Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.

Embracing Uncertainty

If you ask investors, they will tell you one thing that they dislike. It is inexainty. Investors always fear uncertainty. In fact, they hate uncertainty. If you ask further, everyone will give different answers but the main reason why they hate uncertainty is that they do not like losing money.

That is right. Losing money is what we as investors want to avoid. However, avoiding uncertainty is not the answer. You see, life is always full of uncertainty. Therefore, taking risks is necessary in investing no matter what your background is. Tell me what kind of assets with no uncertainty at all. One common answer is placing your money in Certificate of Deposit. (CD). The proponent of this investment claims that your money will always accrue interest no matter what happens to the economy, oil price and other things affecting stock investment. But is that so?

Let me answer your question with another question. Why do different banks give you different interest rate for your CD? Sure, it is affected partly by their money supply and demand. If a bank can take in more money than it can loan, it will generally give lower interest rate. However, do you notice that larger established banks generally give lower interest rate than say, an internet CD from e-trade? The answer is uncertainty. Big banks are less likely to fall and therefore, investors are willing to accept lower return investing in their CD. On the other hand, internet banks are more uncertain to survive ten years from now. Thus, the higher interest rate. You see, when you embrace uncertainty, you will earn a higher return on your investment. How about risk? The risk here is that when you invest in small unestablished banks, it may go bankrupt and bring your money down with it. Sure, in theory, your money is protected up to $ 100,000 from FDIC. If you loan your money to a friend, he or she will always say that they will pay your money back, no matter what. But banks are not your friend. In fact, you friends who borrow money from you, can default on their payments.

That is the risk of investing in CD. While, the risk seems remote, it always exists. On the opposite side, investors who fear accidently will probably stuff their money in the mattress, approaching little or no money. This is an extreme example but as you see, getting rid of uncertainty does not look that good here.

Embrace accidently does not mean investing your money blindly. To get a higher return, you need to embrace uncertainty and be educated to minimize your risk. In our CD investment case, what should investors do? Well, for example, you can research the trustworthiness of your bank to sites such as bankrate.com. Once you are comfortable about the status of your bank, you can then invest in CD which offers higher interest rate. A little bit of your time will earn you quite a bit. This is what I called embracing uncertainty. You accept that uncertainty is part of investing but you need to be aware of the risks that you take in any kind of investment. From there, you can weigh your risk and reward and decide which the additional risk is worth investing or not.

Similar case can be applied to stock investing. It is full of uncertainty and there is no way around it. However, by being educated in the stock market, you can minimize your risk and can earn additional return in the process.

Turnaround investing validates this concept. You can choose to invest in a well-run companies with seemingly no trouble in the horizon. Or … you can choose to invest in companies with short-term trouble and wait for them to turnaround. In these two cases, investing in turnaround companies will give you greater return. This is due to the uncertainty of investing in companies with short-term trouble. As always, you have a decision to make. Life is full of choice. Would you rather invest in CD and avoid uncertainty even? Or embracing uncertainty and reap a higher return on your investment?

Education: The Military's First and Best Line of Defense

The idea now prevalent among some defense officials that formal classroom-based education is either expendable or unnecessary flies in the face of millennia of historical precedent. Brilliant strategists and military leaders not only tend to have had excellent education, but most acknowledge the value and influence of their mentors. The roll call of the intellectual warriors is sometimes the best argument in support of training armies to think: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert E. Lee, Erwin Rommel, George Patton, Chester Nimitz.

In stark contrast we can cite familiar military leaders whose educations were, we say, lackluster: the Duke of Wellington (he beat Napoleon – barely – after a slugging 7-year campaign), Ulysses Grant, George Custer, Adolph Hitler, Hermann Goering, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Manuel Noriega. For these men, military victories were often a matter of luck over tactics, overwhelming force over innovative planning, and soldiers more fearful than their masters than of the enemy.

