Although the next general elections for the government at the Centre is due in 2014, the UPA allies have been successful in keeping the Congress-led government on the tenterhooks.
As this column goes to print, the Railway Budget is shrouded in controversy while the Union Budget is still to be presented. This year, however, instead of worrying about how the Budget proposal will impact...
More and more insurance companies are getting hold of your personal details
Recently a Moneylife reader started receiving calls from number 30247032 in Mumbai claiming to be from Kotak Life Insurance’s office in Malad (Mumbai). The caller stated that Kotak Smart Advantage ULIP is being discontinued, but they are unable to send a letter to everyone as there are over five lakh customers. The caller had all the policy details including the latest fund value. The caller assured the reader all the necessary help to surrender the policy after receiving annual policy premium of Rs25,000.
A call to Kotak Life by the Moneylife reader revealed that the product as well as policy is still active. It did comfort him, but the calls just kept coming periodically. The caller began saying that if the policyholder gets into trouble he will not be able to help to recover the surrender value at that stage. The policyholder was mentally aggravated and was tempted to stop the ECS payment for one month just to see if the “real” Kotak Life Insurance calls him. After we heard from the policyholder, we told him not to stop the ECS payment.
People get hounded by calls from insurance companies once they buy a policy. But it is alarming when you start getting calls from dubious agencies which have your personal details and egg you on to surrender your policy or dictate you to do some other things which suit their interests. It was hard for the Moneylife reader to believe that the calls may not be from the insurance company as the caller knew all the policy details, including the fund value. Moreover, the reason to surrender may seem genuine for those who are not insurance savvy—the product is getting discontinued.
It is important to note the following:
• Even if IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) were to discontinue any product, the existing policyholders are protected and the insurance company cannot force them to surrender the policy
• It is always better to contact the insurance company on the official number or email and hear what they have to say
• Do not make a premium payment to anyone other than authorised intermediary or directly to insurance company. It is advisable to write the policy number on the cheque and get acknowledgement of the cheque receipt for a specific policy. In many instances dubious agencies route the premium to open a new policy for gaining upfront commission which will even include forging your signature.
Moneylife did call the so-called Kotak office. The reception desk confirmed the number. They asked if we received a call from anyone about the policy and if so, to give them the policy number so that the right person will call back. We asked to speak with a person called Mahajan. The receptionist stated that there are multiple people with same name and hence the right person shall call back after sometime. We never received the call and now the number is perpetually engaged. They may have found that it was a call from the media.
Another Moneylife reader keeps getting calls from ICICI Pru Life almost once in a week just because he had purchased a ULIP policy in 2007. The pitch is different every time. Either its a new product, new financial manager assigned or some offer for being an existing customer. It is an irritant, but the reader can deal with it by banging down the phone. What caught his attention was call from someone claiming to be from Birla Sunlife pitching for its product.
This Moneylife reader does not have any Birla Sunlife policy. Some queries revealed that caller knew the name and phone number. The answer to how they got the information generated a standard answer that it is on the LIC database. How it magically appeared on their database is a mystery. Moreover, these unsolicited calls come even if your mobile number is on the “do-not-call” list and even on a direct phone line at a work place. According to Kotak Life Insurance, there is no sharing of database between insurance companies. While it may be true, it does not explain all the different calls received from entities that should not have access to your personal information.
One Kotak Life policyholder got a call which claimed to be from the insurance company about problem with the ECS payment. After taking the necessary steps to make the payment, the policyholder called back the number. It turned out to be the broking company which posed as an insurance company representative. The broker had made the call due to its interest in the renewal commission. Just because the caller says it is from insurance company, you cannot ascertain who is making the calls.
It’s amazing how competing insurance companies come to know that your car insurance is due for renewal. You may get a phone call or text messages urging you to switch insurance companies. Mediclaim and car insurance are yearly contracts and aggressive marketing is a norm. One interesting text message we received for car insurance was from someone selling ICICI Lombard products. It stated that they have “mouthwashing” insurance offer. Are they selling toothpaste or mouthwash instead of car insurance?
