Covering for slow growth

Written by Simran Arora | Updated: Nov 29 2009, 02:34am hrs
Insurance companies in the country are gradually coming out of the economic slowdown and are launching new products and repackaging the existing ones to increase their market share. They are also reporting revival in sales and a steady growth in premium collections .

ICICI Prudential Life has embarked on an agenda of growth with efficiency and plans to focus on various elements, including new products. The insurance company, which saw new business growth slowing down in the first half of this financial year, is seeing sales gradually picking up. Similarly, Max New York Life expects its sales would grow by 20% in the second half of this financial year. And HDFC Standard Life believes that the consumer confidence is slowly showing a positive trend and is optimistic of a growth of 10-15% in its new premium collection during the financial year 2009-10.

Tarun Chugh, chief, alternate distribution, ICICI Prudential Life, says the strong growth in renewal premium indicates an improvement in consumer sentiments. The impact of the external environment had resulted in slower growth in the second half of this financial year. Though new business growth slowed down, renewals continued to reflect a positive trend registering a 31% year-on-year growth and contributed to 69% of the total premium collection in the first half of this financial year, he says.

Now, with the renewed interest, especially in the next four months when investors plan their tax saving, industry body Life Insurance Council expects growth to be around 15% and total premium income to touch Rs 2,55,000 crore in the current financial year. In fact, despite the slowdown, the industry has mopped up Rs 1,01,976 crore of premiums, registering a growth of 18% over the year -ago period. Total renewal premiums for regular unit linked insurance plans (ulips) witnessed a growth of 40% in April-September period at Rs 25,950 crore compared with Rs 18,506 crore in the same period last financial year. New business premiums increased by 13% to Rs 38,985 crore from Rs 34,529 crore for the corresponding period in 2008-09.

Chug of ICICI says, We will focus on building trust with existing customers through sustained fund performance, world class service delivery encompassing multiple touch point services such as web, branches, call centres and SMSes. He adds that the company will focus on emerging segments like health and rural areas, which currently contribute 14% and 7%, respectively to the companys overall business.

Similarly, HDFC Standard Life is engaged in internal research to understand changing consumer needs to launch new products. Sanjay Tripathi, executive vice-president and head (marketing), HDFC Standard Life, says, We have launched Super Series of products keeping in mind the changing needs of customers (endowment, savings for children and pension needs).

To push sales, Bajaj Allianz is planning to launch focused campaigns to increase awareness about its products and services. Akshay Mehrotra, head (marketing), Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, says, New products and high decibel advertisement campaigns are not the only way to increase sales. It has to be need-based and the campaign should strike a chord with the target segment.

Given the market volatility, Max New York Life Insurance Company is lining up products, which come with guaranteed growth and capital protection. Anil Misra, zonal vice-president (north), Max New York Life Insurance, says, This year we launched two guaranteed returned products health and retirement and also made a foray into the universal life category with Secure Dreams.

As investors plan their tax savings for the year, insurance companies will now have to do serious product differentiation to grab a larger pie of the market and stay ahead of the curve.