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Pradeep Pandey

Director - Branding & Communication | 20 Aug 2009

The challenge for any new brand is to establish itself in a cluttered environment and amongst brands that are well entrenched in the consumer’s mind. While one can look at rationalising spends, one should not switch off the engine as it will become more difficult to revive it when the economy picks up. Also, a key point to note is that in the current scenario, a brand can demand a greater bang for its buck. A brand can get good deals from most media houses, which helps them reach the same audience, but at a lesser cost.

Pradeep Pandey has been Director - Branding & Communication at Aegon Religare Life Insurance Company Ltd since June 2007. Part of the core team that had set up the company, Pandey was the 10th employee in the company. Prior to joining Aegon Religare Life Insurance, Pandey had worked with Reliance Life Insurance and was involved in launching the brand. He was also a part of the Reliance ADAG brand team that launched the new brand identity for Reliance Capital.

He has had many achievements and accolades to his credit in his professional career that spans across the nation’s most popular brands such as LML, Kinetic, SBI Life and Reliance Life, and Leo Burnett. He won two Golds at ABBY ’05 for the best TV Ad and Campaign in the financial category; Silver Effie (award for effective advertising), Yahoo Purple Big Idea Award and Viewers Choice Award for the Lifelong Pensions Campaign, all at SBI Life. The Lifelong Pensions campaign was rated as the best TV Ad for the year 2004 in a viewer poll conducted by Zee News.

Pandey has also been instrumental in successfully launching two other leading Indian life insurance players – SBI Life Insurance and Birla Sun Life Insurance. He has a B.E. degree in Production from Marathwada University and an MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Pandey talks about Aegon Religare Life Insurance’s journey in India in the one year of its operations here, as well as the road ahead.

Q. How has the year been so far? Please give us an overview of your operations in India.

We have recently completed one year of operations. Launched in July 2008, Aegon Religare Life Insurance has set up 52 branches spread across 42 cities in India in the first nine months of its operations and already has a customer base of over 32,000.

Our aim is to set up a company that gives quality advice to consumers and helps them plan their life better. Our products and communication have been highly recognised by consumers as well as the media. We have launched the cheapest Term Plan in the country. Our Aegon Religare Protect Gain Plan has been rated amongst Top 3 ULIPs in the country by Outlook Money in December 2008. We launched our pension plan in January 2009 and it has been rated among the Top 4 pension plans based on investment rate of return.

Our advertising campaigns have received a huge response. We had launched the K.I.L.B. (Kum Insurance Lene Ki Bimari) advertising campaign, which educated customers on the concept of under-insurance and also won two prestigious advertising awards – the Bronze Abby in Integrated Marketing for financial services, and Gold for the best outdoor plan of the year at the OAC. K.I.L.B. today is one of the most recognised advertising communication, and this is despite the fact it was run only for six weeks in a span of one year. Consumers still remember the concept and importance of K.I.L.B.

In terms of business, Our APE till date is over Rs 75 crore with over to 32,000 policies sold. In July 2009, the APE was Rs 6.6 crore with over 2,300 policies sold. We continue to grow as per our Annual Operating Plan.

Q. Please tell us how your company has dealt with the economic slowdown.

The global economic climate has had an impact on all financial services, including insurance. Since we launched only a year back, it didn’t impact us much. However, we have seen slower rates of growth in the industry as a whole and some companies have also de-grown. Consumers have become a little more aware about company parentage and brand value, charges and investment options. This is a good sign and will lead to a more aware consumer buying insurance for the right reasons (long-term savings and protection).

Q. And how has marketing been hit during this slowdown?

A situation as bad as this warrants a slightly different approach in my view, rather than simply going by the conventional wisdom that advertising during recessionary times will lead to future profits. Most advertising and marketing professionals would advise to toe the conventional line. But, I would recommend that every brand manager should re-evaluate his/her portfolio and be open to alter their path, if required. In other words, the key word is to ‘adapt’ rather than be too pessimistic or optimistic about the future.

Q. What are the challenges that the brand faces in this market?

The challenge for any new brand is to establish itself in a cluttered environment and amongst brands that are well entrenched in the consumer’s mind. While one can look at rationalising spends, one should not switch off the engine as it will become more difficult to revive it when the economy picks up. Also, a key point to note is that in the current scenario, a brand can demand a greater bang for its buck. A brand can get good deals from most media houses, which helps them reach the same audience, but at a lesser cost. It is akin to the great discount bazaar, and if you have the money, you can get a great deal.

Q. What were your revenues and profits for 2008? What are your targets for this year?

We have completed a year of operations and we did Rs 15 crore new business premium APE in March alone with under 2,000 agents. That means the productivity per agent has been high. For the year ended March 2009, our APE was Rs 46.3 crore, which was in line with our business plans. We have an aggressive target of Rs 240 crore APE with over 120,000 policies for the current financial year. We are quite bullish and have aggressive future plans.

Q. What are your future plans?

Our plans are to focus on distribution and build a strong sales force. The aggressive plans will be backed by a capital infusion of Rs 230 crore in the financial year 2009-10, of which Rs 95 crore has already been infused. We are looking at signing up more corporate agencies and brokers. We will focus on profitability and increasing the productivity of each of our 52 branches.

Q. Which is your next campaign? What are your advertising plans for 2009?

We are planning a campaign for our Child Plan. We will be releasing communication which will educate the consumer and add value to his life. Being a new entrant in the insurance industry, we will attempt at being visible in media throughout the year.

Q. How has your brand communication evolved?

We have just completed one year of operations. So, it would be a bit premature to talk about it. We will have to wait for another year to pass to draw any inference.

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