When Alice Vaidyan, 58, was preparing for General Insurance Corporation's, or GIC's foray into crop reinsurance, she was scouting for a protection policy, or reinsurance. The search took her to Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. She flew down to New York to meet Ajit Jain, almost the second-in-command at the $220 billion Berkshire Hathaway. Over lunch, Jain, touted as a successor to Warren Buffet, discussed the crop insurance dynamics in India. Those in the know say Vaidyan did hard negotiation. Berkshire agreed to take a major portion of the crop re-insurance. When the deal was sealed, Jain joked, "It's the most expensive lunch I had."
Those who know Vaidyan vouch for her negotiating skills and fearless nature. Under her command, GIC is now taking a big leap to exploit the new opportunities in crop insurance. "As a CEO you have to be fearless," she says, adding that confidence, conviction and understanding also play a role. "This should also percolate down in the organisation. People should be able to take bold decisions," she adds. In 2016/17, GIC's gross premium jumped a massive 85 per cent to Rs33,585 crore. GIC enjoys a 62 per cent market share in the re-insurance market. While global reinsurers are setting shop in India, she is readying the organisation in terms of people, talent and capital. GIC is the world's 12th largest reinsurer.
At present, her focus is taking the company, with net worth of close to Rs50,000 crore and total assets of Rs94,949 crore, public. The primary market will soon see the first-ever public offering by a reinsurer. After Coal India in 2010, GIC will be the largest PSU IPO. "The power of planning came to the forefront in our IPO preparations," says Vaidyan. Post IPO, GIC will probably be among the top ten most valued public sector companies in India with an estimated market cap of Rs1,00,000 crore.
Many say her biggest challenge would be the crop reinsurance business. In just two years, it has emerged as the biggest product in GIC's portfolio. This has upset the ratio of domestic to international business from 50:50 to 70:30. Vaidyan knows it well. She is trying to maintain a balance. "We have an interest in the ASEAN market," she says, adding, "We have plans for a Lloyds platform to work in US and China," says Vaidyan. She is also keeping 'inorganic growth' options open.