Tusher Thakker, CEO at PERAJ INSURANCE BROKERS talked to Jonathan Höh, GrECo nova Network Coordinator about the variety of languages in India and how excellent client service can lead to long-term client relationships.
HÖH: India will be the most populous country in the world. India has, arguably, greater linguistic diversity than any other large country. The precise number of languages spoken in India is probably over 1,000, but it is often hard to define when one language begins and another ends. How does this affect business? How do you cope with this varieties?
THAKKER: Well, the number of spoken languages, regional, folk etc. is said to be over 3000. However, we have Hindi as a national language which is taught in almost every school. Also, most schools in major cities and towns are English medium schools where Hindi is taught as a language, but overall teaching is in English. Most legal documents including insurance policies are printed in English. Language has never been a barrier in growth. In fact, India has become a huge IT hub because of a very large, young English-speaking population.
HÖH: What are the biggest risks that foreign companies operating in India need to be aware of?
THAKKER: So far, the major risk has been frequent policy changes in various sectors but that seems to have changed. The government seems to have adopted long term goals and have set up policies accordingly. Sometimes, infrastructure projects get affected when there is a difference opinion between state and central government.
HÖH: How do India risks differ from those in other countries?
THAKKER: Infrastructure is not at the same level as in Europe, the US or even China. That can be a “challenge” or a risk at some point. I would say the other “challenge,” which is not so much a risk, is that we have different states with very different cultures, different languages, and different consumer behaviour. That can be an extraordinary situation for companies that want to be present throughout India.
HÖH: What regulatory challenges are companies facing? What types of insurance are mandatory?
THAKKER: The current government is very industry friendly. A lot of new Economic reforms have been introduced and the latest budget presented on February 1st has been very well received. Non admitted cover is prohibited but some multi-national companies still rely on the master policy for D&O cover with no local policy. This can be a big issue and it is mandatory for stock listed companies to have a local D&O coverage in place. Other mandatory coverages include MTPL and a public liability act policy when storing or manufacturing certain, specified hazardous materials. The “cash before cover” law presents a challenge when it comes to global programmes as we often receive invoices / quotes very late and sometimes after renewal.
HÖH: How do you cope with these regulatory issues?
THAKKER: It is a standard practice for us to keep our partners updated with developments in India, be it regulatory or market practices. To cope with cash before cover issues, we keep regular contact with the local fronting company and global brokers well before renewals. Wherever possible (if accepted by the local fronting company) we advise the client to place deposit money, if invoices / quotes have not been received.
HÖH: Can international insurance programmes be implemented? Which special features must be considered?
THAKKER: Programmes can be implemented, all lines. Recent development however is that on PDBI local tariff rates will apply even on programme policies´. One must always remember that India has cash before cover law and that Indian clients are used to low deductibles. In general, local deductibles are much lower than programme policies for almost all lines. We closely interact with controlling brokers particularly on scope of cover. Generally, our observation is that when submitting terms to master insurers, local fronting companies often submit narrower terms.
HÖH: Please describe Peraj incoming business servicing capabilities?
THAKKER: Peraj has been in international business since 1978. We take extreme care to have a diplomatic and delicate approach with clients. We endeavour to spend time and efforts on confidence building with clients. More so when programme policies are to be implemented when local terms appear better. We try to engage clients in conversation, answer all their questions and allay all their fears and apprehensions. Generally, when the appointment is from HQ, the local client tends to get apprehensive. We give them comfort and confidence that we are by their side, to take care of all their issues. The entire team speaks fluent English in addition to local regional languages.
HÖH: Can you tell us about your most complicated case when dealing with international clients?
THAKKER: A large cement producer was setting up a very big and complicated project in this region. The quarry was being set up in the North East border of India and the cement plant was to be erected in Bangladesh, the two to be connected with a closed conveyor belt, 17 km long (longest in the world) crossing the international border and a river. North East was and is still a troubled state with Naxalite activities (insurgency group). The Bangladesh market was too small to be able to write a risk of the size the client was proposing (in fact the entire capacity was just about 5% of the requirement). Owing to challenges mentioned above, international reinsurers were unwilling to write lead terms and we had to arrange most of the capacity from India. The leading broker assigned us the task of placing the risk locally. The year was 1996 and we managed to do what was necessary. This client is still with Peraj although globally brokers have kept changing.
Tushar Thakker is the owner of Peraj insurance broker and leads the broker as CEO and Director for more than 30 years. He is well known in the global risk management community and has strong relations to brokers around the world.
Peraj is the oldest intermediary services company in India for direct/retail broker related services. Peraj is a pioneer with 65 years’ experience in the industry. A very high client retention rate reflects the quality of services and the ability to service all lines of insurance. Peraj provides services not just across India but also Nepal and Bangladesh.
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