My Tryst with Life Insurance Corporation of India

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INTRODUCTION

By no means is this to be taken as completely autobiographical; this is purely some random thoughts on my almost FORTY year TRYST with LIC!

It was as a final year student of Alagappa College, Karaikudi, Tamilnadu I took the recruitment test for Assistants in January 1961 in Madurai Division of the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Results came and I was supposed to be interviewed in September 1961 by then I graduated in Mathematics. It was my fortune or misfortune that I got a twenty one day appointment as an Economic Investigator in the Delhi Cloth and General Mills Company Limited. The job involved surveying the groundnut production in Tamilnadu; it was for 21 days and the remuneration was Rs750/- In our work, we were to be in Coimbatore on the day I was to be interviewed by LIC, Madurai. Since that particular day was an off-day, for the first time we decided to go to Ooty and enjoy. Had I known about the interview, as well I could have gone to Madurai instead of Ooty and attended the interview. God willed it otherwise. Since our tour program in those twenty one days was not definite, I could not convey anything to my parents. My father, who retired as a school Head master, on the day of interview, went to Madurai office and represented my position.

FAR AWAY LIC!

After a couple of days I was in Madurai, and my relatives told me all about my interview, my father’s visit to Madurai, meeting the LIC officials etc. I also went to Madurai Divisional Office and met the officials concerned and represented the matter. I was told that having come out successful in the Recruitment test, occupying one of the top ranks, I would have been straightaway selected had I attended the Interview. They were kind enough to tell me that they would provide yet another chance to attend the interview and I should not fail to attend.

With a fond hope of the call, I was waiting, waiting, waiting for almost a six month period and the call never came and subsequently on my pursuance I was told that those files were closed!?!?!?

TEACHING- THE NOBLESTOF THE CALLINGS!

Then I joined as an untrained Mathematics Assistant in Rajamadam Government Secondary School (where our former President of India HE Shri R. Venkataraman studied), near Athirampattinam in Tamilnadu.

I always as a student nursed a feeling that teaching is the noblest of the callings. Having lost LIC and having joined as a Mathematics Assistant in a Government school, in fact I wanted to pursue my Bachelor of Training-(present day B Ed.) after a year or two.

My father happened to meet his classmate- friend in one Shri Krishna Rao, the Correspondent of the century old Srinivasa Rao High School in the famous Thiruvaiyaru- Thiruvaiyaru of Thyagabrammam- Thiagaraja Swamigal fame- near Thanjavur where my parents shifted to, after my college education was over in 1961 at Karaikudi. While casually inquiring about our family, he offered to take me to his school as the school was originally founded by Shri Srinivasa Rao and my grandfather Shri N K Ramaswamy Iyer — High Court Vakil of fame who used to charge Rupees One thousand for an hour’s appearance hundred years ago- but argue free for noble causes- and a freedom fighter (naturally call of Ahamedabad Congrsss session was stronger and more important than his legal profession) of those great days. In the interest of my being nearer to my parents, I joined this famous centenary school. I was enjoying every bit of my work and so also my dear students who respected me a lot.

LIC GETTING NEARER!

It is said the employment seems to be the one that one gets is not by choice but chance. Otherwise how do I describe the announcement of LIC’s Thanjavur Division’s advertisement for recruitment of Assistants coming, me applying with confidence that I shall definitely get this time- based on the confidence that even as a student I could secure in this examination at Madurai a decently top slot, but now as a teacher handling English and Mathematics — the same subject and standard in the recruitment examination- , getting interview and final selection and beginning my TRYST WITH LIC!

It was indeed very peculiar in the LIC –to my knowledge never happened earlier or later- after the selection was over, three months training was over, as we were expecting the posting orders, we were shocked to learn that there was some problem with immediate posting and the Divisional Management was fiercely pursuing with the higher offices to absorb us. It was not to be; every day the selected candidates –I remember it was 27 in number- used to go to the office at 10.00 o’clock and wait till 5.00 o’clock in the evening for a week and nothing came out. Those who were in employment like me had already quit our earlier job and we were jobless at the moment. After a week , the Division in charge- a noble and good Manager- called us all and was speaking to us for 45 minutes and at last told that five of us will be taken immediately and the rest, no doubt will be absorbed in the course of two or three months! He also gave the logic of selecting the five immediately. He told that on the basis of the marks obtained in the Recruitment Test and Interview, training period, top FIVE will be offered Appointment Letter immediately and they can join at any time. To our great surprise the FIRST NAME called was N V SUBBARAMAN!!!!!

Well; that is how my TRYST WITH LIC started. To recollect those near four decades of LIC service, is full of pleasant and happy memories in million! Examinations, promotions, transfers, challenges, responsibilities of serving the Masters –our Policy holders- taking care of the marketing team to make them give their best to the Institution, my own constant efforts to give the best and get the best- came to a glorious end at the end of my sixty years of age- no- another 69 days beyond the date of retirement!!?!?!?

I somewhere wrote an article “LOWE” —- ‘LOST OPPORTUNITIES AND WASTED EFFORTS’! I don’t know whether my ‘dtp’ing this article’ will join the band of “WASTED EFFORTS”! Any how I have decided and it will go on and if any of the readers get anything worthwhile out of this I will be the happiest.

