With distribution becoming the key, the country's life insurance companies are matching the scale of the successful software industry in hiring, adding armies of salespeople to capture customers and market share.
In the last six months, the industry has hired 7.5 lakh prospective agents. Of this state-run Life insurance Corporation has hired one lakh while 15 private players make up for the rest, industry sources told Hindustan Times.
The industry is expected to hire more than one million agents by the end of this financial year. In the last three months, the industry has hired as much as 5.46 lakh prospective agents.
Once these agents pass an examination conducted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), they can be officially enrolled.
Newer private entrants are desperate to jump into the top five slot in a volatile market, and are on a hiring spree to win share, industry officials said. Tata AIG has slipped to the eighth slot in September from being in the top five two years ago, while MetLife has moved one notch up to the 11th position, they said.
Bajaj Allianz was in the seventh slot in 2004, but is now occupies the second rank.
In the six months which ended in September, seven companies in their second year of operation doubled their premium income compared to the same period of the previous year.
In the April-September period, first-time premium payments alone accounted for Rs 8,628 crore, a figure that includes a weighted component of 10 per cent of single premium policies.
"After five years in the business in India, most of the private companies have reached a stage of reasonable predictability, and are building strong distribution channels either directly or through bancassurance," said Rajesh Relan, CEO of MetLife's Indian unit, which has just tied up with UTI Bank to sell policies.
Relan expects his firm's sales force to multiply five-fold from the current 10,000 over the next two years.
Gaurang Shah, CEO of Kotak Life Insurance, said private firms were also eyeing smaller towns to boost growth.
Kotak Life insurance is targeting a sales force of 30,000 in the next 12 months from the current 17,000.