Universal Sompo General Insurance


Insurance cover for everyone


Universal Sompo General Insurance

Insurance cover for everyone

Ready with 98 products and pan-India reach, USGI is making risk cover easier for every Indian. Expansion of agents’ foot-prints, besides the expanding BANCA platform will further strengthen its penetration into the highly potential and vast country-side markets. With special products for semi-urban and rural India it is building a virtual retail mass market that may change the equation of non-life market and make it livelier. The track record of zero customer grievance as well as its assurance of hassle free claim settlements ensure business quality and customer retention.  People buy its products with a smile.

Universal Sompo General Insurance (USGI) knows the potential of the Indian non-life insurance market at its core, perhaps, more closely than many in the vast market that is yet untapped. Regulatory atmosphere in India’s insurance market saw some remarkable changes last year. Many government initiatives have also opened up newer opportunities for non-life business, as awareness about non-life insurance is penetrating deeply into India’s countryside. Though its actual outcome is yet to be ascertained, fast growing insurer like USGI, with sound knowledge of the market condition, the changing needs of people and innovative ideas in store, prepares itself to be an insurer that urban and rural India cannot stop looking at. The changing atmosphere in the industry, imminent capital inflow to a desirable extent and innovation taking place in rapid pace within would further give push to its plan of making itself one of the leaders in non-life market.

Relatively a late comer in the business, USGI has already shown an admirable success of public-private partnership, the first of this kind in this segment. It has prepared a ground for touching the soul of semi-urban India unlike the other urban centric new generation non-life insurers. In eight years, it has moved closer to the people through the vast bancassurance channel across the country with products, which laymen even in rural India, keenly look for. Constant product innovation opens new market for its business. Well-calculated plans like offer of insurance in OTC counters and on consumer goods for covering the risk of damage or loss of high-value items and, on the other side, special products for rural market, etc would open a mass market for the company. Now a large number of agents will further strengthen its presence in new geographies; similarly more branches of banks too. USGI is set to spearhead the change in the way the insurance products in India are sold and bought, says Mr O.N Singh, Executive Chairman of the company.

USGI could achieve the breakeven point precisely within the time it had set; then moved up steadily with stronger bottom-line and better quality of business. Last year, the company saw its profit soaring 1.8 times to Rs 28 crore, while the overall premium income grew nearly one-thirds over the previous year. Now it is growing at a significant rate in almost all operational metrics, as a result of its carefully calibrated strategies and well-calculated steps.  The volume of underwriting and the number policies sold are growing at an impressive rate. In the year, the company sold roughly a million policies and settled nearly 92,000 claims, the highest in its history and closely a quarter above the previous year’s numbers. At present, it is ranked one of the five largest non-life insurers in the private sector with rapidly expanding presence and more products on the roll.

Hitherto, we have seen a balanced growth, with positive bottom line. Now it is the time to expand faster. We want to accelerate the speed of growth with more products and expand our reach further,” says Mr Taketoshi Nagaoka, Managing Director of USGI. USGI will make buying insurance products easier. When one buys a consumer product, he can buy insurance cover also along with it on attractive terms, he avers.  Now it is ranked 5th among top 15 non-life insurance companies as per the ICMR- BFM survey. It has market share of around 12 per cent in the business controlled by private players. The expansion plans require additional capital. Since the regulatory atmosphere favours more foreign investment inflow, capital is not going to be a concern, Mr Taketoshi opines.

In fact, with well-calculated plans, infrastructure for reaching out to the customers and vastly diverse range of products in its chest, the company could touch a socially important segment deeply - the mix of semi-urban and rural market - that was hitherto shying away from buying insurance products to cover their risk, loss and damages. As far as a private player is concerned, that is, indeed, a great achievement. The company has designed suitable products for this segment understanding their needs deeply and broadly. The launch of micro insurance health product Saral Suraksha in June 2012 and designing of several other products for semi-urban and rural markets have shown its commitments towards rural India and its understanding of the real business potential in this market. This has also been an indication of how well it could find a sustainable space for its business growth in an over-crowded market. The launch of products like Sampoorna Suraksha Bima Policy, Saral Suraksha Bima PolicyFarmers Package PolicyCattle and Live Stock InsuranceJanata Personal Accident, etc. reaffirms its rural commitment and unique approach towards the country-side India.

“They virtually belong to a retail class that includes farmers who look for micro insurance and healthcare products,” asserts Mr Singh. With the kind of approach that USGI embarks on, the non-life insurance market will see a highly desirable inclusive growth - that will probably push the overall growth of the segment up to a more significant level over a period. In a way, no other private insurer could reach out to this massive segment, so effectively as USGI did with a sense of social responsibility, he points out.

