A vital arm of Murugappa Group and one of the country’s most trusted multi-line general insurance companies, Chola MS reaches over 10 million customers through its country-wide network of over 550 retail touch points and 50,000+ agents / Point of Sale person (POSP).
Leading from the forefront in the bancassurance business among non-bank promoted insurance companies, they have also created a balanced presence in the agency, automobile OEM panels and a growing presence in digital markets. Chola MS is regarded well within the industry as a reliable, conservative, consistent, and trustworthy player.
Chola MS services its customers across 30,000+ distribution points of its Public Sector Bank tie-ups and has a cashless network of 10,000+ garages & tie-ups with 9500+ network hospitals for cashless claims.
Founded in 1900, Murugappa Group worth INR 417 Billion (41,713 Crores) is one of India's leading business conglomerates. One of the 29 businesses including ten listed Companies traded in NSE & BSE, of Chennai headquartered Group is Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd. led by Managing Director, V. Suryanarayanan.
The July 2002 established General Insurance market leader is accompanied by major names in the Group including Carborundum Universal Ltd., CG Power and Industrial Solutions Ltd., Cholamandalam Financial Holdings Ltd., Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company Ltd., Coromandel International Ltd., Coromandel Engineering Company Ltd., E.I.D. Parry (India) Ltd., Parry Agro Industries Ltd., Shanthi Gears Ltd., Tube Investments of India Ltd. and Wendt (India) Ltd.
With this, the Group has marked its presence in diverse industries including abrasives, auto components, transmission systems, cycles, sugar, farm inputs, fertilizers, plantations, bio-products and nutraceuticals. It has also forged strong alliances with leading international companies such as Groupe Chimique Tunisien, Foskor, Mitsui Sumitomo, Morgan Advanced Materials, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), Yanmar & Co. and Compagnie Des Phosphat De Gafsa (CPG) and wide geographical presence all over India and spanning 6 continents.
Renowned brands like BSA, Hercules, Montra, Mach City, Ballmaster, Ajax, Parry’s, Chola, Gromor, Shanthi Gears and Paramfos are from the Murugappa stable. The Group fosters an environment of professionalism and has a workforce of over 51,000 employees.
In an exclusive conversation with The CEO Magazine’s Editor, Purnima Narang, V. Suryanarayanan, Managing Director, Cholamandalam MS, talked about various aspects of the business including the journey, challenges, achievements, and the future of the brand. Edited excerpts:
V. Suryanarayanan: Chola MS is an established consortium of trust, financial know-how, and strong foundations. With over 16 million happy customers, it is a proud joint venture between one of India’s leading business conglomerates, the Murugappa Group and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limited, Japan (MS & AD Group). We work to personify our brand promise of protecting lives, homes, assets, businesses and livelihoods, always being there when we are needed the most.
Circa 2010 was the year when Chola MS took specific, concrete steps in defining what the brand represents. At an off-site workshop, cross-functional, diverse teams of Chola MS discussed and debated various options and finally was unanimous in defining the brand essence of Chola MS is T3: “Trust, Transparency and Technology”.
Even as “digital and digitisation” are becoming common in the business lexicon over the last couple of years, it is remarkable that the team thought of technology as a big differentiator in stepping up customer focus and operating efficiencies.
Trust: It is the underlying theme defining the relationships with customers, business partners, agents, employees, regulators and investors in striving to provide financial security
Transparency: We value being sincere, fair, operating with empathy and providing timely, correct information & updates thereby providing satisfaction
Technology: Enabling the provision of high-quality services to customers and in the granular understanding of customer preferences, markets and products
Every Chola MS employee has by and large imbibed the brand essence fully reflecting in Chola MS building long-lasting relationships with all intermediaries, continuous addition of channel partners, earning the goodwill of both retail and corporate customers. This has reflected in Chola MS enjoying a balanced business flow from bancassurance partners, agents and other partnerships and in adding about half a million customers every month.
V. Suryanarayanan: Established in 2002, Chola MS is a joint venture between the Murugappa Group (60%) and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limited (40%). The company brings together the rich heritage and a legacy of solidity, conservatism and trustworthiness of the Murugappa Group combined with the global insurance expertise of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limite (part of MS & AD Group).
Though headquartered in Chennai, the company has a pan India presence and a formidable distribution network. It offers its products through its various branch offices, bancassurance partners as well as other distribution channels. Aided by technology, the company through its customer-centric approach aims to serve them in tune with customers’ preferences, needs and choices.
Chola MS is guided by the Five Lights of the Murugappa Group – Integrity, Quality, Passion, Respect and Responsibility. As a company, the emphasis is always on being transparent and building trust. This is reflected in our T3 vision – Trust, Transparency and Technology. As we stride into the digital age, we took a new #pledge2protect with sincerity, confidence, and care to bring peace of mind to our customers, to be with them in their hours of need and to protect them and their assets.
V. Suryanarayanan: Over the last 19 years, the company has surpassed several milestones and attained a GWP of Rs. 4400 Cr. This growth showcases the trust that customers have in the company. It has established a niche in the General Insurance space amongst peers because of its hallmark business practices.
We have reached several milestones in the brief period and achieved the status of a leader in the bancassurance segment considering that it is not promoted by a banking entity. The company has several bancassurance relationships that has seen multiple renewals solely on the strength of customer servicing. We are also a player of repute in the OEM motor segment across private cars, commercial vehicles, tractors, and two-wheelers
We enjoy a strong presence in Tier II / Tier III markets. We savour our position in motor insurance with superior claims management – both servicing and claims severity management. An array of partnerships across OEMs, banks, brokers, digital partners provides us diversity of channels.
