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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Indian General Insurance Sector a hidden gem

Standard and Poor's, in  a recent study on the Indian General Insurance sector has highlighted something that we always knew but did not appreciate enough: that India's general insurance sector is a goldmine, poised for excellent growth.

This conclusion stems from the fact that general insurance industry penetration as a percentage of GDP is amongst the lowest in India.  With a combined annual premium of Rs 40,000 crores, the Indian General Insurance sector is about 0.6% of GDP. With rising income levels, galloping growth rates in motor car ownership, increasing awareness of healthcare and healthcare related costs, greater predisposition to travel and home ownership, almost all the sectors within the general insurance industry are poised for impressive growth.

A few dark clouds loom though. The public sector insurance companies continue to bleed with significant underwriting losses ( masked by sale of family jewel investments). Third Party motor continues to be the biggest drain as far as underwriting losses go. Health insurance claims are also threatening to spiral out of control. The public insurance companies will have to get their act together as far as motor and health underwriting is concerned.

It is hoped that the government will relax the FDI norms allowing higher than 26% FDI in the insurance sector in India. This will greatly help in allowing more capital into this industry, leading to a better growth rate. It is also hoped that public policy, especially in the case of health and health insurance, will contribute towards a higher awareness for health insurance products.

At our end, we wouldn't be surprised if the non life insurance industry outperforms its more glamorous brother -Life Insurance- and becomes a 2 lakh crore industry by the turn of the next decade.

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