IN THANJAVUR LIC- STINT 1

Those were the days of examinations and automatic promotions up to some level. No doubt that they were very difficult and tough yet God has endowed the man with necessary will and wit. Federation of Insurance Institutes-FII- later rechristened as Insurance Institute of India. This educational body’s professional examinations at different levels- Licentiate, Associate-ship and Fellowship — were recognized by the LIC and the General Insurance Corporation of India, incentives by way of increments and promotions were available.

It was rare to complete them all in a couple of years or in three or four years. I could get the Associate-ship diploma in a couple of years and I got the first promotion- incidentally my batch was the last “Automatically Promoted Category”. It was in the year 1964!

I was trying to give my best whatever responsibilities were entrusted. I was also preparing for my next higher level viz Fellowship exams. I successfully became a “Fellow of the Insurance Institutes of India”. By then automatic promotion scheme was withdrawn and I was waiting for my chance to earn the promotion as “ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER” which I did get in the year 1969 and was posted to Coimbatore.

IN COIMBATORE-STINT 1

It was indeed quite challenging and I worked under stalwarts in the Industry always getting appreciation for my dedicated and effective work from all concerned.

One small event is still green in my memory. There was a letter to the Hindu on one day complaining about the poor service from LIC. I took up the matter with the HINDU, obtained the details of the writer, got in touch with him, noted the details of his problem, took up the matter with the LIC office concerned, solved his problem in a fortnight and that made the complainant state “if LIC has a few more officers like this, there will not be any complaints at all”. Yes that took place in 1971 and after 44 years it is still green in my memory.

The year that I started as an officer in the LIC was the Centenary of Life Insurance in India-1870–1970- and that gave an opportunity to celebrate in a grand manner. The Town Hall, Coimbatore was the venue. We had free medical checkup, cultural program, exhibition on the evolution of life insurance in India, talks etc. Widely publicized and vastly attended Centenary Celebrations were graced by many dignitaries like Dr. N Mahalingam, Mr. V R Neduncheziyan and others.

N V Subbaraman explaining the features of CENTENARY OF LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY in the COIMBATORE CELEBRATIONS to the Minster SHRI V R Neduncheziyan
K N Raghavan, Sr. DM with the industrialist Pollachi N Mahalimgam. N V Subbaraman looks on
The centenary of Indian Life Insurance celebrated in the year 1970 at Coimbatore. Dr N Mahalingam taking a free medical check up during the celebrations.
While in Coimbatore, I attended the induction program for Assistant Administrative Officers in the LIC Management Development Center in Bombay. I was adjudged as “the JACK OF ALL SPORTS” and a prize was awarded.

In the life of an officer in a Public Sector Organization transfer is not anything new. But then some are for good, some are otherwise, some are boon some others punishment-though on the face of it will not appear to be so!

I happened to be the Secretary of the Class one officers’ Association, Coimbatore Division and I had to take up a case of undue delay in a member’s promotion. He was discharging the functions of a higher level officer while serving at a lower level. Naturally it was not fair and just represented to the competent authority to help in getting promotion or at least let the officer know why promotion is delayed so that he can get an opportunity to improve.

Neither was done! But…………………..!?

IN OOTY LIC

On a fine morning, I was asked by the Senior Divisional Manager“do you have any anti-Ooty?” Yes; I was shrewd enough to understand that I am being transferred to Ooty though it will entail a lot of inconveniences in my domestic front. I simply said “Why should I have?” and in the next forty eight hours on a July third I joined Ooty Branch as ‘Assistant Branch Manager (Administration)’!!! The post was later re-designated as AAO (Adm.) I spent three years in Ooty and till that point of time no officer had spent three long years in that hill station! I was there with my seven month old boy and my wife.

During that period, there was only one Branch for the entire district of Nilgiris and the poor policyholders- tea estate workers- will be travelling miles and miles to raise a loan in their policy. They will come with the hope of returning to their villages with the loan amount, but policy may not admit the minimum loan and hence they had to get back home empty handed. Many, many occasions were there when I had given required amount to get bus ticket for their return journey and simple tiff-in!

In many cases difference in signature will be observed; it is of course it is easy to send the policyholder back to get his signature attested by a gazetted officer etc. but it may not be fair. I had my own method of verifying the veracity of the party. Keeping the proposal of the party in hand I will put misleading questions to the party on his address, parents name, age etc. and one can easily find out the genuineness or other of the party and I will attest the signature and needful will be done. Of course some used to caution me of this method; doesn’t matter; when something is done with a pure heart, it cannot go wrong. Never had I had any problem in my career because of such approaches.

Office employee in the loan section, at his own expense, used to keep a number of Revenue Stamps to help the policyholders coming without stamps to avail the loan. Many might not have brought the coins required to purchase the stamp; it mattered not to that staff member!