I am a moderate, neither "red" nor "blue," with leanings in both camps. I firmly resist a draft, but support (and was once part of) ROTC. When I read that Columbia University had voted overwhelmingly to ban the Officer Officer Training Corps from returning to the campus, I felt that the concept of academic freedom itself had been violated. It is not the university's place to impute value judgments or decision on moral issues. Instead, universities were intended to be places where minds could visit among a broad range of viewpoints, hopefully to pick and choose the best parts from among them. By banning a campus ROTC contingent, Columbia has denied students that choice, and as an academic I am ashamed for them.

ROTC has much to offer university students, including (sometimes especially) those not enrolled as officer candidates. As a thirty-something graduate student working on my master's degree, I enrolled and participated in two ROTC history classes being taught by a multi-decorated Marine colonel, himself a holder of a master's degree in history. The things I learned about military implications of the battles we studied, the social effects of each decision, and the pains taken by most leaders to secure better materiel and intelligence for their troops far exceeded anything taught in the history department's coverage of the same incidents. It was from that extraordinarily patriotic US Marine career officer that I learned, for example, that during the War of 1812 the US invaded Canada and, when it discovered it could not succeed, burned the national Parliament buildings. It was for that last action that British soldiers later pressed on to Washington and set fire to the US Capitol and White House.

Does any of that make a difference? Indeed, I think it is crucial to national survival that soldiers and the public know the big picture behind events that becoming rallying later later. After 9/11, a precious few people asked the loaded question, "what have we done to incur this attack?" The overwhelming response was to stifle such questions – the US were the good guys, and those religious fanatics were angry because they were jealous of our luxury and wealth – and simply treat the attackers as nameless, inhuman enemies. There was no question allowed as to what the real problem might be, only that the US must attack them and annihilate aggression. But what competent physician, I ask, treats only a symptom but ignores the cause of the disease? According to numerous studies mandated by the UN and other agencies, the most important change that would most work towards eliminating poverty and war would be the universal access of women to an education.

We may "Remember the Alamo," but how many recall that Texas was either part of the US then, nor was it trying to become a state. It was seeking independence as a nation so it could maintain slavery, which Mexico had outlawed. When we "Remember the Maine," do we also recall that the ship was probably sunk by an engineering problem, and not from Spanish sabotage? That the war was pushed by US hawks and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst, knowing that a war would greatly boost newspaper sales? We must learn from history, because we are already doomed to repeating it. The 9/11 attack was carried out out predominately by Saudi Arabs, but the US response was to attack Iraq. Despite a preponderance of evidence that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the American public still preferred the fabrications about anthrax attacks, WMDs, and terrorist training camps.

So what of military plans to merely enlarge the distance learning programs to replace classroom instruction? As a career teacher, I risk sounding like a ludite when I disparage distance learning. In my experience, there can be no substitute for a human-to-human interaction, where ideas can be immediately sorted, argued, and revised. Seeing the emotional expression of classmates when one discusses controversies ranging from "just wars" to the use of nuclear weapons to the pros and cons of a given policy simply can not be part of an electronic lesson. There is simply no substitution, for example, to having a combat veteran point out "I was there" in a class when another student has presented the sanitized version of a controversial event. That level of emotion will not come through a cable modem. We are already becoming extremely dependent upon the impersonal Internet, so how much more non-human contact can possibly be good for our psychological, especially empathic, development.

Historically, one of the first tragedies of war – after truth and diversity of opinion – is basic humanity. In wars, our soldiers do not kill Germans, French, British, Indians, Japanese, or Vietnamese people. Almost from the beginning, they instead fight krauts, frogs, limeys, savages, nips, or gooks. How much more difficult is it for a poorly educated soldier to understand the enemy when the enemy has been made subhuman? How, perfectly, can the war be won and, more important, peace maintained if we can not understand (but not necessarily agree with) the enemy?
It is unfortunate that the senior military officers so often bring the brunt of public hostility for actions made by civil authorities. The present administration is among the most academically impoverished in US history, while the senior officers are among the most highly educated. While it is true that some soldiers actually enjoy combat, the vast majority would welcome, nay embrace, a career of unbroken peace. The intelligent career soldier trains to protect that which he or she most values, knowing that wars are inevitable. Most pray that they need never fight, but stand ready to put their lives on the line should the rest of us need protection. Rather than reduce, compromise, or restrict education to these defenders, I would argue instead that they all receive free access to our universities and colleges. The academic world needs to get behind a unified message: education is not a privilege; It is the first and best line of defense.

