We expect Bharti AXA to get profitable by 2014

Written by Aftab Ahmed | Vishwanath Nair | Updated: Nov 30 2012, 07:29am hrs
After touching Rs 1,000-crore worth of gross written premium, Bharti Axa General Insurance is planning to ramp up business and turn profitable by 2014, says Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, the managing director and chief executive officer. In an interview with Aftab Ahmed and Vishwanath Nair, he outlines new business areas and details of the benefits from bancassurance guidelines. Excerpts

The company has achieved R1,000 crore gross written premium. What are your plans now What are new areas of focus

We started our operations in August 2008. It is remarkable to reach R1,000-crore mark in four years. Now, our focus would be to retain customers apart from getting new customers. One area where we would focus more would be commercial lines of insurance and probably increase it to 20% of the book in the next couple of years. So far, commercial lines are 10% and by 2014 we plan to double it. If you look at growth, it is coming mainly from east and south region. I think these are two things wher we are focusing most.

The new bank assurance guidelines will benefit standalone health insurance players as banks will be able to tie up with more than one partners. Do you think this will affect your business as a multi-line insurer

I think its will help us as we are late entrants into the segment. The established players would suffer more. We cant get into most banks as they allow only one insurance company. So, we will be able to get hold over a lot of banks.

When do you expect to reach profitability

We expect to be profitable by 2014. In 2011-12, we had a net loss of R140 crore, including motor pool, where we had to share losses with other players. Excluding motor pool, we had a loss of R90 crore.

Is AXA considering to increase stake in Bharti to 49%, once the insurance Bill is cleared

As far as Bharti AXA goes, there is no capital crunch. We have a capital of R850 crore and probably we need R150-200 crore over the next two years. By 2014, we expect to get profitable. Whether AXA will increase its stake or not is a shareholders decision, not mine. AXA has the option to increase it. But I dont know if it will increase stake.

What response did you get from the finance ministry on your demand to raise tax deduction to R1 lakh on general insurance

We have not heard from the government yet. I think the demand is coming due to two factors. Firstly, the current premium rates are on the basis of 15-20 years old prices. Obviously, inflation has increased. We need to increase premium keeping current inflation in mind. Secondly, home insurance in India has very low penetration. In R1 lakh worth of deduction, we have included health and home insurance too. So the coverage that the customer gets will be a lot more.