business and leisure activities are all conducted via digital networks. As use of the internet pervades every aspect of our lives, privacy becomes paramount; we are encouraged to concoct elaborate passwords for each online activity. We are warned about fraud, identity theft, and the dangers of sharing personal information. Yet, ironically, all this secrecy creates a problem when we are no longer here. How can anyone else piece together the fragments of our digital existence?
It is a dilemma that Komal Joshi encountered when her father died in 2010, and she attempted to sort out his affairs for the administration of the estate. “I had to face the problem of finding out information about what and where the different assets were, the insurance policies and bank accounts. You don’t have the information and the family is grieving and on top of that you have to deal with the aftermath. It was a painful process, and it took such a long time,” she says. “Then I started thinking. My entire financial life is in this digital world. All my banking is online, my insurance policies are online, stock trading is online. Suppose something happens to me – my family wouldn’t know about the existence of any of this.”
As Joshi points out, there are two main problems: knowing where and what the assets are, and knowing what should be done with them. Her new business, Planned Departure, addresses both of these issues. It provides a way of closing the information gap at the appropriate time. A service user takes time to list the assets that they have, and write down their wishes in respect of those assets. This information is stored securely in an online vault and ultimately is available to whoever is involved in the administration of their affairs. In practice, it complements any will, making the administration of the estate a much smoother experience.
The original thought was that the service would be provided directly to consumers. “We did an initial survey, talking to banks to see if they go out to families proactively to discuss these kinds of topics,” says Joshi. “We discovered that they don’t; the individual has to take care of this.”
After researching whether anyone provided a similar service, Joshi decided to launch a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the idea. “There were not many solutions available and that’s why we launched the business. The idea was to take this product to the next level, so that everyone would use the product in the same way as everyone has insurance, for example,” she says.
Joshi already had some entrepreneurial experience. As well as completing a Masters in computer applications in India, and working for IBM for several years, she had also run her own consulting business, and launched several websites, including a software development platform and an education information resource.
Despite this, she decided to take an Executive MBA, and then apply for a place in the Incubator programme at London Business School. “I joined the MBA in order to increase my learning and get some more business knowledge, to increase my circle of influence, and also get a better view of how to take my business idea to the next level,” she says.
“If you have a start-up, you have this grand vision and want to reach out to bigger organisations to partner with, so you need some sort of credibility, and being part of the Incubator gives you that seal of approval. It suggests that there are a panel of people who believed in your idea and thought it was worth pursuing.”
Joshi continued to refine and extend the business model, targeting banks, insurance companies and other financial services providers as potential clients, as well as the general public. She is currently looking for funding.
“Every activity entrepreneurs perform are for themselves,” she says. “You have an idea, it grows, people use your product or service, and talk about it. The feeling that you get doing that is incomparable to working for another firm.”