“IT is our key service level differentiator”

In an exclusive interview with Sohini Bagchi, Dr. Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, MD & CEO, Bharti AXA General Insurance elucidates the role of CIOs in the sector and throws light on how internet based insurance selling will make technology all the more relevant for the growth of the insurance companies in India.

amarnath-bharatiaxa

Dr. Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, MD & CEO, Bharti AXA General Insurance

How has been your entrepreneurial journey and what have you enjoyed the most in your role as the CEO at Bharti AXA general insurance?
It all started when I moved to college from school and my father told me to do something of my own and establish my credentials rather than join his Chartered Accountancy practice which would have been the normal thing to do. I did my PhD in Economics and taught in Rutgers University before moving back to India to start working with GE Capital in Gurgaon. I took up multiple roles in GE including operations, business development, marketing and sales with an attempt to improve on my areas of weakness. In addition to making my weakness less pronounced, it also gave me a lot of confidence to do things that I had never done including taking calculated risks. The 11 years in GE which provided cross country and cross culture exposure culminated with my being the GE Capital Asia leader for insurance distribution. The challenge of setting up Bharti AXA general insurance attracted me and for the last three and half years we have been growing by leaps and bounds here. What I did and enjoyed doing here is creating an empowered and motivated team and the most enriching experience has been developing a common culture that imbibes innovation, professionalism, pragmatism, teamwork and integrity. We hope to continue building the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders and come across as the preferred general insurance company in India.

Please elucidate the role of the CIO in your organisation and how do you think the role has changed over the years?
The CIOs role in an organization is one of the most critical because to a great extent, it defines the way the organization operates. At Bharti AXA general insurance, the CIO’s role is to pave the way for the organization to maximize its resources at minimum costs apart from helping us create the vision for the future. I believe that the CIO’s role in vision creation is very important. Over the years, his role is becoming even more strategic. The technology and telecom innovation is happening at a very fast pace in our country – much quicker than in other areas. This would provide a perspective in the way enterprises will be structured and operate in the future.

How has technology shaped the insurance sector, especially in India?
In the insurance sector especially on the retail side from application forms processing, to issuing policies, to receiving claims information, to settling claims, IT provides a key service level differentiator for the business. It is increasingly improving turnaround times, minimizing defects and lowering operational costs significantly. All of these add to the overall profitability of the business helping it to grow even faster. The advent of internet based insurance selling will make technology all the more relevant for the growth of the insurance companies. In fact the online insurance market is going to be the next big thing offering customers their preferred products only at a click of a button. In the insurance market, the online strategies would also bring about more control from an operational perspective. Moreover, as the internet penetration is growing rapidly in the rural parts of India, the right mix of telecom and technology solutions has the potential to create a completely new online distribution channel that will play a significant role in the future.

Tell us something about your company’s roadmap?
Bharti AXA general insurance has grown from an annual gross written premiums of Rs 32 Crore to Rs 1000 Crore of gross written premiums soon focused primarily on motor insurance. Going forward, we would like to diversify the portfolio and get significantly more contribution from commercial lines of business and health insurance. We hope to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent plus for the next few years in our quest to become the preferred general insurance organization in India.

(The interview has been published in cxotoday.com. For more information, log on to: http://www.cxotoday.com/)

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