professional with a successful work experience of over 25 years across public as well as private, life and general insurance companies.
She started her career as Assistant Manager – Project in the New India Assurance in 1987. After a 13 year learning experience here, she then moved to Birla Sun Life Insurance as Chief Manager – Bancassurance and Group Business.
In May 2006 she moved back to general insurance as the Chief Marketing Officer Universal Sompo General Insurance, heading both sales and marketing.
In 2007, Vishakha joined IDBI Federal Life Insurance at a pre license stage and set up the bancassurance channel to deliver business for three complete years, demonstrating y-o-y growth.
She then joined IndiaFirst Life Insurance as the Chief Business Officer before moving as Director – Sales and Marketing to Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life insurance.Vishakha is also a Fellow of Indian Insurance Institute (FIII).
Headquartered in Mumbai, IndiaFirst Life Insurance, with a paid-up share capital of INR 625 crore, is one of the country’s youngest life insurance companies.
It is promoted by two of India’s largest public sector banks – Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank along with UK’s leading risk, wealth and investment company Legal & General.
Bank of Baroda holds a 44 percent stake in IndiaFirst, while Andhra Bank and Legal & General hold a 30 percent and 26 percent respectively.
IndiaFirst believes it can differentiate itself through simple, easy to understand products that are fairly priced and efficiently serviced.
Today IndiaFirst Life is present in over 1,000 cities and towns across the country through 10040 partner bank branches. The company has covered over 9.5 million lives and has over INR 8160 crore of AUM as on June 30, 2015.
Replying to Sarika Kodag and Yash Ved of IIFL, Vishakha says “A strong demand side coupled with improving company efficiencies should provide the right environment for the insurance industry to expand and develop further.”
What is your outlook on the life insurance industry?
My outlook on the industry is positive with an optimistic expectation of stability and consistent growth. The life insurance industry has seen many regulatory interventions and the products are very customer centric.
The industry has received positive impetus in the form of a reviving economy, buoyant stock market and Government focus on increased Life Insurance penetration.
There is improved customer understanding and acceptance of Insurance as a key component in their financial goals.
Further, the rapid advancements in technology and their increased acceptance amongst customers is helping companies to find cost effective solutions.
Thus, a strong demand side coupled with improving company efficiencies should provide the right environment for the industry to expand and develop further.
Comment on the company’s financial performance.
The company had an encouraging FY15, posting our maiden profit of Rs.7 crore. In FY16 we are capitalizing on the positive sentiment and are well on our way to post strong business growth.
We have already shown a 14% yoy growth in Individual WRP Business in the first half of the year.
There are many misconceptions about Insurance. How do you address these issues?
Insurance is commonly understood as a mandatory vehicle insurance. If understood at all, it is now being recognised for death benefit.
The whole aspect of insurance as a risk management tool and a long term savings scheme is ignored. There is a strong need to insure oneself for an amount equal to potential earning capability.
That is pure insurance. There is equally a requirement to put aside money for use during the non income generating years.
This long term savings is provided only by insurance, as a construct and as per regulatory provisions.
Further, I believe we do a disservice to the customer and to Insurance, when we compare Insurance products that fulfill a very specific need of protection and long term savings with protection, to other non comparable Banking and Investment products.
Each product has a unique role to play in the customer’s financial portfolio and the same has to be recognized.
Insurance ensures the financial health of the customer, while providing returns that are commensurate to the customer’s risk bearing appetite.
We need to stop seeing insurance as an expense and recognise it as a contingency provision and risk management solution.
Customers need to be educated on how to use Insurance solutions to their advantage to build a secure future for themselves and their families.
IndiaFirst Life Insurance has received a capital infusion of Rs. 150 crore from its three promoters. How are you utilizing the capital?
Is the foreign promoter looking at increasing its stake in IndiaFirst Life Insurance?
All three of our promoters, Bank of Baroda, Andhra Bank and Legal & General continue to be committed and invested in IndiaFirst Life Insurance.
Their support to the company’s objective of ‘Securing Lives, Creating Value’ has been demonstrated through capital infusion in early October by all partners. There are no immediate plans of change in shareholding structure.
IndiaFirst has followed a multi-channel approach since inception, and is constantly innovating on its products, service delivery and operating models.
The additional capital will be used to leverage these innovations and fuel business growth.
We see digitization and analytics driven decision making to be two key pillars to achieve our objectives of servicing a large scale of customers.
We have already secured over 1 crore lives in a short span of 6 years of operations, and we are keen to continue spreading Insurance amongst the Indian masses.
To what extent have you been involved in the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana announced in the Budget?
We are one of the few private sector life Insurers who are already actively participating in this scheme.
We have launched this product for Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank our two Bancassurance partners.
We have secured over 22 lakh lives under this scheme. We feel this scheme has perfect synergy with our objective of ‘Securing Lives, Creating Value’ and we are keen to continue promoting this.
We face some challenges on account of Stamp Duty Charges, and are in talks with the Government to see how they can support us to overcome the same.