IndiaFirst launches ‘LifeStore’—a tech-driven insurance process for tapping customers

IndiaFirst is differentiating itself with technology initiatives, that promise to offer a ‘virtual IndiaFirst’ to customers. It is going beyond the usual policy purchase and renewal online buying process offered by other insurers

IndiaFirst was the last company to enter the life-insurance business almost one year back. It is differentiating itself with a technology thrust to help numerous aspects like increasing financial literacy, simplicity of product details, transparency of detailed investment performance-the insurer has also submitted a Sharpe ratio, which is a measure of the excess return (or risk premium per unit of risk in an investment asset or a trading strategy), and an online customer service experience similar to online banking.

Dr P Nandagopal, managing director and chief executive officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance, demonstrated to Moneylife via a live video call wherein a visitor accessing can connect to a live video call and see the insurer's customer service personnel talking with the visitor about various products or any other required information.

This 'Do-It-Yourself' website for understanding and buying insurance is certainly a step towards empowering customers and taking insurance benefits literally to their homes. The focus is on harnessing the Web presence to attract customers by giving comprehensive information about products and its performance after purchase. It will also circumvent the need for opening many branches. The product details will be translated into eight regional languages in the next six months.

Another unique step is that the insurer also promises to put plus and minus points of its own plans on the website. The website currently has 'risk factors' mentioned for each plan, but they seem to be generic points. The insurer also wants to give detailed company information including solvency ratio to website visitors.

Going forward, the company wants to tap into mobile technology and kiosks to reach a wider client base. The insurer is aware that the Web approach may not be enough to attract customers from smaller towns and villages.  

LifeStore aims to help customers transact their insurance requirements on the back of authentic information, online advice, services and realistic expectations.
"Through LifeStore, we aim to reach out to millions of Internet users-a sizable number of which are either active and/or potential customers-thus widening the scope of the market across the country. The core objective behind launching LifeStore is to help simplify insurance and encourage customers to make their own decisions related to insurance through the power of the knowledge anytime and anywhere," said  Dr Nandagopal.
Through LifeStore, IndiaFirst will now be tapping the approximately 70 million Internet users in India. "The digital medium is a growing category and still untapped. This is one of our business priority areas and we are looking at further expanding to the mobile platform and interactive kiosks as well,'' he added.
This novel platform, loaded with all critical information on various products and company performance, will provide value-added services and also offer the convenience of online purchase. Besides, it will also educate customers about the tangible benefits of insurance and their overall financial planning.
"Keeping in line with our objective of continuously innovating and providing value-added services, we have introduced various features such as live video calls, product audio visuals, simple step-by-step comparison of products, details about how and where your money is being invested including details about the respective companies in the fund portfolio, etc.," said Dr Nandagopal.

Apart from simplifying insurance and reducing the fear factor concerning this category, Dr Nandagopal said, this will usher in the concept of transparency to the fore and increase channels for customers to reach insurance service providers.
Prior to the launching of LifeStore, IndiaFirst had launched 'Ask Apply Get' (AAG)-an innovative and customer-friendly process to buy life insurance in the most hassle-free manner over the counter in three minutes (after the customer decides to buy insurance).

The policy documents are also emailed in three minutes. IndiaFirst was also the first to introduce product videos as an integral part of their sales process to bring transparency into product information dissemination.
LifeStore and AAG challenge the established 'push' method of selling insurance (where a customer needs to be sold a policy) to developing a new paradigm of generating 'pull' (a customer coming and asking for an insurance policy and getting it in the fastest and most hassle-free way).
IndiaFirst Life Insurance is a joint venture between two of India's largest public sector banks-Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank-along with UK's leading risk, wealth and investment company, Legal & General.


RBI panel moots one policy rate to tame inflation, promote growth

Under the proposed system, reverse repo and bank rate would adjust automatically with change in the repo rate, which would be announced by the RBI with a view to tame inflation and promote growth. RBI has sought comments from the stakeholders till March-end on the proposal

Mumbai: A Reserve Bank of India working group on Tuesday suggested that the short-term lending rate (repo) be made the single policy rate to signal the monetary policy stance, to effectively deal with inflation without hurting growth, reports PTI.

At present, there are three rates-repo, reverse repo and bank rate-through which RBI injects or absorbs liquidity from the system.

The proposal is aimed at aligning the Indian monetary system with international best practices. RBI has invited comments from the stakeholders till March-end on the proposal.

