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The insurance markets in the UAE and India have distinct features, says this Apeejay Panchsheel Park alumna

Covid-19 compelled insurance companies to come up with innovative products for the new normal, says Dubai-based financial advisor Prachi Rastogi



Based at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, alumna Prachi Rastogi, has been keeping a close eye on the insurance market since 2008.  The winner of multiple encomiums including the Executive Council Award (among the highest recognitions in the insurance sector) during her association with Max Life Insurance, Rastogi has always believed in upskilling to stay ahead of the curve. In a wide-ranging interview, she shares the life lessons that she picked up in school, explains the key differences in the insurance markets in India and the UAE and how the Covid-19 pandemic ended up compelling insurance companies around the world to innovate and profit. Edited excerpts:

Please tell us about your educational and professional journey from school to college and becoming a financial advisor?

I have done my schooling from Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, or as it was then known, Apeejay School, Sheikh Sarai. After class I0, I opted for Commerce with Home Science. Following which, I did my graduation from Gargi College at Delhi University in B.A. Programme, with Entrepreneurship and Economics being the main subjects.  After my graduation, I completed my postgraduate Diploma in Business Management and PG Diploma in Export/ Import Management from YMCA, New Delhi.

It was a dual diploma programme. After learning about entrepreneurship and small business, I always wanted to pursue something of my own, since I am not a 9 to 5 person. In line with these sensibilities, I joined Max Life Insurance as a Financial Advisor in 2008 that gave me the flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom to apply my academic learnings in the financial industry. Since then my professional journey as a freelance financial advisor began and helped me excel in the world of insurance.

Please tell us about your key responsibilities as a financial advisor, with a special focus on insurance?

Let me break this down. My key responsibilities include:  

·         Understanding and researching the insurance market.

·         Learning about the insurance products and plans provided by Max Life.

·         Competitor Analysis:  Comparisons with other companies insurance plans, pros and cons of plans.

·         Customer segmentation and analysis.

·         Insurance sales, marketing and relationship management:  Conducting B2B and B2C sales and campaigns including customer need analysis, pitching the right insurance product, and pricing points.

·         Mentoring new financial advisors and executives related to the products and customer needs

During my tenure of more than a decade with Max, I’ve won multiple rewards and recognitions including the Executive Council Award (Among the highest recognitions in Insurance sector) and Max “Fantastic 50”.

 Having worked in India as well as overseas, what is unique about the insurance sector in the the United Arab Emirates, according to you?

Yes, I have worked in both Indian and UAE markets, however, the job profile was slightly different. In India, as I’ve already mentioned, my focus was on insurance, but for the UAE it was more oriented towards compliance assessment and evaluation of the banking customers. However, because of my strong interest in the insurance industry, I have conducted research on the UAE insurance market on my own, in order to learn and stay current. The most notable distinction, in my opinion, is that in the UAE, the insurance density (premium per capita) is higher, while it is lower in India. Another key difference is that non-life insurance (Health, Vehicle, Commercial etc) are mandatory in the UAE, while in India it is an individual preference mostly driven by tax exemptions. 

Did insurance majors come up with innovative products to attract business during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic?

The Covid-19 pandemic compelled most of us to innovate and the insurance major were not an exception. Insurance companies came up with innovative products and included Covid-19 in health plans as a focused category, driving increased sales of health care insurance plans. Also, Covid-19 insurance was included as a key visa condition for international travel. They also introduced “short term guaranteed plans” for the customers considering the growing appetite for the B2C segment.  Many people turned to insurance as a result of a steep drop in the Indian stock market in 2020, with key equities falling. In the commercial insurance segment, products are being created thinking of a world where virus outbreaks could become the new normal and today businesses of all sizes need to safeguard themselves against future pandemics or other similar outbreaks. 

So, did the pandemic have an overall positive impact on the insurance sector?

In my opinion, the pandemic affected the sector in a positive manner. It was because of the pandemic that people realised the true value of insurance and its benefits, whether it is life or health insurance. Otherwise, people would purchase insurance solely to save money on taxes. For instance, In India, the insured value purchased is not high, owing to higher periodic premium. The insured values are insufficient to sustain the same lifestyle for the family, in case something happens to the bread-winner. However, the pandemic has made people rethink their liabilities over assets and consider the true value of insurance.

What are your memories of the time you spent at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park?

The time I spent in school was really memorable. I was always an above-average student, with grades ranging from 65 to 75 per cent. I used to compete in dancing competitions and in class 11 was placed second in a fancy dress competition. The time spent at the swimming pool was the nicest part about school hours in which I learned to swim. We had swimming sessions every day. I even finished third in an inter-school swimming tournament and competed in the sports meet, winning the third position in shot put. My economics teacher, Mrs. Madhuri Yadav and Home Science teacher, Mrs. Achla Anand, guided me really well in my school years.

Did you pick up any life lessons in school that helped you later in your career?
Integrity and timeliness are two key life values that I took from Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, which helped me succeed in both my professional and personal lives. With integrity and punctuality, I was able to consistently build trust in B2B and B2C segment insurance consumers, which is a vital trait to become a successful financial advisor in the insurance industry.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74