Indian Express interview - BIG TALK: RAJIVJAMKHEDKAR, MD AND CEO

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ritu Kant Ojha

There is a need for simpler products’

There is a need for health insurance products that are simple and transparent says, Rajiv Jamkhedkar MD and CEO of Aegon Religare Life insurance which has recently launched an online health insurance product. “Slowly the industry is moving from Product-centric approach to customer-centric approach,” he says in an interview with Ritu Kant Ojha of the Indian Express, Excerpts:

Why are we seeing a movetowards establishing onlinesales channel by insurancecompanies?

Online channel offers value, convenience and access to customers. They are able to company as well as productswhenever they want.Customers are able to compareproducts and choose the bestfit. Slowlypeople are gettingcomfortable with buying insurance online. That is why we areseeing increasing interest from insurance companies. Over the last three years, more than fivelakh people came on ouronlineplatformand took a quote.Only a minisculenumber out of those that take quote, actually buys insurance. However, slowly the number is increasingand a lot of it is due to word ofmouth.

Most of the health productsare quite complicated. Do yousee need for simpler healthproducts?

There is definitely a need forsimpler and transparent products. As a customer,oneneedsa product that is easy to understand without any technical jargons and is transparent in itsclaims process. Slowly the industry is moving from product-centric approach to customer-centric approach and focus onsimple products will only increase.

Insurance sector is goingthrough a rough phase, Doyou see any positives for thesector this fiscal?

It is too early in the year tocomment about the entire year.The right time would be September after first  half is over.However, it will never be ashectic growth as we saw in thepast. The industry would growgiven huge need for insurancebut it will not be as fast as it wasfew yearsback.

There was a gold-rush phenomenon when the sectorwas opened up in 2000 withno focus on rationalizing costs. We saw shutting downof lot of branches inlast2years. Is the era of highgrowth over?

The period from 2004 to 2007was ofhigh growth for the insurance sector. The financial crisisof2008 was an eye-opener.Since 2008 companies havebeen rationalizing their numberof branches. Large players havecut down their branches bigtime. Companies have reducedtheir employee strength. Certainly the era of high growth isover and companies have takencorrective action.

Do you agree that agencymodel would gradually loseits relevance in India?

I still think agencies arc relevantchannel for a country like Indiawhere the penetration levels are really low. Insurance companieshave to reach out to all segments of the society. India being a diverse country, localtouch and local base ofan insurance agent is a comfort for anaverage customer looking tobuy insurance. So agency channel will continue for many years in India.


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