THE INDUSTRYACADEMIA BRIDGE Graduates can be made ready for the world of work by building academia-industry partnerships, says Chris Traynor

For millions of young graduates, the job market in India can seem to be daunting. But it can be made easier given the right approach. In today’s market, a degree is not sufficient to land a job; much more is needed to help candidates stand out from the crowd. Graduates who have done excellent academic work, extracurricular skill-building and work experience during their academic tenure are more ready for work, compared to those who have only had a theoretical education. These graduates find a job more quickly as they are already aware of how organisations operate in the ‘real world’. To make graduates job-ready, both industry and academic institutions need to collaborate to enhance skills and knowledge. 
 The best graduates are aware of the industry they want to work in, its dynamics, its expectations and various demands. They are completely familiar with the key job responsibilities offered to them. When graduates display all the skills and knowledge needed by the industry, the industry will not hesitate to recruit them. When universities improve industry partnerships, students have access to experience, which will reinforce what they learn in the lecture hall and their industry experiences will help them in finding good jobs. Building links with industry is therefore a vital part of a university’s remit. 
Work experience and industrial placements remain crucial to career development and success. These activities help students test new ideas and concepts, put academic learning into practice and also develop their professional skills and profile, thus making them more employable. 
 Moreover, universities can capitalize on opportunities born out of research collaborations with the industry. To create new knowledge and theories, academics always look out for collaborations with organisations in their field. Collaborations such as these offer companies a chance to accelerate growth not only through new research techniques, but also create strong relationships that can be used to encourage students to take up research posts in commercially meaningful settings.  Universities and colleges can offer industrial exposure to students as a part of the curriculum in the form of industrial visits, project placements and guest lectures from industry experts. Universities can also consider embedding industrial placement opportunities within the curriculum. 
Experience can also be gained through volunteering opportunities in local charities as well as in positions of responsibility in student societies. These opportunities help to develop important transferable skills and can lead to new contacts, which can be invaluable when applying for work. 
In competitive industries, universities should partner with industry bodies to organize knowledge-sharing sessions for their faculty. Such partnerships can help them understand the latest industry trends, challenges, demands and expectations faced by a young workforce. As a result, faculties will be able to help students gain practical knowledge about the ongoing trends in various sectors. 
 Universities need to ensure that the curriculum is industry-relevant, so that they can help students to not only excel in their studies, but also do well in the professional world. This comes about when universities develop partnerships and alliances with industry leaders, organisations and businesses. Where both industry and education work closely, talent can be nurtured and a workforce ready for the demands of the 21st century can be created.


Source: Ascent

Date: 16th October 2013


Shriram General Insurance first insurer to buy company abroad

Shriram General Insurance has become the first private insurer to make a foreign acquisition with the purchase of a large chunk ofshare in Philippine non-life company Monarch Insurance. This is the first overseas insurance transaction after the insurance regulator in May 2013 allowed domestic companies to do business in other countries. The Shriram Group earlier held a stake in the Philippine company through Bharath Investments a Singapore-based holding company, which has investments from Ceylinco group – a Sri Lankan conglomerate. “The group earlier held a stake in Monarch through Bharat Investments.

We had planned to infuse Rs 35 crore to meet capital requirements, of which Rs 10 crore was already invested. The remaining Rs 25 crore has been invested by Shriram General Insurance after due approval from IRDA,” said G S Sundararajan, group director, Shriram Group.

The group had picked up a 40% stake in Monarch in June 2007 for a consideration of about Rs 7 crore. According to sources, the promoters had brought in representatives on the board. Monarch’s website describes the company as a 50-year-old Philippine SEC registered and Insurance Commission licenced non-life insurance company. In May this year, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority had said that Indian insurance companies can set up businesses abroad if they meet certain conditions. The guidelines required that life insurance companies have a net worth of Rs 500 crore and non-life companies a net worth of at least Rs 250 crore before making overseas investments. It also said that the companies with global ambitions should have a three-year profit track record.

 Shriram Capital. The company has reported a premium income of Rs 347 crore in the first quarter. The company has also been consistently reporting profits.