In India, non-life insurance remained largely urban class proposition. Laymen rarely rendered any attention towards it. Rural markets used to draw blank with little hope of non-life business. But this is the market USGI has been keen to tap as its Indian promoters have many decades long experience in dealing with India’s throbbing rural market. The unique combination of partners – two public sector banks (Allahabad Bank and Indian Overseas Bank), one old generation private bank (Karnataka Bank), one private entity (Dabur Investments) and the mighty Japanese power in Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc., make USGC a unique non-life insurer in India – a trustable insurer for all classes of people. “We see, in two ways the insurance business work for people – one for covering their losses and unforeseen expenses on their health and the other one is for creating self-employment with our hand-holding support,” says Mr O.N Singh, one of the architects of the enviable ownership combination of USGI. In rural areas the company is taking massive initiative for creating jobs for people through agent recruitment process and giving them necessary training for their growth.

USGI has created a strong bancassurance base. Branches of promoter banks opened a strong selling platform for it. It has also shown its skills in dealing with policies of vastly diverse nature having region specific character and mass focus. Above all, self-observance of strict time-frame for serving the policies makes it a player with difference and helps it set a standard in the non-life market. Its reliance on the BANCA platform also has helped it understand region specific needs, individual specific requirements and what may make people of different classes buy policies.

 

Officers at the branch level are found pursuing the visiting customers to buy the tempting specially-packaged products, especially health plans that come at a lower premium for bank customers through a hassle free system. The renewal system is much easier and convenient. Many of the customers have now found the convenience of renewing their policies, which they could hardly keep up before they started buying USGI product from the partner banks like Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) or Allahabad Bank. Some of the customers have migrated from other insurance companies after finding the product more suitable and affordable. There are customers, who have opened accounts with the banks to avail the benefit of specially packaged products that attracted lower premium. The BANCA strategy has rendered excellent results as bank branches played a crucial role in pursuing their customers to buy USGI products, especially health products. It still finds immense scope for faster growth through this platform. Currently, of the 40 million customers that the promoter banks collectively have, it could cover only 1.1 million. Besides the partner banks, USGI has entered into arrangements with Union Bank, Dena Bank and Corporation Bank. There will be such arrangements with other banks too in the coming days, says Mr O.N Singh.

 

On the other side, the company’s marketing managers at field level work closely with newly appointed advisors. They understand the need of attracting quality customers, give them quotes quickly, explain features and pursue them successfully. Mr Gopal (name changed), who used to renew online his motor policy of another private insurer in January for the last seven years, this time brought Universal Sompo’s motor policy through an agent. Incidentally, he has been the customer of Universal Sompo holding a family floater health policy brought through IOB.

India is a huge market for insurance, but with an equally huge challenge also. Success of an insurer depends on how well does it prepare to meet the challenge and how precisely do its plans prove workable. People should trust its promises, commitments and delivery efficiency. By virtue of commercial banks as its Indian promoters, who collectively have over 40 million customers and around 6000 branches across the country, USGI has found the challenge of reaching out customers become manageable. The Japanese name as the collaborator has brought further respect to the company that has already gained trust of its partner banks’ customers.

Began modestly with infallible calculation eight years ago, it did not find the outreach an insurmountable task in a market that has been both thick and nebulous. It found the penetration level of Indian insurance market too slow even when the market was getting crowded. The awareness level among people was still poor. The service level across the industry had a huge scope for improvement. Nevertheless, the overall opportunities for a good insurer were huge. Commercial banks know the people face-to-face, understand their needs, realize the level of economic risk at various levels their customers’ face and have the capability to advise and pursue them for a risk-cover. A long time banker, Mr O.N Singh, a Chartered Accountant by qualification, who headed Allahabad Bank as Chairman and Managing Director and Bank of India as Executive Director earlier, knew the effective way to reach new markets – sprawling branch network of banks. Thousands of branches of the company’s promoter banks began to sell products specially packaged for their customers. Customers found it easy to buy and interact. Renewals have been made simpler with timely reminder from the respective branches besides the company’s renewal advice. In fact, many of the branches had seen people opening savings accounts to avail the benefit of specially packaged products. That led to the coverage of many uncovered and also migration from other insurers. Mr Singh and his team rightly believed the segment needed a different approach from the conventional ways to unlock its real potential.

Now USGI has 103 branches manned by 1500 employees in 17 zones with presence across the country. The bancassurance channel compliments the network further. Last year, 45 per cent of its growing business mix and more than 50 per cent of the total premium collection came from this channel, while the corporate business model soared substantially to 43 per cent from the previous year’s level of 27.50 per cent, says Mr Rajiv Kumar, Head Corporate Planning. Agency business contributed 12.47 per cent in that year. This year the picture looks to be brighter as the company is focusing on boosting the bancassurance business further through rekindling the branches of the partner banks and also through new arrangements to make further inroads. At the same time, it is focussing on expansion of agency foot-prints, while corporate business will also continue to be an equally important area.