Globlization And Its Impact Of Insurance Industry In India

INTRODUCTION

The word “Fear” has only four alphabets like love but both of them have very different e meaning. Whatever man (malor female) does for the love of their families always starts with the background of fear. Generally so many times we have been asking our selves that, what will happen if we were not there, but we keep on asking rather then doing something for it. Time is precious, it never stops for any one and we are living in the world of uncertainty; the uncertainty of job, the uncertainty of money, the uncertainty of property and like this the story goes continuous for the whole life of a man.

A thriving insurance sector is of vital importance to every modern economy. Firstly because it encourages the habit of saving, secondly because it provides a safety net to rural and urban enterprises and productive individuals. And perhaps most importantly it generates long- term invisible funds for infrastructure building. The nature of the insurance business is such that the cash inflow of insurance companies is constant while the payout is deferred and contingency related.

This characteristic feature of their business makes insurance companies the biggest investors in long-gestation infrastructure development projects in all developed and aspiring nations. This is the most compelling reason why private sector (and foreign) companies, which will spread the insurance habit in the societal and consumer interest are urgently required in this vital sector of the economy. Opening up of insurance to private sector including foreign participation has resulted into various opportunities and challenges in India.

LIFE INSURANCE MARKET

The Life Insurance market in India is an underdeveloped market that was only tapped by the state owned LIC till the entry of private insurers. The penetration of life insurance products was 19 percent of the total 400 million of the insurable population. The state owned LIC sold insurance as a tax instrument, not as a product giving protection. Most customers were under- insured with no flexibility or transparency in the products. With the entry of the private insurers the rules of the game have changed.

The 12 private insurers in the life insurance market have already grabbed nearly 9 percent of the market in terms of premium income. The new business premium of the 12 private players has tripled to Rs 1000 crore in 2002- 03 over last year. Meanwhile, with regard to state owned LIC’s new premium business has fallen.

Innovative products, smart marketing and aggressive distribution. That’s the triple whammy combination that has enabled fledgling private insurance companies to sign up Indian customers faster than anyone ever expected. Indians, who have always seen life insurance as a tax saving device, are now suddenly turning to the private sector and snapping up the new innovative products on offer.

The growing popularity of the private insurers is evidenced in other ways. They are coining money in new niches that they have introduced. The state owned companies still dominate segments like endowments and money back policies. But in the annuity or pension products business, the private insurers have already wrested over 33 percent of the market. And in the popular unit-linked insurance schemes they have a virtual monopoly, with over 90 percent of the customers.

The private insurers also seem to be scoring big in other ways- they are persuading people to take out bigger policies. For instance, the average size of a life insurance policy before privatization was around Rs 50,000. That has risen to about Rs 80,000. But the private insurers are ahead in this game and the average size of their policies is around Rs 1.1 lakh to Rs 1.2 lakh- way bigger than the industry average.

Buoyed by their quicker than expected success, nearly all private insurers are fast- forwarding the second phase of their expansion plans. No doubt the aggressive stance of private insurers is already paying rich dividends. But a rejuvenated LIC is also trying to fight back to woo new customers.

INSURANCE TODAY

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.

With the setup of Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) the reforms started in the Insurance sector. It has became necessary as if we compare our Insurance penetration and per capita premium we are much behind then the rest of the world. The table above gives the statistics for the year 2000.

With the expected increase in per capita income to 6% for the next 10 year and with the improvement in the awareness levels the demand for insurance is expected to grow.

As per an independent consultancy company, Monitor Group has estimated a growth form Rs. 218 Billion to Rs. 1003 Billion by 2008. The estimations seems achievable as the performance of 13 life Insurance players in India for the year 2002-2003 (up to October, based on the first year premium) is Rs. 66.683 million being LIC the biggest contributor with Rs. 59,187 million. As of now LIC has 2050 branches in 7 zones with strong team of 5,60,000 agents.