Source: The Times of India

Date: 11th October 2012

Insurance biz may reach Rs 4 lakh crore this year

The total premium collected by general and life insurance industry stood at Rs 3.75 lakh crore last year in India is expected to reach Rs 4 lakh crore in the current financial year, according to Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) chairman T S Vijayan. The total premium collected by general and life insurance industry stood at Rs 3.75 lakh crore last year.
“Both the general and life insurance sectors have been doing well in recent months. I expect the total business this year would be anywhere near the Rs 4 lakh crore figure,” he said recently here while responding to a question on the insurance sector scenario.
Addressing the convocation ceremony of the Institute of Insurance and Risk Management (IIRM), Vijayan said insurance penetration in the country had a potential to rise to 5-6 per cent from the present 3.86 per cent level in the short-term.
The regulator has initiated various steps to transform insurance policies, which essentially fall into the category of ‘push product’ into a ‘pull product’ by making them more relevant to the needs of the policy holder, according to him.
A push product is marketed to a customer having no desire to either purchase or learn about it while the pull product is something that the customers seek out.
The Irda chairman disclosed they had already cleared close to 370 new products, about 90 per cent of those filed by the insurance companies under the new product guidelines that came into force this month. A three-month window was given to the companies to withdraw all the old products as a transition period where both old and the new products coexist temporarily .
On the distribution front, the insurance regulator has initiated reforms, such as appointing banks as brokers so that they can sell the products of more than one insurance company, as part of the efforts to encourage growth of the industry, he said.
The insurance regulator is also contemplating reforms in distribution of insurance policies, such as appointment of bank as a broker to facilitate.

No move to make digitization mandatory
Vijayan said there were no plans to make digitization or dematerialization of insurance policies mandatory. Last month, the insurance regulator had appointed five insurance repositories to provide service for keeping the insurance policies in electronic format by the policyholders. Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, while welcoming the move, had asked the regulator to make digitization mandatory for quick execution of the programme.


Date: 13th October 2013

Source: Business Standard


Power, oil & gas plants in Odisha, AP adequately covered: Insurers Industries, operating plants adequately covered, say insurers

Insurance companies officials say operating plants of energy and oil/gas companies in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, two regions facing the threat of super cyclone Phailin, are adequately covered.

“While our estimates suggest that some life may be covered, property and houses are poorly insured. Hence, if the intensity of the cyclone is high, there could be some impact,” said a senior official of a public general insurer.

Though power plants in and around Paradip port could also be affected, almost all of them are insured against natural disasters, the official added. About one lakh people have been evacuated from the cyclone-prone areas of Odisha.


The bulletin issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) at 8.00 am today said that the very severe cyclonic storm Phailin over west-central & adjoining east-central Bay of Bengal moved north-westwards during past 6 hours with a speed of 15 kilometres per hour (kmph) and lay centred at 5.30 am today.


“It would move north-westwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur (Odisha) by evening of today, as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 210-220 kmph gusting to 240 kmph,” the bulletin said.


Sanjay Datta, head-underwriting and claims at ICICI Lombard General Insurance explained that these weather-related conditions are covered under the ‘act of god perils’ clause in insurance. “While we have to wait to see which areas the cyclone hits, operating plants would face an impact. This is because in some cases the cyclone loses its intensity before it hits the land,” he added.


In insurance terminology, an act of god peril refers to a natural catastrophe that cannot be prevented. This includes natural disasters and catastrophes cyclone, flood, earthquake, landslides. Act of god perils’ insurance is typically taken to protect property and business from the above risks. However, some policies exclude these risks.


Life insurance policies may not be adequate to cover the risks, said a senior life insurance official. “We anticipate that there could be several families below the poverty line, who are not adequately insured. If the cyclone intensifies, it would pose a big risk to them,” the official added.


Meanwhile, insurers are hoping that the cyclone does not pose a big threat to property. K G Krishnamoorthy Rao, MD & CEO of Future Generali India Insurance said that while industrial risks in those areas are well insured, property is not been adequately insured.


Insurance companies have estimated a total loss of Rs 1,500 crore from claims in the Uttarakhand region. In June-July 2013, Uttarakhand was affected by floods and land-slides with severe loss to life and property.


