You had recently said that the insurance market in Bangladesh is untapped. What opportunities do you see for the industry in the coming years?
The insurance sector in Bangladesh is indeed a virgin territory. The opportunities are countless. As this sector had been neglected for years, many developments are yet to take place. Green Delta acts as a pioneer and many of our products have been introduced for the first time in Bangladesh, namely Nibedita, Micro Health Insurance, People’s personal accident policy, Worker Insurance etc. Our motto is Insurance for Everyone.

We want to bring insurance to everyone’s doorstep, which is a very retail focused approach. But that’s just a piece in the pie. There are many areas of general insurance that are still untouched. We have projects in the pipeline to cover those areas. We want other insurance companies, especially in the private sector, to come forward and be a part of this growth. We want the whole industry to grow so that we all can grow together.

As this industry lacks glamour, the portion of the youth that are considering insurance as their career path, is very low. If the whole industry strives for the betterment of this sector, we can popularise insurance among all, especially among the youth, which will automatically generate more opportunities.

How big is the insurance market in Bangladesh and how mature is it? What is the rate at which it is growing?
The insurance industry in Bangladesh has recently seen rapid growth driven by accelerating economic growth, notes a 2008 ADB report describing a technical assistance loan to improve the country’s capital markets and insurance sector. There are 77 insurance companies in the country, including two state-owned enterprises, the Jiban Bima Corporation (JBC) for life insurance and the Sadharan Bima Corporation (SBC) for general insurance.

Nevertheless, the country remains behind its neighbours in the sub-continent, especially India and Pakistan, both in terms of premium income and penetration. Only 1.5 percent of the population has life insurance coverage in Bangladesh, as compared to 4.5 percent in Pakistan and 7.5 percent in India. Further, per capita insurance premium in 2003 was found to be only 2.1 percent (Pakistan 2.9 percent and India 16.4 percent).

On the upside, the ADB finds that growth in premiums was remarkable. The life insurance sector clocked a growth in premiums of 22 percent per year between 2001 and 2003, whereas general insurance showed an 11 percent per year growth in the same period.

Farzana Chowdhury, MD & CEO, Green Delta Insurance Company, talks to IFM about her professional journey and her vision for Bangladesh in the context of the insurance sector

Farzana Chowdhury, MD & CEO, Green Delta Insurance Company, talks to IFM about her professional journey and her vision for Bangladesh in the context of the insurance sector

You have been associated with GDIC since 2009. Tell us about the growth of the company?
Although I joined Green Delta officially on 2009 as an additional managing director, I was a part of the team for a very long time. I was a board member from 2002-2008 and vice-chairperson of the board from 2008-2009. There’s also something many people are not aware of —after my graduation in 1993, I joined Green Delta as a Trainee Executive and worked in the company for a few years. I’ve seen many ups and downs.

Being a part of the leading general insurer of the country, I was lucky to see the growth very closely. Mr. Nasir A. Choudhury, who’s the current advisor and the founder managing director, is a legendary figure in the insurance industry, not just in Bangladesh but also in the world. Under his charismatic leadership, Green Delta achieved recognition in the country and abroad. His contribution is the reason for Green Delta’s success. When I joined, I tried to be a part of this journey of growth and success. With the help of my team members, I pioneered many insurance products in the market. This way, I also contributed to the legacy of Green Delta.

You have pioneered the launch of Nibedita, the only product catering exclusively to the welfare of women. What were the reasons behind starting this project? Why this special focus on women when there is anyway a huge untapped market?
More than 52% of the population of our country consists of women. Our society is still male dominated. Nibedita has some exclusive features for women, which are not present in other accidental policies. It has extended coverage for victims of rape and acid attack, and in case of death during child birth. It deals with principles like gender equality, fairness, human rights, non-discrimination, health and safety. So you can say that this product was a demand of the times and our effort to address a national issue.

Tell us about Nibedita. What does it aim to achieve?
Nibedita is a comprehensive insurance scheme, with a wide range of coverage of accidental death, bodily injury due to accident, death during child birth etc. It also has extended coverage for legal expenses incurred during divorce proceedings, trauma allowance for rape, robbery, acid victims etc. It is a product that can be availed by women from all walks of life because of its low price. One can get the policy for a year with a premium as low as BDT 580 only.

This will give coverage worth BDT 100,000, which is very much affordable. One can get coverage up to BDT 1,000,000, with a corresponding increase in the premium. A female sales force is actively involved in promoting Nibedita and the popularity of the policy is soaring in the market.

This product aims to make woman self-sufficient. It promotes women’s empowerment and leadership to a great extent. As the women in our country are exposed to various risks, Nibedita dares to be their partner in bad times and safeguards their future.

insuHow do you intend to promote the growth of the insurance sector in Bangladesh? What role can GDIC play?
Our brand communication activities mostly aim at promoting the insurance industry rather than just our company. We believe if the industry grows, we grow. And like I said before, we want other companies to grow with us as well. Our motto, which is a retail focused approach, is to bring insurance to everyone’s threshold. We are building insurance awareness first. Being the leader in the industry, we have responsibilities to fulfill. We have recently launched a training institute through which we are training professionals on various financial courses. Insurance is a major subject. We joined hands with CII, UK for the insurance courses. This way, we wish to make more insurance experts in the industry who can contribute greatly to the sector in the future.

What are the other products offered by GDIC?
Green Delta provided a people’s personal accident policy for students of renowned private universities, covering accidents and accidental deaths and permanent damage to any body organ. It covered numerous students and had the largest coverage of about BDT 100,000 per student and with a premium as low as BDT 74 per year. In addition, employees of many corporate houses have been provided with a personal accident policy. This policy is significantly useful for medical promotion officers and field level employees who sell medicines in hospitals, travelling to the farthest corners through sheer dedication and for the factory workers who are exposed to dangerous chemicals.

Niramoy is a micro health insurance product developed for the rural population. It enabled a neglected portion of the population avail insurance service at a very low cost.

Our other significant products are crop insurance, Shudin — micro insurance for garments workers, worker insurance, personal content insurance, health insurance with global emergency evacuation services, property insurance and overseas medical insurance.