IMPACT OF GLOBALISATION

While nationalized insurance companies have done a commendable job in extending the volume of the business, opening up insurance sector to private players was a necessity in the context of globalization of financial sector. If traditional infrastructural and semipublic goods industries such as banking, airlines, telecom, power etc., have significant private sector presence, continuing a state of monopoly in provision of insurance was indefensible and therefore, the globalization of insurance has been done as discussed earlier. Its impact has to be seen in the form of creating various opportunities and challenges.

The introduction of private players in the industry has added colours to the dull industry. The initiatives taken by the private players are very competitive and have given immense competition to the on time monopoly of the market LIC. Since the advent of the private players in the market the industry has seen new and innovative steps taken by the players in the sector. The new players have improved the service quality of the insurance. As a result LIC down the years have seen the declining in its career. The market share was distributed among the private players. Though LIC still holds 75% of the insurance sector the upcoming nature of these private players are enough to give more competition to LIC in the near future. LIC market share has decreased from 95%(2002-03) to 81% (2004-05). The following company holds the rest of the market share of the insurance industry.

TABLE – 1

IMPACT OF GLOBALISATION

NAME OF THE PLAYER MARKET SHARE (%)

LIC 82.3

ICICI PRUDENTIAL 5.63

BIRLA SUN LIFE 2.56

BAJA ALLIANZ 2.03

SBI LIFE 1.80

HDFC STANDARD 1.36

TATA AIG 1.29

MAX NEW YORK 0.90

AVIVA 0.79

OM KOTAK MAHINDRA 0.51

ING VYASA 0.37

AMP SANMAR 0.26

METLIFE 0.21

PRESENT SCENARIO OF GLOBALISATION

In a tough battle to expand market shares the private sector life insurance industry consisting of 14 life insurance companies at 26% have lost 3% of market share to the state owned Life Insurance Corporation(LIC) in the domestic life insurance industry in 2006-07. According to the figures released by Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority, the total premium of these 14 companies have shot up by 90% to Rs 19,471.83 crore in 2006-07 from Rs 10, 252 crore.

LIC with a total premium mobilisation of Rs 55,934 crore has been able to retain a market share of 74.26 % during the reporting period. In total the life insurance industry in first year premium has grown by 110% to Rs 75, 406 crore during 2006-07. The 2006-07 performance has thrown a few surprises in the ranking among the private sector life insurance companies. New entrants like Reliance Life and SBI Life had shown a huge growth of over 381% and 210% respectively during the year. Reliance Life which has become one of the top five companies ended the year with a premium of Rs 930 crore during the year.

Though ICICI Prudential Life Insurance remained as the No 1 private sector life insurance company during the year. Bajaj Allianz overtook ICICI Prudential in terms of monthly market share in March, for the first time ever. Bajaj’s market share among private players in non-single premium for March stood at 29.1% vs. ICICI Prudential’s 23.8%. Bajaj gained 4.6 percentage point market share among private sector players for FY07.

Among other private players, SBI Life and Reliance Life continued to do well, each gaining 4% market share in FY07. SBI Life’s growth was driven by increasing contribution from ULIP premiums. Another notable developments of the 2006-07 performance has been the expansion of retail markets by the life insurance comapnies. Bajaj Alliannz Life insurance has added 20 lakh policies while ICICI Prudential has expanded over 19 lakh policies during the year.

With the largest number of life insurance policies in force in the world, Insurance happens to be a mega opportunity in India. It’s a business growing at the rate of 15-20 per cent annually and presently is of the order of Rs 450 billion. Together with banking services, it adds about 7 per cent to the country’s GDP. Gross premium collection is nearly 2 per cent of GDP and funds available with LIC for investments are 8 per cent of GDP.

Yet, nearly 80 per cent of Indian population is without life insurance cover while health insurance and non-life insurance continues to be below international standards. And this part of the population is also subject to weak social security and pension systems with hardly any old age income security. This itself is an indicator that growth potential for the insurance sector is immense.

