Insurance Sector in India


By
Sanjeev Sasidharan
III Sem. MBA (Finanace & Marketing)
TKM Institute of Management
Kollam, Kerela
E-mail:
sanjeevsasidharan@yahoo.com
 


The insurance sector in India has come a full circle from being an open competitive market to nationalisation and back to a liberalised market again. Tracing the developments in the Indian insurance sector reveals the 360-degree turn witnessed over a period of almost two centuries.

A brief history of the Insurance sector

The business of life insurance in India in its existing form started in India in the year 1818 with the establishment of the Oriental Life Insurance Company in Calcutta.

Some of the important milestones in the life insurance business in India are:

  • 1912: The Indian Life Assurance Companies Act enacted as the first statute to regulate the life insurance business.
  • 1928: The Indian Insurance Companies Act enacted to enable the government to collect statistical information about both life and non-life insurance businesses.
  • 1938: Earlier legislation consolidated and amended to by the Insurance Act with the objective of protecting the interests of the insuring public.
  • 1956: 245 Indian and foreign insurers and provident societies taken over by the central government and nationalised. LIC formed by an Act of Parliament, viz. LIC Act, 1956, with a capital contribution of Rs. 5 crore from the Government of India.

The General insurance business in India, on the other hand, can trace its roots to the Triton Insurance Company Ltd., the first general insurance company established in the year 1850 in Calcutta by the British.

Some of the important milestones in the general insurance business in India are:

  • 1907: The Indian Mercantile Insurance Ltd. set up, the first company to transact all classes of general insurance business.
  • 1957: General Insurance Council, a wing of the Insurance Association of India, frames a code of conduct for ensuring fair conduct and sound business practices.
  • 1968: The Insurance Act amended to regulate investments and set minimum solvency margins and the Tariff Advisory Committee set up.
  • 1972: The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 nationalised the general insurance business in India with effect from 1st January 1973.
  • 107 insurers amalgamated and grouped into four companies viz. the National Insurance Company Ltd., the New India Assurance Company Ltd., the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. and the United India Insurance Company Ltd. GIC incorporated as a company.

Insurance sector reforms:

In 1993, Malhotra Committee headed by former Finance Secretary and RBI Governor R.N. Malhotra was formed to evaluate the Indian insurance industry and recommend its future direction.

The Malhotra committee was set up with the objective of complementing the reforms initiated in the financial sector. The reforms were aimed at "creating a more efficient and competitive financial system suitable for the requirements of the economy keeping in mind the structural changes currently underway and recognizing that insurance is an important part of the overall financial system where it was necessary to address the need for similar reforms…"

In 1994, the committee submitted the report and some of the key recommendations included:

1) Structure

  • Government stake in the insurance Companies to be brought down to 50%.
  • Government should take over the holdings of GIC and its subsidiaries so that these subsidiaries can act as independent corporations.
  • All the insurance companies should be given greater freedom to operate.

2) Competition

  • Private Companies with a minimum paid up capital of Rs.1bn should be allowed to enter the industry.
  • No Company should deal in both Life and General Insurance through a single entity.
  • Foreign companies may be allowed to enter the industry in collaboration with the domestic companies.
  • Postal Life Insurance should be allowed to operate in the rural market.
  • Only One State Level Life Insurance Company should be allowed to operate in each state.

3) Regulatory Body

  • The Insurance Act should be changed.
  • An Insurance Regulatory body should be set up.
  • Controller of Insurance (Currently a part from the Finance Ministry) should be made independent.

4) Investments

  • Mandatory Investments of LIC Life Fund in government securities to be reduced from 75% to 50%.
  • GIC and its subsidiaries are not to hold more than 5% in any company (There current holdings to be brought down to this level over a period of time).

5) Customer Service

  • LIC should pay interest on delays in payments beyond 30 days.
  • Insurance companies must be encouraged to set up unit linked pension plans.
  • Computerisation of operations and updating of technology to be carried out in the insurance industry The committee emphasized that in order to improve the customer services and increase the coverage of the insurance industry should be opened up to competition.

But at the same time, the committee felt the need to exercise caution as any failure on the part of new players could ruin the public confidence in the industry. Hence, it was decided to allow competition in a limited way by stipulating the minimum capital requirement of Rs.100 crores. The committee felt the need to provide greater autonomy to insurance companies in order to improve their performance and enable them to act as independent companies with economic motives. For this purpose, it had proposed setting up an independent regulatory body.

