Saturday, 17 September 2016

Debate regarding life insurance agents restricted to sell insurance policies of only one insurance company India, Insurance Regulatory Development Authority is the government body regulating the insurance market. Included in the role is "specifying requisite qualifications, code of conduct and practical training for intermediary or insurance intermediaries and agents."  

Current regulations by IRDA restrict individuals to act as agent for only one life insurance company at a time (exclusivity clause). This may appear surprising keeping in mind that one of the goals of IRDA is "promoting efficiency in the conduct of insurance business." If agents are allowed to sell policies of different companies, they can compare different products and suggest ones which they think serve the interest of a client best.

Suppose, I am enrolled as agent for PNB Metlife. What happens if I find a Term Plan from LIC and Money Back Plan from PNB Metlife compelling at the same time for a client? If I put the interest of client first, I end up losing my commission because of suggesting Term Plan from LIC which he gets done through an LIC agent going forward. The other option is to suggest a Term Plan product from PNB Metlife thereby compromising with the noble stand of "client first." This fact is indirectly admitted by IRDA when their study note for agents defines brokers: Insurance brokers are allowed to sell products of more than one or many insurance companies. They have the advantage of being able to compare the insurance products of various insurance companies and then offer a plan that best suits the requirements of the customer. The plus with brokers is that they can keep the interest of the customer in mind and offer him the product that best suits him, cutting across company lines.

The remedy then lies in allowing agents to have the right to represent all insurance companies (or a number of companies they choose to apply) by single registration so that they can bring into table benefits of comparison. This feature will also make agents more trustworthy in the eyes of clients as the same should reduce instances of forced selling.

It is not that the issue of exclusivity is not in the mind of regulators. The Report of the Committee on Distribution Channel constituted by IRDA (May 2008) states: The exclusivity clause in the regulation currently restricts the agent from working with more than one insurance company. In order to provide a comprehensive product range to the consumer with comparison across products, it is proposed that the retail insurance agent be allowed to contract with multiple insurance companies.

An agent represents an insurance company while broker represents buyers of insurance policies. Until 1999 (with the formation of IRDA), LIC had a monopoly in life insurance business. There was little need to make a distinction between an agent and broker as both were selling products of LIC. Now, there are 23 life insurance companies competing and an agent can represent just one company while a broker can sell products of all the 23. If exclusivity clause is removed, there will be little difference between an agent and a broker. Becoming an insurance broker is a costly thing. An applicant seeking to become an insurance broker needs to have minimum 50 lakhs of INR as capital (Direct Broker), two hundred lakhs (Reinsurance Broker), and 250 lakhs (Composite Broker) as per IRDA (Insurance Brokers) Regulations, 2002. There is an annual fee of INR 15,000 for direct brokers, INR 35,000 for reinsurance brokers, and INR 50,000 for composite brokers. It appears that special privilege of brokers is safeguarded by not allowing agents to represent multiple companies. 

Like many other businesses before the advent of the internet, face-to-face contact was considered essential in selling a product and insurance no exception with agents bringing a bulk of business for an insurance company. Now, at a time when direct sale of insurance policies by visiting the website of an insurance company or use of comparison websites is picking up because of the internet that eliminates intermediaries like agents, role of agents, especially in cities and towns with audience comfortable using PC, is redefined. It can no longer be offering and collecting data from clients which can be done by clients themselves through online means. The challenge for agents is to provide more value-added services by including insurance as part of complete financial planning. This is one of the reasons why Chartered Accountants with IRDA license are in an advantageous position to secure more insurance business because of involvement in preparation of final accounts of clients (statutory auditors are, of course, not allowed to sell insurance policies at the same time to clients under section 144 of the Companies Act, 2013).

Friday, 16 September 2016

H and L from highness perspective

Alphabets or letters are building blocks of any word. So, they must be important by themselves on a stand-alone basis. The shape of an alphabet when it is pronounced, how it appears when it is written should be crucial. Words are nothing but permutation and combination of 26 letters (English).

If we start from the right, we enter a whole new world compared to the left. So, the first letter must be important for any word. Initialization is important even in computer programming.

By shape, H appears to be part of ladder L to climb up (head, hill, heaven) or down (heel, hole, hell) on a level-playing land. L for low, leg, last; H for high, head, heaven.

Top people associated with movements are leaders, those in administrative hierarchy heads and captains. A leader leads or lifts or launches a movement from below; head and captain administer from the position of top!

Despite H in this article standing for highness, harsh-sounding words like harsh are harsh to hear. Just like the placement of zero is important for digits, so maybe the case for each letter in words.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Then and now: Think Python and learning computer programming free

During the early 1990s, there was a spurt of private educational houses in cities in India providing computer training. Computer use was increasing and its future (IT History) rightly looked promising. Access to the computer was mainly limited to offices. Trainees used to pay a premium for learning something which they learn by themselves in home/school these days.