One episode that remains ever green in my memory of Ooty tenure is the Convention of Coimbatore Divisional  Agents held in Ooty on 2nd October 1974. Divisional Management gave us the opportunity to host and all the participants unanimously felt that they had never attended a Meet of that type and felt they may not in the future either. Besides speeches, special highlight of the Meet was an evening entertainment programme organized in a beautifully decorated stage on the mosaic floor of a big hall in the Ooty “Hotel Tamilnadu”. That very team, who used to give performance in the Republic Day parades in New Delhi- the Kotas and Thodas  gave dance performance, besides a Bharatha natyam was the highlight of the Convention which the Divisional office never thought of, planned or arranged. It was purely at the branch initiative! Similarly a souvenir that was brought out on the occasion by the Branch was described as one of the best in the Corporation. It was unfortunate that the Branch Manager fell ill during that period and entire Branch stood up as a team and made a history!.

Welcoming the delegates to the Convention
Souvenir being released by the Chief Guest
Entertaining troupe of TODAS of Nilgiris

Entertainment troupe of KOTAS of Nilgiris.

The team of Ooty Branch with the Divisional Management who made the Convention a grand success.

The then Senior Divisional Manager was a voracious reader and nice writer. Some of the writings were of humorous nature. In one of the issues of YOGAKSHEMA-the house magazine of LIC which won the best house magazine awards among the Corporate, he wrote an article titled “What the stars foretell for you!” He made a jocular introduction that these forecasts are applicable as per the official dates of birth of the individuals and not the real ones! I was actually born on 31st July 1941 though my official date of birth was 17th February 1941. According to that article “I was to get my transfer to the place of my choice”! In fact after a couple of year’s service in that hill station, I needed a transfer to the plains very badly. Utilizing the article, I made out a letter to him that “according to his own predictions I must get the transfer, lest his predictions will prove wrong!”

I conveyed my strong request and it had its effect. It would appear that he referred to this in a DMC meeting that how nicely I have made out my point to him!

LIC THANJAVUR -II STINT

Then after three years, I had a transfer to Thanjavur; I was to liaise with various Institutions having “Salary Savings Scheme” and I could do quite a lot of good things to the Institutions, their employees and the LIC.

Insurance Week celebrations were conducted in Ramanathan Chettiyar Hall, with talks, cultural programmes etc. well organized, attended by the public and improved LIC’s public image to a great extent.

In the normal course, I was to have got my promotion to the next cadre viz Administrative Officer. It was not to be; and I lost a year much to the annoyance of the then Division — in — Charge; but he could not help. But God has His own ways. It was during that year that I could take up the renovation of my ancestral house in Thanjavur and successfully accomplished!

LANDING IN MADRAS LIC- I STINT- AUDIT AND INSPECTION

Next year I got my promotion with a sting- I was posted to Indore which due to my family circumstances, I could not take up; but the LIC was kind enough to cancel and put me in our Audit and Inspection wing of Chennai. It was also a little inconvenient in the light of my aged parents and young children — and 20 day touring every month! But then I could successfully serve the Department to my satisfaction. If only I have been blessed with a good language and vocabulary, I can write volumes and volumes of my experiences in the Department; since I don’t, I shall briefly touch upon a few interesting episodes.

The work indeed is very interesting, going from place to place in the entire South –Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and UT of Pondichery, meeting different people, seeing different cultures, hearing different languages, visiting the great South Indian temples etc. — a great exposure indeed to any one in life! Though tough and difficult tour was there running to 20 to 25 days in a month, I did enjoy the tenure for about three and a half years.

I had a good friend –it so happened that we two were in quite a large number of tours and he will be very particular about his timely namaz and mosque and I will be on the lookout for a nearby temple. He will find the temple for me and I will find the mosque for him!!!

We had a great colleague officer a diabetic patient who was not allowed to take any sweet at home. Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh is famous for Halva made of sugar candy. Our friend will go to every shop each day and introduce that “we come from Madras and would like to take halva as we return to headquarters” and he will have a sample of 25 to 50 grams of that sweet each time each shop!!!!

Moment he steps into the office, he will announce in his loud voice that the inspection team has come from Madras. As he enters the cabin of the Officer-in-charge of the Branch, he will ask him to call the individual Head of the section and he will appreciate the individual to the hilt in their presence and after he leaves, our colleague will be cautioning the Manager to be careful about that individual and he will repeat this with every other head of every Section!!!!!??

This officer while returning to Madras by train, when the destination is about 20 kms away, he will take his boxes and baggage and carry it with great difficulty in the running train and stand near the doors so as to get out of the train the moment the train comes to a halt in Madras!!!!

Yet another episode while on a tour to Kottayam, Kerala. In an intervening holiday, we used to be taken to nearby places of historical, religious or tourist spots. There is a place called Kumarokam , a small island in the Arabian sea. It was decided to spend the day in the boat. A simpleton I was, I related the name Kumaragam to Lord Karthikeya and I thought it will be a good idea to have darshan of Lord Karthikeya on an auspicious day. We five and the local officials four left in the early morning after breakfast and the boat trip started. As we proceeded, alcoholic drinks were freely taken; and wherever coconut groves were found, the boat will be taken there and it was said when wine is taken mixed with tender coconut water, one gets a greater kick! As the day end drew nearer, one of the members was so intoxicated that he fell simply flat and we had to carry him to the room as if a patient is taken in a stretcher!

