As for its current operations, he said the company saw its areas of strength in non-motor retail, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and corporate business. ICICI Lombard is now present in 21 cities.
In its efforts to focus on the SME segment, the company was building up a strong agency force. It had over 1,000 agents already who would play the role of physical touchpoints. They were also important because it was not possible to service the vast marketplace through its own offices alone.
These touchpoints would be critical even when the company promoted more channels of distribution, including virtual channels like internet and ATMs, he remarked. Even if products were offered over the Net, finally convincing the client needed the company to be represented physicallywhich could be done only by agents.
Mr Bakhshi saw little conflict between the roles of agents and brokers, since agents would be catering to the retail segment and brokers to higher-value business. He said more business would be generated with higher market penetration as other channels were roped in and alliances struck with banks, FMCG majors, brokers, etc. He argued that both sides stood to gain, especially banks, since they too were looking at enhancing fee-based incomes.
The market is large enough for all the existing and new players, he said in response to a question on competition. The company has notched up Rs 170 crore in premium income as of mid-January, Mr Bakhshi added. He stressed that there was sufficient role for each insurer, but the challenge was to gain acceptance in the masses for insurance as a lifestyle as well as an effective risk transfer mechanism.