Natural catastrophe pool, to cover the risks due to natural disasters, has been an idea, which has been mooted in India since the last few years. A catastrophe pool (or ‘cat-pool’ for short), similar to a terrorism pool, helps distribute the risk of such natural disasters evenly, thereby offering quicker relief to the victims. It also lowers the hit that individual insurers have to take on their books.


Early this year, non-life insurance companies had presented a concept paper on catastrophe insurance to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The concept paper highlighted the need for a pool mechanism to deal with losses from catastrophic events.  However, it is still stuck as a concept because there has been no consensus between the insurers and NDMA on who would fund the process and how the pool will function.


Source: Business Standard

Date: 12th October 2013

New health cover norms may save users the heartburns; arbitrary premium hikes will now be a thing of the past

Arbitrary premium hikes by insurance companies at the time of renewal and inordinate delays in claim settlement, among others, could be a thing of the past from this month. The new health insurance norms that came into effect from October would do away with quite a few arbitrary rules that caused heartburn among customers.
Sure, we have to wait for a few months to see how the scenario would unfold, but that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating the passing away of arbitrary premium hikes by insurance companies.
“Irda has made it mandatory for insurers to specify the loading of premium and the reason for loading in the product file-and-use application,” explains Divya Gandhi, principal officer and head of general insurance at Emkay Insurance Brokers. This means the insurance company can load premium only on the basis of claims experience, ailment-wise, among other parameters approved by the insurance regulator.

Easy claim settlement

From now on, your insurance company will have to process the claims within 30 days of receiving all required documents. It means the company won’t be able to sit on a claim for more than a month. If there is a delay beyond this period, the company will have to pay a penal interest to the policyholder.
“If the claim is rejected, the company will have to specify the medical grounds on which the decision was taken,” says activist Gaurang Damani, who had filed a petition seeking regulations for the health insurance space, which triggered the drafting of these new rules.

Bonus for claim-free years

Before the new regulations were implemented, a policyholder stood to lose the entire noclaim bonus earned over the years due to a single claim made. For instance, say, you have earned an annual bonus of 5% for three years.
If you were to make a claim in the fourth year, you would stand to lose the entire bonus (15%) you had earned during the previous three years. “The customer will now not lose the cumulative bonus entirely when a claim is made. The reduction of the bonus will be at the same rate as it is accrued,” says Bhaskar Jyoti Sarma, managing director and CEO, SBI General.
That means, your cumulative bonus will not go down to zero after the claim on the fourth year — it will shrink to 10%.

Insurer is solely responsible

Insurance companies will be directly responsible for claim settlement now. Third-party administrators’ role will be limited to processing the claims.
“Insurers will also have to play a greater role in claims handling. Earlier, third-party administrators were given the authority to deny or accept a claim. Now, such decision-making powers can’t be delegated and the insurer will need to be involved directly with the hospitals in settling claims,” says Manasije Mishra, CEO, Max Bupa.
“Now, insurers will not be allowed to offer any incentives to TPAs to reduce claims,” adds Gaurang Damani.

Standardisation of definitions

“Standard definition for 46 commonly-used terms in health insurance policies will provide clarity in interpretation on these terms and reduce disputes or complaints and would enable just and speedier settlement of claims,” says Gandhi. The new formula prescribed for calculating co-pay amount will also benefit policyholders.
The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority has also prescribed uniform definitions for 11 critical illnesses. “It also reduces the ambiguity in respect of various terms. For example, co-payment has been defined by the regulation to be linked to the claim amount (earlier it could have been defined as linked to claim amount or sum insured). And therefore, the room for different interpretations is removed,” adds Arvind Laddha, CEO, Vantage Insurance Brokers.
Similarly, quantifying and defining the 199 exclusions — expenses not payable by the insurer — will also help reduce the ambiguity.

