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The Tsunami moment

A. Ananthanarayanan had come down from Bangkok to Chennai on work in December 2004 when the killer tsunami battered India's east coast and Southeast Asia. More young executives

Rahul Sachitanand | Print Edition: April 4, 2010

Amarnath Ananthanarayanan had come down from Bangkok to Chennai on work in December 2004 when the killer tsunami battered India's east coast and Southeast Asia. After the devastation, one fact stood out: GE's general insurance business received just five claims across India, Indonesia and Thailand. "Barely two per cent of India's population has any access to insurance products and high premiums restrict access to most products," says Ananthanarayanan, recalling his realisation about the potential for insurance in the region. See pics of young executives

He had begun his career at GE, as a software techie, and done stints at its BPO and later insurance unit, where he had worked out a business plan for GE's entry into the Indian market. When tough market conditions forced GE to refocus its strategy, he had moved to GECIS (the BPO unit now called Genpact) and then back into insurance as regional head.

A year ago, he joined Bharti-AXA General Insurance and has since introduced many concepts (including a rural lifestyle protection programme with an annual premium of Rs 87), doubled headcount from over 500 a year ago to more than 1,100 today and tripled his unit's presence from 36 locations to 100. But he knows that Bharti-AXA and the industry put together have barely scratched the surface.

Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, 39, CEO, Bharti-AXA General Insurance

  • EDUCATION: MA Economics (DSE), PhD (Rutgers, US).
  • EXPERIENCE: GE, Bharti-AXA.
  • 'AHA' MOMENT: Realising the insurance potential in India after the 2004 tsunami.
  • TOUGHEST CHALLENGE: Convincing rural customers of the utility of general insurance.

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