When Tapan Singhel first interviewed for a job with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co (BAGIC) back in 2001, it didn't go too well. He was tentative about giving up his government job at New India Assurance and was roundly ticked off by his potential boss for his diffidence.

Interviewer Kamesh Goyal, then COO of the private insurance company and who went on to become the CEO later, however, found Singhel impressive on other counts, especially his domain knowledge and ultimately offered him a job. When he continued to be non-committal, Goyal reportedly told him, "I think you have chickened out." That was enough to provoke Singhel into joining.

Singhel today is one of the few CEOs of non-life companies who is still smiling. Rocked by multi-billion-rupee provisions for motor third party liability claims, many companies have lost heavily. The return on equity earned by most companies is nowhere near the crores pumped in by the promoters. Despite this environment, Bajaj Allianz has managed to consistently report profits for the past 10 years, right from its first full year of operation. The consistent profits have resulted in Bajaj Allianz General Insurance achieving a net worth of Rs 1,193 crore as on December 12 on a Rs 110-crore investment by the promoters at inception.

"Today, BAGIC generates premium that is almost half of Allianz's total business in the Asia-Pacific," says Singhel.

Part of the reason for BAGIC's success is its prudent underwriting policies and its stringent eye on costs, which again is part of the Pune-based company's culture. While Singhel has contributed to the company's success in no mean measure, a large part of the credit also goes to the DNA of the company that has fostered a culture of conservative spending and prudent underwriting. "There is no big secret in making profits. All you need to do is to keep your head cool at all times and watch out for the sweet spot in the market," says Singhel. Coming from New India Insurance, Singhel had sound technical grounding and knew which businesses constituted a 'good risk'. At the same time, he was fully aware of the inefficiencies in the public sector the delays in policy issuance and in process of making payments.

The underwriting principles were used to discover the sweet spot in the market. This has resulted in Bajaj Allianz being the company most wooed by reinsurers, irrespective of market conditions. At the same time, he continues to push technology to new limits to improve efficiency. Then there is the lack of ostentatiousness, which helps him fit in with the Bajaj culture. On the operations side, there has been an emphasis at Bajaj Allianz on using technologyled innovations to make both the claims and policy issuance proc- more efficient. The company has pioneered innovations like in-house management of hospitalization and travel claims, which has now become a trend in the industry. It was also an early adopter when it came to using SMSs to keep clients apprised during the entire claims process.

"I think in future, everything would be centred on the tablet. We are providing our top agents with tablets through which they can access the company's systems and issue policies instantaneously. We are also looking at making the tablet a part of the survey process for small claims. Reports and photographs can be uploaded to the system through the tablet and claims approved or credited to the clients' account immediately," says Singhel.

Another area where Singhel is betting big is health insurance where, unlike rivals, BAGIC continues to make money. "Our claims and expenses account for less than 91% of premium this is considered a good ratio for health insurance anywhere in the world," he says. According to Singhel, health will be the fastest growing segment considering that patients make 80% of all healthcarerelated payments out of their own pockets.

Keywords:Tapan Singhel , Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co ,BAGIC,New India Assurance ,Interviewer Kamesh Goyal, private insurance company,CEO,businesses , public sector,market, technology , photographs, tablet , clients,health insurance ,Business news