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HDFC Life prepares for international foray

Private life insurer HDFC Life is preparing for its international foray after it got permission to set up a  subsidiary in the Gulf from the sector regulator Irda.

Amitabh Chaudhry, MD & CEO, HDFC Life said, “We are planning to set up a subsidiary in the Gulf. Irda has given us permission for that.”

With this, HDFC Life may become the first private insurer to have an international presence. Though companies have set up representative offices in other countries, none of them have begun full-fledged operations in non-Indian markets.

Chaudhry said it had made the application long time back and is now working towards getting the go ahead from local authorities. 

HDFC Life will make investments in such markets where opportunities exist, he said, adding that the NRIs and expats in the Gulf market are under-served and present an opportunity.

“By being present there, we will be giving a message to the NRI community that we are here for the long term. We see this as an opportunity. We have had a representative office there for the last 18 months and over a period of time we want to convert it into a full-fledged operation,” he explained.

Though the insurer is aware that it is a long process, the chief executive believes that the first step has been taken. The company has also identified markets like UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar among others. 

Sector experts are of the view that insurance companies will look at developing nations in Asia and Latin America. Regions like Middle East, South East India and countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal that have some similarities with the Indian business would be targeted, they added.

Public insurance companies on the life and non-life insurance side already have operations in countries abroad including regions in North America, Africa and Europe, apart from Asian markets. However, private insurers have not yet ventured out. 

Other private life insurers apart from HDFC Life are also firming up plans to go abroad. R Thyagarajan, Shriram group founder and chairman said that since they are in partnership with (South Africa-based) Sanlam in life insurance (Shriram Life), they would explore the possibilities of going into insurance outside India. 

“Since Sanlam is enthusiastic about life and general insurance in the Asian region, we would like to go with Sanlam in expanding insurance operations in some countries in Asia,” he said, adding that wherever Sanlam goes out for acquisitions or stake purchase, Shriram Life Insurance will go with it, even if it means only a token investment from its side.

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