Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Selling insurance through kirana stores

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

India is considered to be a large untapped market for insurance products. There seems to be enough scope for improvement on the insurance density and insurance penetration counts for the country. While this is true, the challenge lies in reaching out to the large population in the rural areas where the traditional financial distribution channels just don’t make economic sense.

The traditional insurance products would also not make sense in these areas as the requirements would be very different from what a tier 1 or tier 2 city would need. After selling, the ability to service these customers too would form a crucial part of the link to increase these numbers.

These plans are called micro insurance plans and are specially meant for the rural areas to meet their requirements. The insurance regulator has analysed the performance of these plans and the distribution network and made some suggestions to improve the sales of these products. Currently NGOs, SHGs and MFIs form a majority of the micro insurance agents, but it was found that most of the little business that was done by the agents was being done through NGOs. It is felt that the insurance industry has not tapped into them well enough to increase sales of these products.

Hopes fade as investors await concrete action

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

It was an action-packed week for the markets but not for the reasons we had anticipated. Manmohan Singh’s government, which was expected to announce a string of policy action steps starting with a diesel price hike, failed to make any announcements which would have cheered markets.

Consequences of an export squeeze

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In June, exports shrank more than five percent to $25 billion largely due to recessionary conditions in major importing countries such as the U.S. and the EU. Although exports are not as critical to us as they are to Singapore or China, they do count for a lot.

Opting for lean and mean armies

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The British army is being cut to size, or perhaps, being stripped to its bones. The British defence secretary has announced a 20 percent cut, reducing its strength to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade.

Get set for an action-packed week

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Markets continued to display weakness during the week except for a spirited, though limited, rally on July 18 after the UPA convinced belligerent ally Mamata Banerjee to fall in line for the presidential elections. The Nifty lost 0.4 pct to close the week at 5205 on political worries after the NCP, another government ally, expressed dissatisfaction with its functioning.

The growth versus inflation dilemma

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The RBI is concerned about inflation; the finance ministry has growth as its priority. That, as RBI Governor D. Subbarao mentioned, makes the two almost look like adversaries.

Decoding political risk no mean feat

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Politics is playing a dominant role in financial markets today — and generally speaking, investors do not like it. Political risk is an additional layer of uncertainty that has to be factored in while making investment decisions. Because political risk is intimately linked with the uncertainties of human behaviour, the impact of political risk can at times seem to be almost random. After over two decades as a professional economist, I can assert that forecasting economies is tough. Trying to forecast what politicians are going to do is even worse.

Markets await rollout of policy action

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

We saw some tiredness in the markets with subdued optimism as compared to the previous 4-5 weeks as the bouncebacks were not as sharp and strong. The Nifty tended to close at the lower end of the band at 5227, a fall of about 80 points. A major disappointment during the week was the below-expectation result from IT bellwether Infosys followed by a lower annual guidance.

The enigma of diesel prices

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Budget considerations make it necessary to raise prices of diesel; political exigencies make that difficult. No wonder Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu was cautious enough to suggest ‘partial decontrol’. But the present is the time to do more than that.

Is inequality inhibiting growth?

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By Raghuram Rajan
The opinions expressed are his own

To understand how to achieve a sustained recovery from the Great Recession, we need to understand its causes. And identifying causes means starting with the evidence.

Two facts stand out. First, overall demand for goods and services is much weaker, both in Europe and the United States, than it was in the go-go years before the recession. Second, most of the economic gains in the U.S. in recent years have gone to the rich, while the middle class has fallen behind in relative terms.

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