BANCA channel is not the only platform the company is now focusing on, says Mr Bisheshwari Singh, Chief Marketing Officer of the company. There is a need of building agents’ network and widening the base of delivery through special arrangements and MoUs to sell popular products like motor insurance, which now has become the single largest component in the business mix. Now USGI is recruiting more agents and giving them necessary training to manage its products. The company has five agents training institute - at Mumbai, Raghunathganj, Karaikudi, Bangalore and Varanasi. Besides agents, it is also making special arrangements with leading vehicle manufacturers and dealer chains. Incidentally, the Japanese companies dominate Indian passenger car market, where USGI can truly be a preferred choice. It already enjoys strong support from Japanese corporations, Mr Taketoshi points out. These corporations contribute significantly to the business of USGI. Its special arrangements with leading car markers like Honda and Nissan are giving a boost to the motor business. Now it is planning to strike a deal with Maruti Suzuki, which will enhance its motor business further. “We expect a considerable growth in motor business through these tie-ups,” says Mr Taketoshi, who is highly optimistic about India’s growth in the changing atmosphere. 

 

Indians admire Japanese efficiency and business ethics. True, Japanese firms bring with them enviable technical skills, managerial efficiency and dedication. They are known for error proof systems and operations. They are highly trustable too. Unlike other alien institutions, Japanese firms seem to work well for ensuring local nature in a business they locally partner with; for that they chose a right partner.

Mr Taketoshi admires the Indian partners of the company for their efforts to build a massive presence even in interior parts of India. “We appreciate all the partners and we are happy with them,” he points out. “It is nice to see that the Indian partners are proactive and have helped USGI build an enviable bancassurance platform,” he says. Sompo finds India as a potential market, wherefrom half the Asian business is expected to emerge. “We are here to serve Indians with products and services ideal for them for which we bring our expertise that we have gained in Japan and other countries,” he adds. Besides capital, the Japanese partner will offer its Indian joint venture re-insurance support, technical underwriting guidance and strong processing and settlement systems.

“We believe in transparent operation and quick delivery. We have the track record of virtually a zero customer grievance, as we address each one with a special care keeping in mind the important element of this service business,” says Mr Singh. USGI was the first general insurance company in the country to implement the Integrated Grievance Management System, a real-time online grievance reporting system under IRDA directive for all insurers. Indeed, today, in Indian market, USGI is known for being a company with fully satisfied customers, besides having a name for fast and easy claim settlement through simple procedure. The company believes that claims service is at the heart of an insured-insurer relationship. “We have drawn our claims philosophy to achieve fair and timely settlement through proactive management of each claim in a customer friendly and transparent manner,” Mr Rajiv points out. It always believes in helping its customers quickly tide over the financial loss caused by any unfortunate fall-out, he points out. Reality check with a handful of customers also has favoured what Mr Rajiv has pointed out. 

In fact, USGI has excellent claim settlement mechanism that is safe and efficient. The company has 24-hour helpline, SMS and web enabled service platform for customer guidance, claim forms, processes, information on procedures and documentations. There are arrangements for cashless claim settlements through a network of service providers across the country. It has arrangements with quality screened partners. There are also on-account payments in case of large loss to ease anxieties of the insured ones and to render them support at the very moment they face loss. These ensure considerably less anxieties to customers and better convenience.

USGI has list of products that contains health and critical illness, personal accident and disability, home, motor and property for individuals, offices; shopkeepers package and other non-life packages for small entrepreneurs, besides employee benefit; operational, project insurance, liability and other special products for corporate establishments. It is the first company in the country to begin offering a plethora of products in the initial years of its operation itself. In 2009, it had 48 products. Now the basket has 98 products under three major streams – health, motor and commercial policies. Some are co-branded and some are standalone. Most of these products work on a robust IT platform to ensure easy processing and policy management, says Mr Rajiv. 

Individual Health Product is one of the growth drivers. The product ensures hospitalization expenses that include room rent, boarding expenses, nursing expenses, doctors’ fees, charges for blood, oxygen etc. and domiciliary hospitalization benefits for the insured one when he or she falls sick or meets with accidental injury during the policy period. By the feature called domiciliary hospitalization, the policy offers medical treatment for a period exceeding three days for illness that in normal course requires treatment but taken while being confined to home for reasons of inability to get admitted in hospitals. This indicates the company’s innovative approach and prudent sense. The product offers flexibility to cover certain critical illness also.

At present for the benefit of health care policy holders, the company has arrangements with a network of 1400 hospitals, which include corporate hospitals also across the country. But policy holders have the choice of moving into other hospitals outside its network with an offer of settling the claim quickly. Health business as at the end of the year 2014-15 constituted nearly 20 per cent of the overall business compared with the previous year’s 17 per cent.

