"Only 3.5 per cent of the [Indian non-life insurance] market has been tapped," says Dalip Verma, the managing director of Tata AIG General Insurance. "Our share of the world mrket is a mere 0.24 per cent. Our non-life insurance sector today is of the order of about $2 billion, or roughly Rs11,000 crore. There's enough business for everybody."
Mr Verma has more statistics to offer that show up the country in poor insuring light. "Compared with the average per person premium of $16 [Rs752] for South East Asian countries, India's [insurance premium] outgo is barely $2 [Rs94] per person," he adds. That figure looks punier still when held up against the Rs70,500 ($1,500) per person for Japan and the whooping Rs1,17,500 ($ 2,500) for the United States.
Mr Verma's colleague V Krishnan, vice president (agency operations), is even more explicit. "By the time the day is done, over Rs30 crore worth of premiums change hands in India," he explains, "and Rs900 crore by the end of every month. Every minute Rs2.09 lakh worth of premiums are being paid and every hour Rs1.26 crore."
If that doesn't sound exciting enough for insurance fans, Mr Krishnan has more: "I get up in the morning and the first thing that comes to my mind is that I have not even touched the tip of the market. As much as 40 per cent of the business comes from just four cities: Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune and Vadodara."
Adds Verma: "By 2015, the non-life insurance business market in India is expected to grow to around $10 billion or about Rs50,000 crore." Quite possible, given that the market grew from a minuscule Rs200 crore in 1973 to today's Rs 10,000 crore. Experts attribute this exponential jump to rapid industrialisation, population expansion, greater disposable incomes, more personal assets and increasing safety awareness.
These factors are, if anything, going to be even more of an influence in the years to come. Who says insurance is a boring business and the insurance agent a sorry salesman? Not the companies crowding the country's insurance landscape.