While we were in the sea, unable to see the drinking spree, I came out and stood enjoying the sea; this great friend in his inebriated state, began to call me by my name and advised me to stand carefully lest I will fall into the sea, die and my family will be left in lurch and he being a senior employee of the department will be held responsible for my death!!!

That was the Maha Shivarathri Day and the moment we got back to the Kottayam Municipal Rest House, I left after bath to the famous Shiva temple. Nearby was a “samooha madam” where Shivarathri was observed with bags and bags of “Bilva” leaves offered to Shiva in a “laksharcahana”. It is believed that offering even one ‘bilva leaf’ makes us pure and gets His blessings. But here bags and bags were available and we were hardly twenty, twenty five devotees.

Next is more interesting end of the night; night was almost over and it was dawn; my good friend without much of hang over, came to my room asked for ‘vibhoothi’ –sacred ash, applied to his forehead and told he is going to the temple to participate in the last session of the ‘Shivarathri’ pooja!!!!

One of my distant relatives was employed there in Kottayam at that time and I visited him in his house next day. I explained my painful experience on the Shivarathri day in our boat trip to Kumarakam. To my shock he told me that, he knows this well and thought I am also interested in drinking! He said normally people go there to enjoy alcoholic drinks! I had to explain to him that I am a real tea to-taller since 1961 Pongal-Sankaranthi day- at the instance of Kanchi Paramacharya. As a student of final year B Sc, I gave up tea, coffee etc on 14th January 1961!

THEN IN LIC MADURAI

After a stint of three and a half years with rich experiences, I got a transfer to Madurai Divisional Office with one of the key departments to be taken care of. A couple of years were spent. A new atmosphere, new set of colleagues and friends, new schools for my boys etc.! Fifth transfer in those 19 years!

Below are some of the photos of Madurai Division activities.

With a grand old Agent at Madurai -Sri Adhimulam Pillai
With the members of the OFFICIAL LANGUAGE ACT IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE members during their visit to Madurai

 With the members of the OLI Committee.
N V Subbaraman felicitating the Crorepathi Dev. Officers of Madurai Division.

In a convention at Kodaikanal

IN ERODE LIC-IN A NEW ROLE.

And then came the sixth transfer as Branch Manager- supposed to be a great gift to good workers- to Erode Branch under Coimbatore Division, in which Division  I had already served for five years in Coimbatore and Ooty. The new assignment had its own challenges-first time in the Marketing side. It involved careful planning, meticulous implementation with suitable strategies and taking care of both the eyes of the Institution viz Administration and Marketing in the basic unit of the Corporation-profit and growth center called Branch Office. Four years were spent creating new records and relationships- with the public, administrative staff and the marketing team.

CLAIM CHEQUE WITHIN TWENTY FOUR HOURS OF DEATH!

One important event which I used to quote, wherever the opportunity arose in the Conferences at various levels, the meetings etc. goes like this. That always stands fresh in memory. One morning I was late in getting up as I felt a little tired; I could get up only at 5.00 AM. To some extent I thought of taking a day off. There was one Tamil news paper of high standard which normally carries a good number of obituary references. One important person of the town-wife of a well known industrialist- chartered President of Rotary Club- passed away on the previous day. As a person known well, not withstanding my tiresomeness, I decided to go to their house, not very far away from mine, to condole the death. Funeral was planned for 3.00 pm in the day. Having seen the dead body, as is the custom I had my bath and having started the day, I thought of attending the office without any field visits. On the way to the office, it struck me that the deceased lady had a few life insurance policies with our Branch on which loan was availed not far back. I phoned up to a marketing official to trace the numbers. It was strongly working in my mind as to how the death claim can be settled on their return from the cremation ground. The numbers were traced, with the cooperation of the department concerned, necessary Intimation letter was prepared, Claim forms were prepared, and Discharge form was prepared including the cheque in favor of the nominee- the husband of the deceased!. After ascertaining the return of the family members after the rituals, I went along with the representatives of the Claims department, officers and the marketing wing to the policy holder’s house got the required forms filled up and letters signed and handed over the cheque- all within TWENTY FOUR HOURS from the time of death- an action that never was done in the corporation — I don’t think ever after that, a death claim was settled within 24 hours of death. That bigwig gentleman talked about the LIC’s settlement of the death claim so expeditiously to all those big people of Erode including the District Collector who came to condole the death! At the end of the day all the requirements for settlement of the claim were in the file except the Death Certificate from the competent authority which was also subsequently submitted within a week. People inimical to such activities in a derisive tone asked me whether I will settle all death claims so expeditiously; I told them “yes- sure” if it is exactly like the one that we had settled! But I did not come across any such case till my Branch experience came to an end!

In that very year there was another sensational tragic death of a local Doctor and the claim was settled in record time and both these two death claim settlements fetched an additional TWO CRORES of New business that year taking the Branch to the top in the Division!

