Swimming against the tide — with poise

For Jagannathan, 57, who stepped into the general insurance industry when he joined Hercules Insurance in 1969 and who went up the hierarchy on a fast lane, at times overtaking his seniors, the task ahead is quite herculean. Why?

Last year, the company's after-tax profit experienced a steep fall to Rs 8.15 crore from the Rs 121.59 crore registered during 1999-2000. Now, he has to see that the profit level goes up. In addition, he has to domain-B's currency converter - check it outfight with the new players who are playing it dirty at the market place. It is also a fact that the competition in this sector is attracting capable hands from United India. So Jagannathan has to pep up the morale of his team members from time to time.

The tall, bespectacled Jagannathan, a Tamil literature aficionado, is all set for the game with a baggage full of novel ideas. An excellent human resources manager a fact acknowledged even by some belligerent union officials, Jagannathan's first task, of course, is to boost the employee morale that has deteriorated after last year's worst underwriting experience.

In order to contain the future flow of talent towards private companies, Jagannathan has hit upon a unique idea, a company anthem to cultivate a sense of belonging to United India. He got the song penned by the well-known Tamil cinema lyrist Vairamuthu and the anthem cassette is played on every Monday and Friday morning. "We have translated the song into six languages," says United India general manager C H Sarabhayya.

Good move. But the immediate task for this post-graduate in economics is to contain United India's cost-ratio that has overstepped the statutory limit of 19.5 per cent of the net premium income by 2 per cent. There are two ways of reducing the cost-ratio from the current levels: One, by increasing the premium-base and two, by reducing the staff. In support of the latter, the representative body of four nationalised insurance companies, General Insurers (Public Sector) Association (Gipsa), has put out a proposal to reduce the manpower marketing as well as administrative in all its constituents.