The quick progression of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company (BAGIC) and Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company (BALIC) makes an interesting case study. Both operate in different segments — BAGIC in the non-life insurance sector and BALIC takes care of life insurance.

The striking commonality is their strong parentage led by Sanjiv Bajaj’s Bajaj Finserv jointly with global behemoth Allianz. Interestingly, the CEOs of both businesses also have a common ring to their names — Tapan Singhel (BAGIC) and Tarun Chugh (BALIC).

We did a deep dive into their transformation journeys.

The BAGIC story

Asked about the company’s secret sauce, Tapan Singhel, MD &CEO, BAGIC — a founding employee since its inception in 2000 — noted that the organisation was built brick-by-brick with a clear focus on customers and with prudent underwriting. 

“Our approach was to building not just a sustainable business, but a business that is innovative to its core and principally to really go out there to make a difference to society. We have always tried staying ahead of the curve, whether it is innovative products, state-of-the-art services, or being the insurer of choice for distributors,” said Singhel.

BAGIC now has close to 14 crore customers and has positively impacted the lives of more than 1 crore customers by settling claims worth more than ₹50,000 crore. BAGIC is the first insurer to start cashless as a concept with an in-house health administration team. Now, these innovations have almost become industry norms.

It revolutionised the industry by launching a digital distribution channel called Virtual Sales Office.“We now have more than 240 bancassurance partners — arguably one of the highest in the world. We were also the first to introduce new-age products like cyber and pet dog insurance. We launched Farmitra - Caringly Yours App, which is the first-of-its-kind through which farmers not only get insurance solutions, but also a range of crop information and advisories that cater to their day-to-day farming needs,” said Singhel.

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BAGIC’s underwriting standards is also one of its strengths. “If you see our top-line growth, we have grown ahead of the market. Writing the right business at the right price has been important for us,” he said.

But does Singhel still see the protection gap? Yes, stating that there is a large potential for the economy to reach the $5-trillion GDP mark. Another huge gap is that the number of insurers in India is very low for its population. To make a difference in the lives of customers, Singhel believes more insurers are needed not just to meet the demand, but also bring in better products, solutions and services.

BAGIC has a simple aspiration for the future. “Today, we are roughly at about one in four households. We aspire to make it to every household because insurance is about making a difference,” said Singhel.

The BALIC story

Threading on similar lines, BALIC is one of the fastest-growing new-age life insurers. BALIC serves over 2.76 crore individual customers and many more through its group plans, and occupied the sixth rank in FY23.

BALIC’s secret ingredient is its continuous diversification of its product portfolio through innovation. The case in point being the recent launch of an exclusive term plan, Bajaj Allianz Life Diabetic Term Plan Sub 8 HbA1c. This is the first-of-its-kind protection plan in the Indian life insurance industry, designed specially for Type 2 diabetic and pre-diabetics.

BALIC had a distribution network of 511 branches and over 1,25,912 agents as on March 31, 2023, comprehensive set of trusted partners and its proprietary sales channels both online and offline. “Over the last five years, the company has transitioned from an agency-centric organisation to a multi-distribution company,” said Tarun Chugh, MD and CEO, BALIC, while attributing this as a key success factors in the transformation process.

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BALIC’s claims settlement ratio at 99.04 per cent and an unbeatable 516 per cent solvency ratio of as on March 31, 2023, reflect the success. What deeply motivated BALIC, though, was its brand promise to get customers’ ‘life goals’ done in 2018. This positioning was radically opposite to the old limiting idea of a life insurance as a product that comes into play after the death of policyholder.

The insurer focused on three aspects — designing innovative customer-centric products and services; powering the solutions with a robust technology backbone and creating an agile, responsive, and high performance workforce to drive transformation. Its results were: Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure — a low-cost ULIP — with the industry-first feature to return the mortality charges; Bajaj Allianz Life POS Goal Suraksha, which enabled distribution network to sell value-packed insurance products over the counter; Bajaj Allianz Life Long Goal, which introduced the concept of systematic withdrawal that offered innovative tax-free income and many more.

BALIC was the first to launch zero charge ULIP and return of mortality charges for ULIP and an early player to have leveraged AI, ML and Big Data while maintaining customer centricity to the core.

Despite having travelled a long journey, Chugh feels there’s more to do, especially on educating and increasing the penetration of life insurance — more so, among women. Gen-Z is equally his focus. “We have to design products to stay relevant to the young generation and first-time income earners,” he said. But at the core, Chugh wants his products to be simple to understand. “That is an area we are continuously making progress.”