A well-developed and evolved insurance sector is needed for economic development as it provides long term funds for infrastructure development and at the same time strengthens the risk taking ability. It is estimated that over the next ten years India would require investments of the order of one trillion US dollar. The Insurance sector, to some extent, can enable investments in infrastructure development to sustain economic growth of the country.

Insurance is a federal subject in India. There are two legislations that govern the sector- The Insurance Act- 1938 and the IRDA Act- 1999. The insurance sector in India has become 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.

Important milestones in the life insurance business in India

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- LIC Act 1956- with a capital contribution of Rs. 5 crore from the Government of India.

In a tough battle to expand market shares the private sector life insurance industry consisting 14 life insurance companies at 26% have lost 3% of market share to the state owned Life Insurance Corporation(LIC) in the domestic life insurance industry in 2006-07. According to the figures released by Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority the total premium these 14 companies have shot up by 90% to Rs 19,471.83 crore in 2006-07 from Rs 10, 252 crore.

LIC with a total premium mobilisation of Rs 55,934 crore has been able retain a market share of 74.26 % during the reporting period. In total the life insurance industry in first year premium has grown by 110% to Rs 75, 406 crore during 2006-07. The 2006-07 performance has thrown a few surprises in the ranking among the private sector life insurance companies. New entrants like Reliance Life and SBI Life had shown a huge growth of over 381% and 210% respectively during the year. Reliance Life which has become one of the top five companies ended the year with a premium of Rs 930 crore during the year.

Though ICICI Prudential Life Insurance remained as the No 1 private sector life insurance company during the year Bajaj Allianz overtook ICICI Prudential in terms of monthly market share in March, for the first time ever. Bajaj’s market share among private players in non-single premium for March stood at 29.1% vs. ICICI Prudential’s 23.8%. Bajaj gained 4.6 percentage point market share among private sector players for FY07.

Among other private players, SBI Life and Reliance Life continued to do well, each gaining 4% market share in FY07. SBI Life’s growth was driven by increasing contribution from ULIP premiums. Another notable development of the 2006-07 performance has been the expansion of retail markets by the life insurance companies. Bajaj Alliannz Life insurance has added 20 lakh policies while ICICI Prudential has expanded over 19 lakh policies during the year.

OPPORTUNITES

- A state monopoly has little incentive to innovative or offers a wide range of products. It can be seen by a lack of certain products from LIC’s portfolio and lack of extensive risk categorization in several GIC products such as health insurance. More competition in this business will spur firms to offer several new products and more complex and extensive risk categorization.

- It would also result in better customer services and help improve the variety and price of insurance products.

- The entry of new players would speed up the spread of both life and general insurance. Spread of insurance will be measured in terms of insurance penetration and measure of density.

- With the entry of private players, it is expected that insurance business roughly 400 billion rupees per year now, more than 20 per cent per year even leaving aside the relatively under developed sectors of health insurance, pen More importantly, it will also ensure a great mobalisation of funds that can be utilized for purpose of infrastructure development that was a factor considered for globalisation of insurance.

- More importantly, it will also ensure a great moblisation of funds that can be utilized for purpose of infrastructure development that was a factor considered for globalisation of insurance.

- With allowing of holding of equity shares by foreign company either itself or through its subsidiary company or nominee not exceeding 26% of paid up capital of Indian partners will be operated resulting into supplementing domestic savings and increasing economic progress of nation. Agreements of various ventures have already been made to be discussed later on in this paper.

- It has been estimated that insurance sector growth more than 3 times the growth of economy in India. So business or domestic firms will attempt to invest in insurance sector. Moreover, growth of insurance business in India is 13 times the growth insurance in developed countries. So it is natural, that foreign companies would be fostering a very strong desire to invest something in Indian insurance business.

- Most important not the least tremendous employment opportunities will be created in the field of insurance which is burning problem of the present day today issues.

