Venkatasamy Jagannathan, 79, Chairman and CEO of Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, steps down on a high note. The company he helped set up in 2006 – he also has a small stake in it – reported a record-high net profit of ₹618 crore, including a record underwriting profit of ₹204 crore.
For Jagannathan, (who will continue as Star Health’s Non-Executive Chairman) this is a second retirement. The first was when he laid down office as the Chairman and Managing Director of the public sector general insurance company, United India Insurance—a company that Jagannathan turned around.
When Jagannathan, who has a master’s degree in economics, became the CMD of United India Insurance in 2001, the government-owned insurer was making losses. In three years, Jagannathan turned it around and left it with a profit of around ₹450 crore.
When the ETA group wanted to get into non-life insurance business, it turned to Jagannathan for guidance, who advised it to get into health insurance. This was at a time when all insurance companies’ health and motor portfolios were bleeding. But, from his experience in United India Insurance, Jagannathan knew that if one played his cards right, health insurance would be profitable. “Health is where money is,” he had then told this writer.
His mantra was simple: ‘unrelenting oversight on hospitals’. Star Health’s own set of doctors would scrutinize every bill of the empaneled hospitals, so as to ensure that there has not been any fluffy billing. Such control, along with an advertising blitzkrieg, Jagannathan proved that ‘health’ need not be a cash-hemorrhaging portfolio for insurance companies.
He also guided the company through its ₹7,249-crore IPO, in November 2021.
“Am I not getting old?” the insurance industry veteran of nearly six decades quipped when businessline reached him for a comment about his retirement today.