Mumbai: Max Life Insurance Ltd, a unit of Max Financial Services Ltd, is hoping to grow its net annual sales to 18% for the next three years, primarily with a focus on organic growth. The move is a departure from the aggressive stance it had taken when it opted for a merger with HDFC Life Insurance and later when it joined the race to buy IDBI Federal Life. Both bids, however, fell through. In an interview, Max Life executive vice-chairman and managing director Rajesh Sud talks about insurer’s growth strategy and, most importantly, its bancassurance tie-up with Axis Bank that has reached 10,000 crore in revenue. Edited excerpts:

How has your growth been as compared to the industry?

We have been ahead of that (the industry). It looks marginal, but our story is more steady than the others, if you compare us against other industry folks. You will find people going up and down a little bit, a little more volatile in their growth rates. But our growth rate is very steady; we have been growing at a CAGR of 16.5% on new sales. So, we have been ahead of the industry.

What’s the kind of forecast?

We normally don’t forecast. But yes, now that we have grown about 18%, that’s the kind of stuff we are looking for.

Given that foreign firms can raise their stake in insurance companies to 49%, how has it changed the way you do your business?

Lot has been spoken about, but not much has happened in that sense, really. Till recently, we were still in the midst of trying to acquire IDBI Federal Life Insurance and, in the past also, we have attempted a merger with HDFC. There may have been attempts, yes, but actual deals on the table is fewer. But I don’t think that’s directly linked to the FDI.

There has been no new licence given. Has anybody else entered? Since 2016, I think there is a little more interest in general insurance and, suddenly, a lot more interest in health insurance, with a lot of new players coming, but not in life insurance.

In life insurance, it is a steady pack of 23 private and one state-owned company, LIC, pretty much the same. FDI did bring the change in access to capital and a lot of companies will expand and build the distribution (network), build product forms that require some capital; those to my mind were the constant themes.

You said there are 24 players in India’s insurance market, which is not deeply penetrated. Do you think things will change?

There are much smaller markets in the world with many more players. But on the other side, if we look at the financial health of everybody in the business, I think half of us are kind of reasonably well set, doing well. While the top five private life insurers get the major share of what’s there in the private side, it is a bit of an uphill task for the rest. We all have sufficiently deep pockets, and have promoters who are willing to stay for the long run.

So what’s the strategy now?

Our strategy is to continue doing what we have been doing well, that is, “organic growth". We are putting a fair amount of investment behind our strategy--to grow our organic channels, our customer advisory team, digital e-commerce, and build the relationship with banks like Axis Bank.

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