Yet another Death claim related experience! At the instance of the Divisional office, I wanted to get the requirements for settlement of a death claim in respect of an Erode resident on behalf of another Branch. After having helped in complying with all the requirements and receiving the same, when I was about to leave the house, the claimant came behind me as if to see me off and in a hushed voice he asked me how much he has to pay me for the extra services rendered! I was indeed angry at his request; but posed as if I was so furious that I threw all the papers in his face, asked him to take care of the case himself and shouted at him that LIC is not such an organization and its officers will never succumb to such demeaning offers. Shocked client apologized profusely and I took all the papers from him and left!

I used to go on tour for about a week in a month to the rural parts of the Branch area. Normally I will leave around 6 in the morning and return very late –at times as late as midnight! At this point of time I gratefully recall the cooperation rendered by my wife on those tour days; by 6.00 am my breakfast will be over and she will keep the lunch in THREE Tiffin carriers — one small and two a little bigger- the small one for me and the bigger ones for my development officer and one agent — who normally accompany; around 1.00 or 1.30 afternoon, just I will stop the car under a greenwood tree and finish our lunch and proceed with the day’s tour!

The first MDRT member was contributed by this Branch for the Division. He has earned this distinction for 30th time this year — only Agent in the entire Corporation to have this distinction!

In one of the Insurance Week Celebrations, a BUS SHELTER was presented to the public with the donations from the administrative and marketing teams of the Branch. A news paper Supplement hailing the Branch by the Agents was brought out in connection with Insurance Week of one year — till then never heard of these two in any Branch history in the Corporation! .

While in Erode, adventure into Group Insurance Schemes offered to socially underprivileged classes is something that will stand ever green in my mind. Yes; first such scheme was offered to a group of ‘gypsies’ called NARIKURAVAS! It was a term insurance scheme for two thousand rupees and that was the first time in the entire Corporation a scheme was finalized for GYPSIES- a nomadic tribe eking their living by selling beads and needles. The news was carried in all the English and Tamil newspapers and the scheme was informed to the M Ps  in the Parliament! Simultaneously, I organized the sanction of a loan of Rs 1000 to each of the group members through a nationalized bank. One can not so easily believe that the Gypsies went on camp to Coimbatore to market their products during the 108 ELEPHANTS PUJA that lasted for a week in Perur temple, as they were winding up, one of the members was run over by a lorry and died on the spot. Next day all the gypsies of that group came to my office and in their own language explained what happened and requested the insurance amount may be arranged duly DEDUCTING the outstanding due to the BANK!!! It was done accordingly in a few days.

Similar schemes were given for the first time in the Corporation – remember it was in 1985- to a group of COOKS, BARBERS and WASHER MEN in Erode! .

All these were during the years 1983–1987. I always had an appetite for new exposures and I have been for quite a few years expressing in the “P form” for an assignment in P and GS or Training. To my surprise, I was transferred as Senior Branch Manager, Avinashi Road Branch, Coimbatore. Subsequently it was informed by the Head of the Division, that as he thought — it was with an intention to come to the Divisional head quarters that I opted for Pension and Group Schemes or Training and they have obliged me by a posting in Coimbatore!!!!

Erode Branch photos:

In the Rotary Club of Erode during the Insurance Week Celebrations
Facilitation to P Ganesan
Felicitation to Crorepathi Agent P Ganesan

LIC COIMBATORE –II STINT

It was my seventh transfer and second time posting to Coimbatore, of course in a different capacity. There were five Branches in all in Coimbatore city. The Branch to which I was posted was called Coimbatore Branch I. It helped me in a way to motivate my marketing team for better performance. I could coin a slogan for the year: “கோவை முதற் கிளை, கோட்டத்தின் முதற் கிளை” In English it was “Coimbatore Branch 1-Division’s Branch 1”. It did pay and the Branch in that year was number one in the Division, overtaking my earlier Branch Erode!

In the conference of the Heads of the Branches, Division –in –Charge asked me thus: “How is it Subbaraman! That your estimation of new business for every month proves almost to be actual probably with a minor variation of 5% this way or that way, while the estimation of others’ vary very much, most of the times actual much less than the estimation?” I had to tell my method of estimation thus: “Always I do this probably on a daily basis during my early morning walk -4.00 am to 5.00 am when the mind is absolutely fresh and clear; it is based on the daily inputs that I get from my development officers and Direct Agents with whom me and my other officers on the marketing side, had a very pleasant relationship and rapport with the entire marketing team, control and monitoring. The result is we know at the end of almost each day, how much flow will be there next day. That precisely helped us to estimate for the month almost accurately”.

We also had the practice of keeping constant touch with the agency force- around 1000 active agents- by visiting them every month by one of the marketing team of officers-either by me or one of the ABMs(D)- in their homes/offices/ our office.”

Here in Coimbatore also a socially oriented Group Term Insurance Scheme was finalized for the priests-ARCHAKAS- of the famous PERUR temple near Coimbatore.

I pleasantly recollect the way in which the Branch Claims team was working. We had a fine Administrative Officer in charge of the Policy Holders’ Servicing department who took special interest in settlement of Claims. He is the one who literally had in his finger tips the outstanding claims to follow up constantly. He had a great support from another staff member who used to have a copy of the outstanding claims in his pocket, as he leaves the office in the evenings and as he comes to the office in the mornings. He will call on the claimants in their residences on his way to and from the office and collect the requirements to settle the claims on time. He will be changing the routes every day to suit the meetings! He will describe in detail his experiences of the previous day visits- good, excellent, bad and indifferent!