Today, Chola MS is navigating on the path of transformation into a Digi-smart insurer. We have launched many applications for both internal and external stakeholders.
Some of these tech-enabled initiatives include:
A revamped customer journey for health policies for both policy buying and claims management
Motor Claims Live Video Streaming (LVS App) by which claims for motor policies can be assessed through a live video streaming mechanism Chatbot with ease
V. Suryanarayanan: In its history of the last 19 years, Chola MS has faced many challenges. The years from 2007 to 2012 were challenging as the industry was de-tariffed in Fire and Motor Own damage lines of business. Challenges also arose from the Motor and declined pools that operated between 2007 and 2014. In the Covid-19 environment that impacted by way of heavy health claims wherein over Rs.400 Crores were paid out as COVID claims across the two waves in the last 12 months.
Each of these has only strengthened our resolve to fight back with our back to the wall in surmounting the challenges, gaining channels for growing the business but remaining unwavering on our values.
V. Suryanarayanan: Chola MS believes in continuously adding channels across its verticals to enhance its customer base. Building Trust through Transparent and fast service, appropriate product offerings aided by Technology would be the direction.
V. Suryanarayanan: As a player widely regarded as conservative but consistent and efficient, the focus will be on first, working closely with our partners for meeting emerging customer needs. Secondly, enhancing our capabilities in technology for better customer and partner experience.
Thirdly, investing in analytics for securing insight and building algorithms for identifying opportunities and last but not the least on continuing our emphasis on sound economic fundamentals even while growing the business and not play a top-line game.
V. Suryanarayanan: As I said earlier, we view every problem as an opportunity. We at Chola MS stood with our customers and settled Covid-19 health insurance claims to help them meet the sudden medical expense. We have one of the highest settlement ratios in the industry in Covid-19 claims.
V. Suryanarayanan: Chola MS is working on multiple initiatives to transform itself into a digitally oriented player in the market. We have the challenges of legacy systems. The work is underway, and the board is committed to investing in technology.
We are honoured to be recognized with the award `Celent Model of the Year 2021’, under the legacy and ecosystem transformation category. This is an acknowledgement of our efforts towards digital transformation with customer centricity as the primary goal.
V. Suryanarayanan: Success is not a destination but a milestone in a very long journey. The passion for excellence is what drives us at Chola MS.
V. Suryanarayanan: In general insurance, R&D is not just about new products but experimenting continuously on processes, distribution models, technology and sometimes in the way we organize ourselves in doing business. Chola MS has always reinvented itself in terms of its offerings in various forms as described.
V. Suryanarayanan: The balance between broad categories of channels – bancassurance, agency, OEM tie-ups, the strength of our captive channels, underwriting results-focused approach to business, strengths in claims management and the committed teams have been the defining factors behind our business model.
V. Suryanarayanan: The Spirit of the Murugappa Group is inspired by a set of enduring values and beliefs called the 'Five Lights' – a guide to everyday excellence
Integrity: We, at Murugappa, value professional and personal integrity above all else. We achieve our goals by being honest with our customers, our employees, investors and all our stakeholders who have trusted us and have been associated with us. We earn trust with every action, every minute of every day.
Passion: We play to win. We have a healthy desire to stretch, achieve personal goals, and accelerate business growth. We strive constantly to improve and be energetic in everything that we do.
Quality: We take ownership of our work. We unfailingly meet high standards of quality in both what we do and the way we do it. We take pride in excellence.
Respect: We respect the dignity of every individual. We are open and transparent with each other. We inspire and enable people to achieve high standards and challenging goals. Diversity is an integral part of who we are and the way we do things here. This inclusive culture is evident by the way we provide everyone with equal opportunities to progress and grow.
Responsibility: We are responsible corporate citizens. We believe we can help make a difference in our environment and change lives for the better. We will do this in a manner that befits our size and reflects our humility.
V. Suryanarayanan: We are proud of our resilience in growing our business despite lower volumes from our financier channels. Our ability to add new channels across our SBUs for various lines of business, expand into new geographies has ensured that we would be able to attain a growth rate that is higher than the industry (general insurance players) growth.
V. Suryanarayanan: Chola MS has plans for ambitious growth in strengthening its presence in the markets across lines of businesses and stepping up market share. As a strong believer in growing its channel base for growth, the focus will be on geographical and product diversification.
As a brand, Chola MS is recognized for its ‘customer-centric approach and to further this, it aims at transforming itself into a Digi-smart insurer to serve its customers in every possible manner. This approach, coupled with its extensive distribution network will help fulfil the needs of all stakeholders.
Accompanying the ambitious plans for growth, Chola MS brand pursues its journey of #pledge2protect with a three-pronged approach –
(a) Reaching out to the hinterland of the country
(b) New-age products for the young and the old
(c) Seamless customer journeys for a great transacting experience with T3 continuing to be the bedrock.
We believe that we will achieve our well-defined goals as part of the vision 2025 strategy both in terms of growth and diversification. While the pandemic has pushed the timelines to an extent, we are optimistic about the future.
Being a part of the Murugappa Group, giving back to society is part of our DNA. We have actively spent on CSR activities with a focus on spends for education and healthcare.
There are no shortcuts in life. Persistence, hard work, dedication, and the right attitude are the key ingredients of success. Every failure is a lesson learnt and every success is just a milestone.
V. Suryanarayanan said “A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step at a time. From the beginning in 2002, we have travelled quite a distance and gathered rich knowledge, experience and goodwill of our partners and customers. These would certainly help us chart our way for the next 5 years and beyond in forging ahead on growth, profitability and capability building but staying firmly on our core values of transparency in business dealings, excellence in our customer offerings. The team is very excited about the bigger and larger goals that all of us are working for attaining in the ensuing years.”