Motor business constitutes nearly 36 per cent of the total business, the highest in the overall business combination. One of its leading products under this category, Private Car Insurance Policy covers vehicles against loss or damage arising out of accident, fire, explosion, self-ignition, lightning, burglary, theft, riot, strike, malicious act, terrorism, earthquake, flood, typhoon, or other kinds of accidents with some exceptions. It provides for compulsory personal accident cover for owner driver with a flexibility to opt covers against loss of accessories, legal liability to paid driver, cleaner or any workman, personal accident to the occupants, increased legal liability to property damage of third party etc. Private vehicles can also opt other attractive add on benefits and better convenience. The product is designed with an innovative sense to accommodate the growing necessities of policy buyers.

The commercial policies covering liabilities - losses and damages bring 27 per cent of the business. This business has been growing consistently over the last three years. USGI fire policy covers all immovable and movable property - buildings, plant and machinery, furniture, fixtures, fittings and other contents, stocks and stock in process along with goods held in trust or on commission.

Outperforming the average growth of non-life insurance business, UGSI aims to achieve one per cent of the general insurance market by the end of next financial year from the present level of 0.83 per cent, says Mr Bisheshwari Singh. Its history shows that the company has been growing well above the industry average. When the industry is expected to grow 14 to 15 per cent in the coming years, USGI has set a target of 25 per cent growth in premium, he says. Going by the plans that the company has made out, this is an easily achievable target. As the company is expanding the market and enlarging the product mix, the bottom line is expected to improve considerably, Mr Rajiv points out At the same time, he adds: “We will retain its name for being one of the most trustworthy insurers in the country.”

The company will go in a big way in the areas of motor and health, says Mr Rajiv. Health insurance also has a huge growth potential in rural India. With more Indians moving around the world, travel insurance also has become a potential area. Upon a special arrangement with the Ministry of External Affairs, the company is planning to launch special package for Indians going abroad. It now has a special product for them, named Pravasi Bharathiya Bhima Yojana.

USGI, which operates on a robust IT platform, has centralized policy processing centre in Navi Mumbai, wherein its operation department handles inflow of proposal, policy processing, taking care of discrepancies, if any, electronic fund transfer, reconciliation, issue of policy documents, claim check, channel mapping etc. The centre is equipped with highly sophisticated technological interface. The policy processing is done on Genesys platform.  Its well-networked data centre with latest trends in IT infrastructure hosts more than 80 servers. In February this year, the company was conferred with prestigious 94.3 My FM stars of the industry award for excellence in general insurance. It will be natural, more awards for excellence at various levels can make its showcase dense and find lasting place in the heart of people for its admirable products and services.  


As we know semi-urban and rural India more closely, we offer excellent insurance solutions suitable for people of the regions to cover their fear of heath risks and asset damages arising out of many eventualities. We do our business differently to ensure effective risk coverage for people who are badly in need of one at affordable cost.  

-          Mr O N Singh, Executive Chairman  

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Hitherto, USGI has seen a balanced growth with positive bottom line. Now it is the time to expand in a big way. We want to accelerate the speed of growth with more products and expand our reach further. USGI will make buying insurance products easier, as easy as buying any consumer product.

-          Mr Taketoshi Nagaoka, Managing Director 

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Outperforming the average growth of non-life insurance business, UGSI aims to achieve one per cent of the general insurance market by the end of next financial year from the present level of 0.83 per cent. Its history shows that the company has been growing well above the industry average.

-          Mr Bisheshwari Singh, Chief Marketing Officer

 

This year the picture looks to be brighter as the company is focusing on boosting the bancassurance business further through rekindling the branches of the partner banks and also through new arrangements to make further inroads. The focus on expansion of agency foot-prints and boosting corporate business will continue to be an equally important area. We will continue to focus on efficiency enhancement measure.

Mr Rajiv Kumar, HeadOperations and Corporate Planning

 

 

·         With a vastly diversified product basket USGI offers highly innovative and customized risk solutions to various customer segments that include rural and social sector, cashing in on its distribution channels even in interior places.

 

·        While the highly sophisticated technology architecture takes care of overall operation and processing, its fundamental principle of serving customers in best possible manner through customised product packaging and the aim of setting zero grievance record make it a unique insurer. It reads the mind of people through commercial banks, besides its own way and designs suitable products for masses based on the feedback. There is a host of general insurance products with special flavours. It has also acquired legendary Japanese efficiency, precision and skills in business.

 

·        The new regulation favours more foreign capital inflow. The massive expansion plans and innovative product formulations require more capital to remain competitive and capable of underwriting large size liabilities. As India is waiting for an imminent infrastructure boom there is a need of boosting the funding also. Since only an insurance corpus can fund long-gestation government tender based projects, insurers require capital of substantial size.