India insurance is a flourishing industry, with several national and international players competing and growing at rapid rates. Thanks to reforms and the easing of policy regulations, the Indian insurance sector been allowed to flourish, and as Indians become more familiar with different insurance products, this growth can only increase, with the period from 2010 - 2015 projected to be the 'Golden Age' for the Indian insurance industy.
India Insurance Policies at a Glance
Indian insurance companies offer a comprehensive range of insurance plans, a range that is growing as the economy matures and the wealth of the middle classes increases. The most common types include: term life policies, endowment policies, joint life policies, whole life policies, loan cover term assurance policies, unit-linked insurance plans, group insurance policies, pension plans, and annuities. General insurance plans are also available to cover motor insurance, home insurance, travel insurance and health insurance.
Due to the growing demand for insurance, more and more insurance companies are now emerging in the Indian insurance sector. With the opening up of the economy, several international leaders in the insurance sector are trying to venture into the India insurance industry.
India Insurance: History
The history of the Indian insurance sector dates back to 1818, when the Oriental Life Insurance Company was formed in Kolkata. A new era began in the India insurance sector, with the passing of the Life Insurance Act of 1912.
The Indian Insurance Companies Act was passed in 1928. This act empowered the government of India to gather necessary information about the life insurance and non-life insurance organizations operating in the Indian financial markets.
The Triton Insurance Company Ltd formed in 1850 and was the first of its kind in the general insurance sector in India. Established in 1907, Indian Mercantile Insurance Limited was the first company to handle all forms of India insurance.
Indian Insurance: Sector Reform
The formation of the Malhotra Committee in 1993 initiated reforms in the Indian insurance sector. The aim of the Malhotra Committee was to assess the functionality of the Indian insurance sector. This committee was also in charge of recommending the future path of insurance in India.
The Malhotra Committee attempted to improve various aspects of the insurance sector, making them more appropriate and effective for the Indian market.
The recommendations of the committee put stress on offering operational autonomy to the insurance service providers and also suggested forming an independent regulatory body.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act of 1999 brought about several crucial policy changes in the insurance sector of India. It led to the formation of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) in 2000.
The goals of the IRDA are to safeguard the interests of insurance policyholders, as well as to initiate different policy measures to help sustain growth in the Indian insurance sector.
The Authority has notified 27 Regulations on various issues which include Registration of Insurers, Regulation on insurance agents, Solvency Margin, Re-insurance, Obligation of Insurers to Rural and Social sector, Investment and Accounting Procedure, Protection of policy holders' interest etc. Applications were invited by the Authority with effect from 15th August, 2000 for issue of the Certificate of Registration to both life and non-life insurers. The Authority has its Head Quarter at Hyderabad. Detailed information on IRDA is available at their web-site www.irdaindia.org
Protection of the interest of policy holders:
IRDA has the responsibility of protecting the interest of insurance policyholders. Towards achieving this objective, the Authority has taken the following steps:
- IRDA has notified Protection of Policyholders Interest Regulations 2001 to provide for: policy proposal documents in easily understandable language; claims procedure in both life and non-life; setting up of grievance redressal machinery; speedy settlement of claims; and policyholders' servicing. The Regulation also provides for payment of interest by insurers for the delay in settlement of claim.
- The insurers are required to maintain solvency margins so that they are in a position to meet their obligations towards policyholders with regard to payment of claims.
- It is obligatory on the part of the insurance companies to disclose clearly the benefits, terms and conditions under the policy. The advertisements issued by the insurers should not mislead the insuring public.
- All insurers are required to set up proper grievance redress machinery in their head office and at their other offices.
- The Authority takes up with the insurers any complaint received from the policyholders in connection with services provided by them under the insurance contract.