Of course some of my experiences were negative too; but that is inevitable in a vast organization like LIC.

I completed my eight year tenure in the marketing side in 1991 gathering rich experience on the way. Normally at the end of 8 year period- what is called — Job rotation period- the individual is taken back to Administrative side. It happened at that year that my promotion was also due. As usual, I requested for a Training assignment.

Felicitation function to the top Development Officer of the Branch-R Gopal

A few months earlier an interesting discussion took place with an Executive Director who visited Coimbatore. It so happened, I don’t know the reason-may I am an inaccessible BM for that matter- very rarely I used to be assigned the work of receiving / giving farewell to the visiting dignitaries from higher offices. But that particular occasion, I was assigned the work of taking the dignitary to PERUR temple near Coimbatore. Visiting official told that I am maintaining my eight year old car very well though it has run nearly two lakh kms. I just made an observation “ after all it is ஒண்ணே ஒண்ணு கண்ணே கண்ணு “ ( only one , an apple of my eyes!). As needed an elaboration, I told him that job rotation period is coming to a close and normally (in those days) job rotation period is not extended in the case of promotee officers from the ranks and hence I have to be content and maintain my car well. Then he told there is no such policy and probably promotees would have crossed some age criterion and hence they don’t. My reply was till then none of the promotee officers had extended job rotation. With that the discussion ended.

But to my great surprise and sorrow I got my promotion as Marketing Manager- then why sorrow? Posting was to a place 3200 kms away- Bikaner in Rajasthan at the age of 51+! While some of the promotees from places like Jaipur or Jodhpur within Rajasthan to Bikaner rejected their promotion, I decided to join my new posting at a huge domestic inconvenience and thus came to an end my second stint in Coimbatore. My family was left in Coimbatore itself to enable my boys to pursue their studies undisturbed for the year.

Later I was told by one of my senior colleagues that “the discussion I had with that nice Executive Director at Porur had its own impact on the job rotation policy and I had felt it!”

STINT IN RAJASTHAN-BIKANER!

C to B! From Coimbatore enjoying a salubrious climate to the mid Tar desert Bikaner! I knew Hindi only to the extent of asking “aap kaise ho?”! The Division was to be started. There were only three in the office when I reported for duty. Division- in- charge, me and an Administrative Officer! Temporarily we appointed a sub staff. The Division was formed taking a few Branches from the Jaipur Division and some from Jodhpur Division. The Division was built up brick by brick. In a couple of months, a new building was fixed; all departments started functioning with a small band of dedicated workers.

JEEVAN JYOTHI YATHRA

Never in the history of the Corporation till then was a publicity campaign organized; when I suggested a novel program with the caption “JEEVAN JOTHI YATHRA” to cover 42 centers in the Division- where we had  Headquarters of our 42 Development Officers over a period of 21 days in the Divisional Management Committee Meeting, it was received with skepticism. But as I was a little persistent, we called the representatives of all the classes of employees and some leading agents, the idea was well received very enthusiastically and in the course of a fortnight decisions were taken, planning was done, all infrastructure were devised for the success of the yathra. Issue of the ‘on the spot policy’ and ‘claim cheque presentation’ in each of the centers was a part of the yathra program.

Though immediate procuration of new business was not the objective, the Division could get more than a crore of new business during the yathra. Talk of the Divisional area was LIC’s innovative Publicity programme! It provoked the society to the extent of two of the news papers writing editorials- one criticizing the LIC and the other greatly appreciating the novel campaign!

After this successful yathra programme, the neighboring Division of the LIC organized “JANA SAMPARK ABHIGYAN”!

In one of the conferences of Northern Zone Marketing Managers, the then RM Marketing made a remark that” I can easily assess our Bikaner MM as one of the best” and spontaneously ZM endorsed.

On the domestic front, I decided to shift my family to Bikaner; fixed a Chartered Accountant for my first son’s CA apprenticeship, B Com admission for my second son was made and high school admission for my third son was made in the Bikaner Boys’ High School. A house was fixed on lease paying advance. Tickets were booked for my family members to join me.

The Division was celebrating Ambedkar Jayanthi in the local Town Hall and a couple of employees came running to say”MM sahib ka transfer aage”. Yes; I was transferred to Thanjavur Division as Marketing Manager- third stint for me in Thanjavur- certainly not to my wish and desire. House advance paid was got back, school/college admissions and railway tickets were cancelled! God’s ways are inscrutable! My happy and very successful tenure in Bikaner was abruptly cut short and I faced my ninth transfer!

III STINT IN THANJAVUR

For reasons not to be discussed, I stop with saying just I spent the next couple of years in Thanjavur.

Whether it is a Branch Office or Divisional office where I served, I made it point to celebrate the INSURANCE WEEK elaborately and effectively. My INSURANCE WEEK will have EIGHT DAYS! Yes; eighth September is observed as INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY and that also will be a part of our Celebrations.