CHALLENGES BEFORE THE INDUSTRY

New age companies have started their business as discussed earlier. Some of these companies have been able to float 3 or 4 products only and some have targeted to achieve the level of 8 or 10 products. At present, these companies are not in a position to pose any challenge to LIC and all other four companies operating in general insurance sector, but if we see the quality and standards of the products which they issued, they can certainly be a challenge in future. Because the challenge in the entire environment caused by globalisation and liberalization the industry is facing the following challenges.

- The existing insurer, LIC and GIC, have created a large group of dissatisfied customers due to the poor quality of service. Hence there will be shift of large number of customers from LIC and GIC to the private insurers.

- LIC may face problem of surrender of a large number of policies, as new insurers will woo them by offer of innovative products at lower prices.

- The corporate clients under group schemes and salary savings schemes may shift their loyalty from LIC to the private insurers.

- There is a likelihood of exit of young dynamic managers from LIC to the private insurer, as they will get higher package of remuneration.

- LIC has overstaffing and with the introduction of full computerization, a large number of the employees will be surplus. However they cannot be retrenched. Hence the operating costs of LIC will not be reduced. This will be a disadvantage in the competitive market, as the new insurers will operate with lean office and high technology to reduce the operating costs.

- GIC and its four subsidiary companies are going to face more challenges, because their management expenses are very high due to surplus staff. They can’t reduce their number due to service rules.

- Management of claims will put strain on the financial resources, GIC and its subsidiaries since it is not up the mark.

- LIC has more than to 60 products and GLC has more than 180 products in their kitty, which are outdated in the present context as they are not suitable to the changing needs of the customers. Not only that they are not competent enough to complete with the new products offered by foreign companies in the market.

- Reaching the consumer expectations on par with foreign companies such as better yield and much improved quality of service particularly in the area of settlement of claims, issue of new policies, transfer of the policies and revival of policies in the liberalized market is very difficult to LIC and GIC.

- Intense competition from new insurers in winning the consumers by multi-distribution channels, which will include agents, brokers, corporate intermediaries, bank branches, affinity groups and direct marketing through telesales and interest.

- The market very soon will be flooded by a large number of products by fairly large number of insurers operating in the Indian market. Even with limited range of products offered by LIC and GIC, the consumers are confused in the market. Their confusion will further increase in the face for large number of products in the market. The existing level of awareness of the consumers for insurance products is very low. It is so because only 62% of the Indian population is literate and less than 10% educated. Even the educated consumers are ignorant about the various products of the insurance.

- The insurers will have to face an acute problem of the redressal of the consumers, grievances for deficiency in products and services.

- Increasing awareness will bring number of legal cases filled by the consumers against insurers is likely to increase substantially in future.

- Major challenges in canalizing the growth of insurance sector are product innovation, distribution network, investment management, customer service and education.

ESSENTIALS TO MEET THE CHALLENGES

- Indian insurance industry needs the following to meet the global challenges

- Understanding the customer better will enable insurance companies to design appropriate products, determine price correctly and increase profitability.

- Selection of right type of distribution channel mix along with prudent and efficient FOS [Fleet On Street] management.

- An efficient CRM system, which would eventually create sustainable competitive advantages and build a long-lasting relationship

- Insurers must follow best investment practices and must have a strong asset management company to maximize returns.

- Insurers should increase the customer base in semi urban and rural areas, which offer a huge potential.

- Promoting health insurance and using e-broking to increase the business.

CONCLUSION

Thus, in the last on basis of above the discussion we can conclude that need for private sector entry is justifiable on the basis of enhancing the efficiency of operation, achieving greater density and insurance coverage in the country and for greater mobilization of long-term savings for long gestation infrastructure projects. In the wake of such competition it is essential for the government monopolies (LIC and GIC) that they quickly up grade their technology, restructure themselves on more efficient lines and operate as broad run enterprise. New players should not be treated as rivalries to government companies, but they can supplement in achieving the objective of growth of insurance business in India.

* Lecturer, Department of Commerce, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore-46

Email – [email protected]

** Ph.D Scholar, Department of Commerce, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore. Email – [email protected]