MAJOR POLICY CHANGES

Insurance sector has been opened up for competition from Indian private insurance companies with the enactment of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 (IRDA Act). As per the provisions of IRDA Act, 1999, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) was established on 19th April 2000 to protect the interests of holder of insurance policy and to regulate, promote and ensure orderly growth of the insurance industry. IRDA Act 1999 paved the way for the entry of private players into the insurance market which was hitherto the exclusive privilege of public sector insurance companies/ corporations. Under the new dispensation Indian insurance companies in private sector were permitted to operate in India with the following conditions:

  • Company is formed and registered under the Companies Act, 1956;
  • The aggregate holdings of equity shares by a foreign company, either by itself or through its subsidiary companies or its nominees, do not exceed 26%, paid up equity capital of such Indian insurance company;
  • The company's sole purpose is to carry on life insurance business or general insurance business or reinsurance business.
  • The minimum paid up equity capital for life or general insurance business is Rs.100 crores.
  • The minimum paid up equity capital for carrying on reinsurance business has been prescribed as Rs.200 crores.

The Authority has notified 27 Regulations on various issues which include Registration of Insurers, Regulation on insurance agents, Solvency Margin, Re-insurance, Obligation of Insurers to Rural and Social sector, Investment and Accounting Procedure, Protection of policy holders' interest etc. Applications were invited by the Authority with effect from 15th August, 2000 for issue of the Certificate of Registration to both life and non-life insurers. The Authority has its Head Quarter at Hyderabad.

Insurance companies:

IRDA has so far granted registration to 12 private life insurance companies and 9 general insurance companies. If the existing public sector insurance companies are included, there are currently 13 insurance companies in the life side and 13 companies operating in general insurance business. General Insurance Corporation has been approved as the "Indian reinsurer" for underwriting only reinsurance business. Particulars of the life insurance companies and general insurance companies including their web address is given below:

LIFE INSURERS

Websites

Public Sector

Life Insurance Corporation of India

www.licindia.com

Private Sector

Allianz Bajaj Life Insurance Company Limited

www.allianzbajaj.co.in

Birla Sun-Life Insurance Company Limited

www.birlasunlife.com

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Limited

www.hdfcinsurance.com

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co. Limited

www.iciciprulife.com

ING Vysya Life Insurance Company Limited

www.ingvysayalife.com

Max New York Life Insurance Co. Limited

www.maxnewyorklife.com

MetLife Insurance Company Limited

www.metlife.com

Om Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

www.omkotakmahnidra.com

SBI Life Insurance Company Limited

www.sbilife.co.in

TATA AIG Life Insurance Company Limited

www.tata-aig.com

AMP Sanmar Assurance Company Limited

www.ampsanmar.com

Dabur CGU Life Insurance Co. Pvt. Limited

www.avivaindia.com

GENERAL INSURERS

Public Sector

National Insurance Company Limited

www.nationalinsuranceindia.com

New India Assurance Company Limited

www.niacl.com

Oriental Insurance Company Limited

www.orientalinsurance.nic.in

United India Insurance Company Limited

www.uiic.co.in

Private Sector

Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Limited

www.bajajallianz.co.in

ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd.

www.icicilombard.com

IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance Co. Ltd.

www.itgi.co.in

Reliance General Insurance Co. Limited

www.ril.com

Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Co. Ltd.

www.royalsun.com

TATA AIG General Insurance Co. Limited

www.tata-aig.com

Cholamandalam General Insurance Co. Ltd.

www.cholainsurance.com

Export Credit Guarantee Corporation

www.ecgcindia.com

HDFC Chubb General Insurance Co. Ltd.

REINSURER

General Insurance Corporation of India

www.gicindia.com


Protection of the interest of policy holders:

IRDA has the responsibility of protecting the interest of insurance policyholders. Towards achieving this objective, the Authority has taken the following steps:
  • IRDA has notified Protection of Policyholders Interest Regulations 2001 to provide for: policy proposal documents in easily understandable language; claims procedure in both life and non-life; setting up of grievance redressal machinery; speedy settlement of claims; and policyholders' servicing. The Regulation also provides for payment of interest by insurers for the delay in settlement of claim.
  • The insurers are required to maintain solvency margins so that they are in a position to meet their obligations towards policyholders with regard to payment of claims.
  • It is obligatory on the part of the insurance companies to disclose clearly the benefits, terms and conditions under the policy. The advertisements issued by the insurers should not mislead the insuring public.
  • All insurers are required to set up proper grievance redress machinery in their head office and at their other offices.
  • The Authority takes up with the insurers any complaint received from the policyholders in connection with services provided by them under the insurance contract.
     


Sanjeev Sasidharan
III Sem. MBA (Finanace & Marketing)
TKM Institute of Management
Kollam, Kerela
E-mail:
sanjeevsasidharan@yahoo.com
 

Source : E-mail September 28, 2005

 

  

 

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