When it comes to computer programming, object-oriented programming with C++ was the place to start with. With limited study materials in hand and the high cost of books, learning software programming was a privilege. Some of the training institutions were excellent, but time allocated could be as low as five hours a week in a batch of around 20 candidates. Within nine months, you were expected to use the mouse for the first time to write customized C++ software codes. Add to it the fact that computer was not available in most homes. Candidates used to feel lucky if they could use the computer in so-called drome (another word for a pool of computers assembled for candidates so that they could practice).
Things have changed for the better. Today, one can learn the basics of computer programming without spending a single penny following free online courses like by Alison, books like Think Python. Python is programming language developed to make learners understand basics of computer programming without getting overwhelmed on syntax. After learning, one can take certification exams (such as VSkills in India which are priced reasonable) in order to add credibility to the CV. From one angle, learning is also liberated from brands aggressive in making bucks by investing single-handedly in marketing. Many young aspirants, however, are still caught in trap with likes of promises of 100% job assistance.

Half of the high-paying jobs in America now require this skill

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Stand-alone website an important component but needs to be aligned with other forms of partnerships/marketing for viable revenue stream

Develop Your Website/Online Store
with Splendid Digital Solutions
Once you have your website filled with relevant contents/images/videos/extensions/SMO or Social Media Optimization in terms of Facebook profile/Twitter handle, you have a product to start with which you can now monetize. If yours is a content website (online publishing), direct selling or reference could mean visiting personally to raise a subscription for ads. You can raise subscriptions for advertising on your website or align with manufacturers whose products you plan to sell. You can now visit an office, offer them a download of a free software product link of which included on your website, and request them to subscribe to your newsletter in favor. Next, you refer them products that you are entitled to advertise as publisher and earn a commission (with the likes of Amazon, Commission Junction) on sales through your newsletter as part of email marketing and personal interaction the next time you have an appointment with.

According to the owner of a content writing service provider from the US with more than 6000 Twitter followers, most of his sales is through personal references (word of mouth); website as a stand-alone entity only amounts to a very small proportion of sales. All being said, you focus initially to build your website. This is not to discourage on your effort. There can be exceptions, and you can take it a challenge to make your website viable economically on a stand-alone basis (starting with Google AdSense). Irrespective of the outcome, next phase of complementing with direct selling/reference or any form of marketing should only be to take the revenue stream to a more positive trajectory.

If yours is an e-commerce portal, you perhaps already have a brick-and-mortar shop through which you have existing customers to grow with. You may now opt for organic SEO or for faster result inorganic SEO (paid programs) in the form of impression/pay-per-click programs like Google AdSense. Starting your affiliate account with well-known brands like Amazon or as advertiser/seller means you reap the benefit of showcasing your product to a large number of prospects who visit them to compare before purchasing, something your stand-alone website cannot do. Also, one can go for offline ads or direct mail marketing in addition to email marketing.

An option which most bloggers or small website owners exercise is getting associated with relevant communities like MyBlogU (Content Writers), Stack Exchange which helps in building leads while being online.

Here is an advice for photographers/creative artists implementing gallery on their websites to sell images: "The thing to remember about this is, the framework is the easy part. A lot of photographers get all caught up believing if they build a cool shopfront, buyers will come. Unfortunately, commercial buyers just aren't interested in browsing individual photographer collections UNLESS... your work is absolute top quality and unique.

If it's at all run-of-the-mill, they'd much prefer to use a library where they search 100s of collections at once. Some people do make a go of it obviously, but they usually either stop being photographers and take on a full-time marketing role... or they have the resources to pay someone to do it.

A much simpler option is to create a fantastic personal website to showcase your work, but link that to a proper stock library site, with all the features you want already built in.

That way they do all the tedious marketing plus you get access to their existing client list, so you have a real chance of selling your work regularly... and you get time to keep making great photos.

Something to keep in mind anyway!"

Also, included in widespread practice is providing freelance services through channels like, Fiverr. These may be considered as part of off-page optimization from SEO perspective. At a time when marketplaces like Flipkart, SnapDeal, Amazon are becoming preferred choice of online buyers to compare products from different producers before buying, even online portals like Chumbak that have a big brick-and-mortar offline presence together with state-of-the-art online portal are entering into some form of partnership with these marketplaces.

Learn Web Development!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Houseful Syndrome

Asset=Set of Ass?
If a gentleman shows in an open crowd that he is in possession of a bundle of currency notes, it is overwhelming to label that gentleman acting like a child or fool for the time being. Yet, the same notion is observed in human behavior in other ways. For example, showcasing one’s worth in terms of branded clothes, etc., etc. These subtle ways to display one’s worth/power can be practiced by those who are ‘full’ with money, looks, etc., etc. In Hindi, there is a term ‘Paagal’ (पागल) which can be inferred as ‘पा के जो गल जाता है,’ or one who after having melts. This is close to a fool full of possession.