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Premium on Telecom: IndiaFirst gains from a robust communications set-up

April 30, 2013

IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Limited is a joint venture of the Bank of Baroda, Andhra Bank and the UK-based company Legal & General. With a share capital of Rs 4.75 billion, the Bank of Baroda holds a 44 per cent stake in the company, while Andhra Bank and Legal & General hold stakes of 30 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

With a presence across over 1,000 cities and towns in India, IndiaFirst registered a premium of over Rs 10 billion during 2011-12. The company’s product range includes insurance for education, retirement and health. It also offers several group insurance products including credit life, term and employee liability (gratuity and leave encashment) plans.

According to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, the insurance sector in the country has witnessed significant growth over the past few years. The sector’s assets under management (AUM) increased from Rs 8 trillion in 2008 to Rs 18 trillion in 2011-12. Going forward, the AUM of Indian insurance companies are expected to increase to Rs 20 trillion, while the general insurance industry is likely to grow by 18 per cent in 2012-13.

In order to leverage the business opportunities associated with this growth, IndiaFirst has established a flexible and comprehensive telecom network.

tele.net traces the development of the company’s communications set-up…

Communications network

IndiaFirst accorded high priority to the establishment of a robust telecom network. It initially focused on developing the models of bancassurance and centralised operations. The bancassurance model was established by leveraging its promoters’ existing branch network of over 5,000 outlets across the country. It was predominantly a referral model, where these branch offices provided information related to potential clients to the firm’s sales team.

The centralised operation model entailed integrating major modules such as the data entry system, the underwriting facility and activities related to policy issuance, printing and despatch. For inbound customer service calls, IndiaFirst partnered with a call centre service provider.

The company’s network team prepared a long-term telecom strategy, which included identifying the architecture for its systems, and information and integration processes. Implementation of the telecom network was divided into three phases: inception (the “go-live” phase), growth (up to three years) and “business as usual” (after three years).

In line with this, the networking team implemented mission-critical systems related to core insurance and those that facilitated the management of workflow, business channels, content, accounting, investments as well as the website.

Thereafter, a primary data centre and a disaster recovery data centre were established. The company’s and its partners’ key locations were connected to these data centres through leased lines and/or MPLS technologies. Meanwhile, redundancy in connectivity at certain critical locations (the company’s head office, locations where back-office processing takes place and offices of important business partners) was achieved by establishing primary and secondary network links with multiple modes sourced from several service providers.

In addition, IndiaFirst undertook the virtualisation of its servers, which enabled the company to accommodate peak data traffic with the minimum time-to-market.

The company’s telecom set-up is managed through outsourced and in-house services. While personnel were hired for positions such as system managers and architects, all other processes including telecom operations management and the service desk were outsourced.

IndiaFirst also uses its website – LifeStore – as a strategic telecom tool. The website provides detailed information about the company’s various business processes and overall performance. For example, it provides detailed information related to customers’ fund portfolio. LifeStore also acts as an independent digital channel, through which customers can purchase the company’s products and avail of uninterrupted services.

Moreover, IndiaFirst provides assistance through video chats on its website. Recently, it began using the mobile handset for customer services. On this platform, its processes are automated under four main categories – customers, distributors, employees and corporate.

Benefits and challenges

According to Vinayak Khadye, head, project management and IT excellence, IndiaFirst, “The key challenge faced in the development of the telecom set-up was establishing a balance between time-to-market for implementation and the multiple choices of telecom systems and infrastructure.”

However, the benefits outweighed the challenges. “The new set-up has driven the company’s overall growth. It provides secured and improved access to business applications, and faster data access, and ensures customer satisfaction,” says Khadye.

By upgrading its communications infrastructure, the insurance major is now reaping the benefits of a robust and cost-effective platform.


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