Madhivanan Balakrishnan, Executive Director, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, aims to enhance the brand presence and reach out to customers by centering all marketing activities around the Internet.
Q] Can you give us a brief overview of the industry and the growth potential you see?
A decade after the liberalization of the insurance sector in 1999-2000, the industry has evolved with the changing global and local economic environment. It has tried to keep abreast of the changing customer and regulatory needs. We still believe that the industry is at a nascent stage and there is tremendous potential for growth going forward.
India’s fundamentals in terms of rising savings and per capita income and a favourable demographic profile augur well in the long term and offer a compelling argument for growth. A strong consumption-led theme with increasing global competitiveness has ensured that the days ahead will see the economy grow at a reasonable rate. Given the broader developments in the global macro-economic backdrop, we feel that the demand for financial products and services will temper down a bit in the short run but growth over the longer term is sustainable for the industry. India as a market is vastly underpenetrated and there is ample scope for all insurers to grow responsibly and ensure that the benefits of protection and long term wealth creation are made accessible to all through insurance products that are transparent and objective.
Q] What are your plans for the coming year?
Our plans for the coming year will focus on achieving profitable growth by creating value for our customers through enhanced service efficiency and improved product offerings. The drivers of delivering profitable growth will be:
• To fortify our product offerings across needbased categories and continue to innovate on improving accessibility and transaction experience for our customers
• A continued focus on enhancing persistency levels and managing costs
• Enhancing the overall efficiency in our systems and processes
• Fostering a culture of innovation in both product development and service delivery
Q] How does your strategy align with India’s growing need for life insurance?
The Indian economy has shown robust growth over the recent past and the horizon looks promising for a sustained growth phase. This has are also looking to move up the value chain in terms of consumption of goods and services. In this scenario, it becomes imperative for them to secure their financial independence. To meet the growing need of financial services and insurance, we have focused on building a multi-channel distribution network that enables us to reach out and be accessible to customers in a form and manner of their preference – Bancassurance, direct marketing, distributors and advisors as well as over the Internet. The endeavour has always been to reach out to and be accessible to customers across different geographies and socio-economic strata. Currently, ICICI Prudential Life has an extensive geographical footprint across the country with around 1,400 branches, an agency force of over 1,22,000 advisors, over 50 Bancassurance tie-ups and around 10,000 service touch-points. We are also looking to recruit advisors to further augment our extensive distribution network.
Going forward, we plan to enhance our distribution strength by offering our customers new avenues to access our products and services. Technology will be a key catalyst in this endeavour . Importantly, it is allowing the company to provide the exact same level of service to customers across geographies – urban, semi-urban and rural. We have already introduced products on the online platform and are looking to reinforce our product and service offerings on the online channel. We will increasingly use technology in every facet of our operations to enhance efficiency, customer service and customer experience.
Q] India is known to be under insured due to lack of awareness. What are your plans to spread awareness among people?
Increasing awareness and spreading the message about the importance of life insurance is an ongoing endeavour and we have been very active on this front. We have launched various educational campaigns from time to time that were aimed at educating customers about the various nuances of life insurance and demystifying the concept of life insurance. Currently, we have launched a thematic educational campaign wherein our popular brand mascot Chintamani advises people about the basic aspects to consider when choosing an insurance policy.
Customizing products to suit the needs of customers in every income segment and across geographies has also contributed to better penetration of insurance as an asset class.
Q] What are the marketing activities that you undertake to build your brand? What is your media mix?
Broadly, the objectives of the Marketing department are three-fold:
• Improve brand health metrics such as awareness, consideration and preference
• Create traction around new products as and when these products get launched
• Create a strong brand presence on new media such as the Internet
All marketing activities are geared to address each of these three activities. Our typical media plan spans all major media and specific allocations vary depending on the objectives of specific campaigns. A noteworthy point is the growing importance.
Q] For the first time, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance roped in Amitabh Bachchan, a celebrity, as brand ambassador. What is the reason and how has it helped in brand building?
Amitabh Bachchan is a proven long term performer in the film industry and has been a superlative actor over the last 40 years. His appeal cuts across age, demographic and geographic boundaries. His ability to emerge out of various crises and reinvent himself both on the big screen and small screen makes him a credible voice for communicating the long term features of a life insurance policy. We saw a huge synergy between the protection and safety element of life insurance along with the values that Amitabh Bachchan embodies. Keeping this in mind, we signed Bachchan, who brought his persona of being wise and more importantly being interested in the consumer’s welfare. It was of paramount importance that our message regarding the importance of life insurance was delivered in an emphatic and reassuring manner rather than in a know-it-all tone. The brand metrics have certainly shown a positive change since the time Bachchan joined our brand.
Q] What challenges do you see coming ahead, from an industry perspective?
The new guidelines for the television industry made it imperative for all of us to recalibrate our systems and processes to be in line with the new guidelines. The industry has to address and rise to meet the challenges of increasing productivities and building greater efficiencies across all systems and processes while reducing costs. Technology can play a crucial part in ensuring seamless integration of various processes, increasing efficiencies and enhancing the customer experience while reducing costs. It is imperative that these are managed to be able to grow profitably in the long run.
As an industry, we need to focus our efforts on minimizing wrong selling and encouraging long term persistency. This will only be achieved when our advisors are adequately trained. Persistency is a key metric that will need to be managed by the industry in order to achieve sustainable and profitable growth. We have to collectively address these various emerging challenges to ensure that we grow in a calibrated and sustained manner.
Q] What are your newly launched products?
We have recently launched ICICI Pru Elite Life and ICICI Pru Elite. Launching of new products is an ongoing endeavour to meet the changing requirements of our customers.