Inauguration of the Week with Service Counters, Students day, Women’s Day, Workers Day, Teachers Day, LIC Employees Day, Valedictory function, and on 8th September visiting the school for elders and present them books and reading materials etc.

In Thanjavur we had an efficient team for performing VILLUP PATTU- a folk art carrying the message of life insurance to the villages. The team was organized, trained and the team gave several performances in several rural parts of Thanjavur Division.

485 PLUS OR MINUS FIVE!

As a BM and in higher levels, I used to have my own method of estimating the new business for the month/year and in my experience there was never wide variation in the estimated and actual figures. I have already dealt with this aspect earlier. Here again one more episode. I had two year tenure in Thanjavur as Marketing Manager. In one of the years there was periodical enquiries from the higher office as to the business expected for the year. This is normally done everywhere in the Corporation. My estimation was 485 plus or minus five crore of New Business. I was constantly working out based on various inputs I got from the branches and the field force and there was no need for me to revise it till the March end.

Others felt it would be nothing less than 520 crore. When finally the books were closed it was 487 crore!

It so happened that I lost my promotion that year. It mattered little to me! It is an irony that then RM (Marketing), Northern Zone who paid open encomium in a Conference of MMs was the Executive Director (Personnel) at the Central Office and the then Zonal Manager Northern Zone who endorsed, was a Managing Director! Not only that, I was transferred to Salem as Marketing Manager for the fourth year!

With this transfer, the number of my transfers touched the double digit figure-yes it was the TENTH!

ONE YEAR STINT IN SALEM

My third boy was to be admitted in the 10th standard of his Matriculation studies. A new school, a new place, new set of friends, new atmosphere! Equally to me; a new residence, new place, new set of administrative and marketing team to work with! Just a year it was. In December I made a request to the Division- in charge. As I went to him to say “a request sir” he said “is it regarding your promotion this year?” My response: “Not at all sir. Promotion is the prerogative of the Management- to give or not to give. In case I am to continue in DM’s cadre in the coming year also, kindly take me out of my portfolio of marketing. If I were to continue as MM for the fifth year it will be a sad reflection on the Corporation.”

Yes; It was so in those years that when an MM is found to be really great, he was posted in charge of a Division in the third year and made Sr. Divisional Manager on completion of three years. If the MM is to be found otherwise, after two years, he will be posted to some other Department as in charge- not kept in the Marketing  side.

He made no comment and nothing else can be expected. March came, books were closed; the promotion list came and I was promoted to the cadre of Sr. Divisional Manager and posted as in charge of Kadapa Division in South Central Zone.

My eleventh transfer in 34 years.

Some memories of Salem Division:

Welcome with rangoli of flowers.
Inaugurating the cash Counter at Dharamapuri Branch
At the drawing competition for students in connection with the Insurance Week Celebrations

STINT IN KADAPA- A GOLDEN PERIOD

I took charge and made certain changes in some of the then existing practices which was endearing to all.

I started well and the year 1995–96 saw the KADAPA Division occupying NUMBER I position at the all India level in one count, NUMBER III in another count and NUMBER VII in a third count! In the first BMs’ conference of the year, the reasons for the success were analyzed and some ran thus: (1) I never asked the BMs for New Business! (2) Full freedom was given to the HOBs to move about and take care of marketing activities without prejudice to the administrative responsibilities. (3) For the first time Division in its history had a TELUGU speaking Senior Divisional Manager!!!!!!!! (4) All out support was flowing from the Divisional office to the Branches. (5) Cooperation and support from all sections of the employees.

One important episode remains green. In the Induction Programme for Sr. Divisional Managers at Management Development Center, Mumbai one of the visiting Faculty members made a complaint about the servicing in the LIC- normally it is done probably to provoke the participants! Immediately after the Session is over the Faculty will spend some time with the Principal in his cabin. I followed them and requested the honorable visiting Faculty his grievance, telling him all out efforts will be made to redress the same. He told that he is not having the details readily and it pertained to the non receipt of the policy document from Calcutta. He promised to give the details once he gets back to his office. Accordingly in an hour’s time the details were passed on to me. I took up the matter with my counterpart in Kolkatta and could get the problem solved in a fortnight! Mistake was partly on the policy holder- not keeping the office his change of address and partly with the LIC.

Normally after every training Session/workshop I attended, I used to give a feed back to the concerned under copy to my higher offices and the then RM (P&IR), Hyderabad acknowledged and appreciated the service rendered.

A few things remain green in mind after seventeen years of my leaving the Division- in 1998.

One was the honor that I got at the hands of the Zone- in- charge as the “EMPLOYEES’ SENIOR DIVISIONAL MANAGER” in a Conference of SDMs. Yes; this was my response: “If the ZM chose to honor me like this on the basis of the fact, that I diverted the budget that was allotted for Painting the DO premises, to painting the Staff Quarters in Kadapa, I will gladly accept the honor! Painting is done not for the sake of employees; but to strengthen the buildings that remained unpainted for quite a few years whereas the DO building had it recently and kept in a good state of repairs and look”.