"The repo rate should be the single policy rate to unambiguously signal the stance of monetary policy to achieve macroeconomic objectives of growth with price stability," the RBI working group said.

Under the proposed system, reverse repo and bank rate would adjust automatically with change in the repo rate, which would be announced by the RBI with a view to tame inflation and promote growth.

All the rates will operate within a corridor of 150 basis points, said the working group which was headed by RBI executive director Deepak Mohanty.

While the bank rate would be 50 basis points above the single policy rate (repo rate), the reverse repo rate would be 100 basis points below it, the report said.

The panel further said that bank rate, which has remained dormant since April 2003, should be re-activated as a monetary management instrument.

"The bank rate be activated as a discount rate with a spread over the repo rate. Once the policy rate changes, the bank rate should change automatically with a fixed spread over the repo rate," it added.

The bank rate is the rate at which banks can borrow long-term funds from the RBI to overcome liquidity shortage.

Banks, however, have been borrowing mainly from repo window, which is a short-term instrument.

Currently, the repo rate is 6.5%, reverse repo (short-term borrowing) rate 5.5% and bank rate 6%. Although the RBI has raised key policy rates seven times since March 2010 to tame inflation, it has kept the bank rate unchanged since April 2003.

The methodology for RBI's internal liquidity forecast should be strengthened, the report said.

It added that the information on government cash balances should be put in public domain with minimum time lag for better liquidity assessment by market participants.

The report further said, "Collateral pool for reverse repo operation under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) could be extended to include oil bonds."

RBI holds special bonds including oil bonds, apart from government securities, in its portfolio. Oil bonds are treated as non-SLR securities.

With effect from 27 July 2010, government securities obtained under reverse repo are not reckoned for the purpose of SLR of banks.

Therefore, the collateral pool for reverse repo operation under the LAF could be extended to oil bonds issued by the government to oil marketing companies and held by the central bank or any other security as notified by the RBI from time to time, the report said.

It also said LAF, with some modifications, should be the key element in the operating framework of the RBI.

The empirical exercise carried out by the group found that the interest rate channel of monetary transmission has the strongest impact on the money market in the existing LAF framework.

"The modified LAF should operate in a deficit liquidity mode and the liquidity level should be contained around (+)/(-) one per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) of banks for optimal monetary transmission," it said.

To make transmission of the monetary action swift, the report also suggested that the minimum level of reserves to be maintained on any day by banks with the RBI during a fortnight should be raised from 70% at present to 80% of the required cash reserve ratio (CRR).

CRR is the percentage of total deposits which banks have to keep with the RBI. This is a direct tool to manage liquidity in the system.

RBI had constituted the working group to review the framework of the operating procedure of monetary policy in India in the First Quarter Review of Monetary Policy for 2010-11 in July 2010.


Tata Consultancy Services launches iON for small and medium business

Tata Consultancy Services has launched iON the first-of-its-kind fully integrated information technology solution for small and medium business in Andhra Pradesh

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an IT services, consulting and business solutions firm, has launched iON-the first-of-its-kind fully integrated information technology solution for small and medium business (SMB) in Andhra Pradesh.

iON provides on-demand business solutions using the very latest in scalable cloud computing technology. It has been developed to deliver IT in the 3rd generation service model to SMBs. Using a pay-per-use business model, iON helps SMBs leverage world-class technology solutions as a key business differentiator. It removes the need for SMBs to invest in IT assets or retain scarce IT talent.

iON addresses the entire spectrum of an SMB's technology needs which range from business solutions like HR, finance, inventory, sophisticated domain-based ERP solutions as well as basic applications like email, document management and website services. iON is pre-configured with hardware, network and software bundled together and backed by business, technical and consulting services.

"iON will enhance India's global competitiveness by giving 35 million Indian SMBs access to world-class, simple-to-use and scalable technology tools. SMBs can use the power of iON to build their business advantage and compete on the global stage," said N Chandrasekaran, chief executive officer and managing director, Tata Consultancy Services, and chief architect, iON.  

iON has already garnered over 150 SMB customers. These SMB customers are experiencing the benefits of increased efficiencies; faster go to market, predictability of technology, talent on call and an expanded customer base as a result of iON's end-to-end integrated suite of cloud-based business solutions.

To provide SMB customers with seamless service, iON has created an eco-system of 90 cloud service partners across India.


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