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Straight from the Specialists

Health insurance sector poised for more growth

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

With the arrival of Cigna TTK, there are now five standalone health insurers offering products and services in India. Religare Health is also a recent entrant that started operations only last year.

At a time when we are seeing several exits in the life insurance sector, this is an indicator of the growth potential in India’s health insurance sector.

Health insurance as a vertical has seen very good growth rates in recent years compared to others in the insurance space. The table below shows the numbers: Year

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13 Premium Collected (in 100,000 rupees)

8,388

11,480

13,469

15,701 Growth

37%

17%

17%

What’s interesting is that health insurers are spread across the price spectrum and don’t necessarily play the price-sensitive game to win premiums.

Taking stock of the insurance sector

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

With half the financial year gone by, it’s time to take stock of the insurance sector. Let me start with life insurance.

It was a tough year as new norms for a majority of insurance products – which were to be effective Oct. 1, 2013 but later postponed to Jan. 1, 2014 – were hanging like a sword over the business.

New ways to distribute insurance policies

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

On a rainy day in Mumbai, I was chatting with the taxi driver. It was a prolonged journey, made worse by a never-ending traffic jam. We talked about insurance and I asked him about his insurance cover. I heard the familiar story of a man being cheated into buying an expensive plan; he escaped only after losing a lot of money.

When we think of insurance, it’s typically life, motor and health insurance that come to mind. These are relatively expensive and an already reluctant Indian consumer stays away unless forced into it. This ‘push’ component has become the default sales mode. Motor insurance is mandatory by law and should have ready acceptance. But a large number of vehicles on Indian roads are still not insured.

Indian insurers can now go international

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Global insurers have been participating in the Indian insurance market for nearly 12 years. We may soon see the trend reversing.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the country’s insurance regulator, has laid down rules for Indian companies to start overseas operations. The criteria being: net worth of 5 billion rupees for life insurance companies, 2.5 billion rupees for general insurance companies and 7.5 billion rupees for re-insurance companies. In addition, the companies should have made a profit in at least three of the last five years.

Life insurance still struggling, non-life continues to grow

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

The lean half of the financial year for insurance sales is behind us and the numbers for the life insurance vertical are not impressive. But the general insurance or non-life vertical has shown a healthy growth rate. Highlights are given below.

Banks as a shop for insurance

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

The concept of insurance plans being sold through banks is called ‘bancassurance’ and there is a lot of interest in this distribution channel from all the stakeholders - customers, banks, insurance companies and the regulator.

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.

FDI in insurance — to hike or not to hike?

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

FDI in insurance might just be increased to 49 pct. This sounds way too familiar and has been the situation for quite a long time now. Or we could do some scenario building and even see it being delayed by a few more years.

Can we provide more cover at lower costs?

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

When it comes to financial products, does the general rule “low cost = low quality” hold true? By quality, I mean the quality of experience and service levels that should be expected from a standardised product.

Health insurance in new, improved avatar

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

“Till now our focus was to work as a development authority but now it has been more than a decade and it is time to act as a regulatory authority,” Hari Narayan, the chairman of India’s Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) was quoted as saying in a recent interview.

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