One Moneylife reader gets ECS payment reminders by email from Birla SunLife Insurance. The nuisance is that the customer’s full bank account number is in the emails, which is a security risk. It is a lax approach by the insurance company as it is better to not spell out the bank account number or mask most of the digits.
Despite alliances, joint ventures and other alliances, matters haven’t improved for India’s media companies. These ‘glamour stocks’ have failed to live up to their investors’ expectations. It remains to be seen how digitisation will affect the industry
The FICCI KPMG 2012 report says that the Indian television sector, which is estimated to be worth Rs329 billion in 2011, is expected to grow at 17% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) and touch Rs735 billion in 2016. A look at India’s big media companies, however, raises a fundamental question: where is the money?
A few days after the FICCI KPMG report was released, Murdoch’s News Corporation finally sold its stake in Hathway Cable & Datacom. After more than a decade’s wait, the stake was sold for just 5% more than its buying price. Stupefying as the fact is, it is hardly a standalone case. While media reports appear regularly on the great prospects for the media industry in our country, most companies have put up a dismal performance and have decimated investors’ wealth.
News Corp’s Asian Cable Systems had picked up a stake in Hathway for Rs342.72 crore in September 2000 and sold it for Rs358 crore. The return is paltry but Hathway has seen exits by its pre-IPO stakeholders like ChrysCapital—which sold its stake after the 2010 IPO earning 27% returns; and Morgan Stanley Principal Investments, which exited in 2010 too made losses. Hathway has more than Rs275 crore in debt now.
Hathway is not an exception. Den Networks has a debt of Rs156.12 crore on its books and despite a slight improvement of 4% in the December 2011 quarter, the company’s stock price has fallen 37% since its listing in November 2009.
Television channels have seen a steady decline over the years. After the Zee Telefilms (now known as Zee Entertainment Enterprise) split, Zee Entertainment, Zee News and Wire and Wireless, have seen losses. Zee News has seen a 69% decline in its stock price since its debut in January 2007, and Wire and Wireless has a debt of Rs347.63 crore. Wire and Wireless was trading at Rs8.52 on 19 March 2012, having seen a spectacular decline of 93% since its debut five years ago at Rs120.8.
Zee Entertainment, is doing comparatively better—with only a 10% dip in its stock price since its listing in January 2007. Zee’s DTH wing, Dish TV has a debt of Rs1,086.26 crore and since its debut in April 2007 at Rs103.46 the stock has fallen by 48% to Rs53.5 as on 19 March, 2012.
Media companies like NDTV, TV Today and TV18 have also put up less than stellar performances. NDTV has a debt of Rs180 crore and since it got listed in May 2004, its stock has gone down by 59%. TV Today opened at Rs181.35 on BSE in January 2004. On 19 March 2012 it was trading at Rs54.90, the stock having gone down by 70%. The TV18 stock has managed to lose more in a shorter period, having plunged 72% since its debut at Rs100.33 on the BSE in February 2007. The cash-strapped company has Rs292.78 crore of debt on its books.
Network18 Media & Investments performed even less spectacularly. It debuted on the BSE in February 2007 at Rs366.75. On 19 March 2012, the stock was trading at a meagre Rs36.50, which is 90% lower than its listing price. In the last one year, as of 19 March 2011, the company’s stock price has fallen by 75%. TV18 follows closely, with a slide of 72% during the same period; and NDTV with a 40% decline in its stock price.
According to the ministry of information and broadcasting, there are 812 television channels in India, as of 29 December, 2011. Despite alliances, joint ventures and other alliances, matters haven’t improved for India’s media companies. These ‘glamour stocks’ have failed to live up to their investors’ expectations. Yet, the hype surrounding the ‘Indian media boom’ continues unabated.
Now, it remains to be seen how digitisation will affect the industry—which everyone is looking forward to.