Uniform claim forms

The impact of this measure may not be felt immediately, but will surely help policyholders in the long term. It is expected to reduce the procedural hurdles faced by policyholders, besides streamlining the processes across the industry.
“The standardisation of claim forms and cashless pre-authorisation forms will help develop a robust information system. In the long run, the interface between insurers, TPAs and hospitals would be well regulated,” says Segar Sampath kumar, general manager, New India Assurance.
For the policyholder, more efficient process could mean smoother claim settlement. Besides these newly-introduced measures, the regulations also cover some of the major changes announced earlier, including minimum entry age of 65 years and mandatory life-long renewal for all policies.
Therefore, 60-65 year-old senior citizens, whose proposals were rejected earlier due to their age, can now hope to buy a policy. Similarly, insurers can no longer refuse to renew your policy beyond a particular age, as the rules stipulate renewability for life except in cases of fraud or misrepresentation.


Date: 9th October 2013

Source: The Economic Times

PSU general insurers keenly watching US-Iran thaw

The ongoing diplomatic efforts to normalize the frozen ties between the US and Iran are being watched keenly by the state-run general insurers, who are currently wary of providing cover to companies dealing with Iranian oil imports.

“We are closely watching the events. Any kind of positive outcome will be favorable for the industry,” a top official of New India Assurance told PTI over the weekend. Domestic general insurance companies are reluctant to provide insurance cover to refiners processing Iranian crude due to sanctions imposed by United Nations and the European Union, which has made it difficult to find reinsurance in European markets.

“We are restricted our exposure to refineries which are processing Iranian crude due to lack of reinsurance cover. Our exposure to public firms dealing with Iranian crude will not be more than Rs 500 crore,” the official said.

Last month, US President Barack Obama said he spoke to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over the phone, the first such communication between the heads of the two nations since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Another official from a public sector insurer said the government proposal to set up an energy pool to provide insurance cover for refineries using Iranian crude will provide some kind of breather to general insurance companies.

The government has proposed a Rs 2,000-crore Indian Energy Insurance Pool (IEIP) to provide cover to refineries processing Iranian oil.

Source: The Economic Times

Date: 6th October 2013


Every fifty to one hundred years, a new technology emerges that significantly impacts how people move about in the world. However, it often takes time for our human practices to catch up with this new technology. When automobiles first arrived on the scene, people would just drive in any direction, at whatever speed they liked (though fortunately, cars were slower then).There were no road rules or speed limits. A similar thing is happening with today’s mobile digital technologies, which have enabled information in the USA to travel over 33 million times faster across the country than it did 200 years ago. 
Being connected to the internet at high speeds on a mobile device is changing the how, when and where of work itself. The outcome? A survey by the Neuro Leadership Institute found that only ten per cent of people do their best thinking at work.The very place we’re told to spend our most productive hours is no longer productive for our most critical task. That’s a serious problem. 
The real challenge here is ‘focus’, and the culprit is the quantity of communication per minute we can access. The problem is not information overload per se. With emails, SMSes and social media, the messages require you to make decisions. This is where the problems begin. We live with a false belief that we can make decisions all day long. My research shows people have one-two peak performing hours a day at best. What if we are bombarded with constant distractions for those one-two hours? We may not be able to think clearly at all due to the task switching, thus exhausting our brains. With so many distractions, progress becomes impossible, and engagement suffers. This may explain why many firms today are struggling with their lowest ever engagement scores. 
What can individuals do? The main strategy is to recognise the brain’s limitations and then leverage our cycles. Most of us do our best work in the mornings before the chaos unfolds. So, a good rule is to do creative work first, urgent and important work second, and all our communication (eg: emails) a distant third. This rule can immediately transform people’s effectiveness, though it’s hard to follow, as emails are so seductive. The other idea is to notice when you do your best thinking across the week and carve out blocks of time to focus on those days. 
 Organisations also need to be a part of the solution. Volkswagen in Germany is switching off their email server at night, so people can rest. A tech giant is experimenting with ‘no email mornings’, so that people can focus. Studies show that if we are always distracted by cell phones (many people now have two or more phones on them at all times), our ambient neural activity is too high to be able to notice the quiet signals that bring us important breakthroughs to even everyday problems. With 24/7 communication, now we can’t focus to make progress, plus we can’t solve the complex problems we normally solve on the drive home or as we wake up in the morning, because the buzz is always on. We need more firms experimenting with ways of letting people give their brains quality rest.  Now, it’s time for organisations to reduce the number of employees crashing into painful productivity walls.


Source: Ascent

Date: 9th October 2013