Another episode that stands green in my mind is this: One of our Branch Managers attended a session in the National Insurance Academy, Pune. One of the important sessions was on “ROLE MODEL”. When the participants were asked to give a note on the Role Model according to the individual and whether he/she has come across one and if so the details. It would appear that he expressed that his Senior Divisional Manager was his role model and justified in the discussions his statement. Don’t be shocked; I was that SDM!?!?!? I know for sure that I can’t be, yet………………………..! This I came to know when I went to NIA for some Session and the Director told me and other participants about this and asked me the secret of my success. I simply told that the Manager had so much of love and affection, respect and regard which I may not deserve. What else it is?

As usual, Insurance Week –week of EIGHT days was celebrated all the three years when I was there with the cooperation of all sections. “RUN FOR LIFE INSURANCE” was a special feature with the volunteers donning special Tshirt, procured from Tiruppur, Tamilnadu for the occasion.

Campus- a big campus with DO building, Staff quarters, Community Hall, Guest House and SDM’s quarters with a well found Residents’ Association having a lot of activities-observing Ugadhi, Vinayaka Chathurthi, Christmas, New Year Day and so on with all sincerity and solemnity.

All LIC sports activities were carried out with genuine concern and interest.

I vividly have in mind the case of the termination order issued for a sub-staff member in one of the Branches. Convinced that it was too severe a punishment for the offence committed, the matter was taken up with higher authorities and the order was rescinded. Probably this was also a cause for my honor of being called ‘Employees’ SDM’!!!

‘Kavi sammelan’ organized was well received as an incentive to the high producers among the marketing team.

Perfect liaison and rapport with the public, with district administration, other organizations all added to the glory and popularity of LIC and those connected with the great Institution.

Three year stint was drawing nearer and I was to retire in 2009 February as per the retirement age 58. Unusually, for the first time in my career, I was asked to choose Hyderabad or Chennai for my final transfer. For obvious reasons, I chose Chennai and joined the Southern Zonal Office, Chennai.

RUN FOR LIFE INSURANCE-INSURANCE WEEK CELEBRATIONS IN KADAPA
IN ADONI BRANCH WATER SUPPLY DURING THE INSURANCE WEEK CELEBRATIONS
KEEP THE CAMPUS CLEAN CAMPAIGN IN KADAPA
Removing the bushes-as apart of the Campaign- Sr.DM in action

II STINT IN CHENNAI-FINAL PHASE OF MY CAREER

Yes, with heavy heart I left Kadapa for Chennai- my last transfer TWELFTH in near four decades of service! I had just 10 months to retire.

I was posted as Secretary (Marketing). As luck or ill-luck would have it, retirement age was raised to 60 and I had two years and ten months more to serve! The then Zonal Manager was kind enough to tell me that I should have been posted in charge of a Department but then for some reasons he wanted me to help him in the capacity of Marketing Secretary. At that point of age and stage, it makes little difference and I was happily and sincerely discharging my duties. Knowing that I will be retiring on 28th February 2001- a couple of months ahead of the books closing- he was telling me that though I will officially retire on 28th February 2001, I will continue to help him till the year end work is over!!!! He was repeating this request several times during my tenure there.

Normally, I used to reach my office in Mount Road from Jeevan Bhima Nagar, Chennai by 9.00 in the morning and leave office by 6.00pm. Two year- ends passed off with all its challenges and opportunities keeping a perfect rapport and great relationship with all the Divisions in the Zone, successfully organizing Meets, Conferences, Club Members’ Conventions, and Insurance Week Celebrations etc. etc. And then came the financial year 2000–2001- the last year of my service in this great and noble organization. Normally any employee will be availing the so called LPR-Leave Preparatory to Retirement- SIX months Sick Leave usually. I always used to feel that this leave is not to be availed as a matter of routine unless one is really sick and needs it. So I went on with my routine till 28th February.

Came 28th February last working day to be in my career- yes it was only officially! In the farewell party, ZM told “Though Mr. Subbaraman is officially retiring today, I have made a request and he has also accepted that he will help me till the books are closed for the year. I expect all your continued cooperation to Mr. Subbaraman.”

After the party, an interesting dialogue with my ZM. Me: “Sir, you know well that I will be in the office at 9.00 am sharp every day and leave by 6.00pm. Now that no car allowances, no running expenses to be met by LIC, poor retired employee, I cannot afford to come by my car. At that part of the day buses will be heavily crowded and hence I will leave my home after 9.30 in the morning and come to the office by 11.00 am and similarly leave the office by 4.00pm and reach home by the time the buses get crowded.”

ZM: “Subbaraman! Do you think that I am that heartless? I will send the office car to pick you up and drop daily.”

My response (with a loud laughter): Sir, Subbaraman can afford to come in his own car for any number of days at his own expense. Don’t worry; I will be in the office as usual”.

Yes; I did like that all through the next 69 days; no salary, no allowances, no leave, no right or authority to pass a voucher for 10 paise, no right to initial a paper, no signature in any letter or note! Divisions were reporting to me as in the past 2 years and 10 months while in service. 31st March 2001 came. Cash- closing on 4th April, NB closing on 14th April, Claims closing and Accounts closing by the month end. Year was over and on 8th May the ZM called for a conference of Sr. /DMs in the Zonal Office Conference Hall, the then Chairman was also invited and that was the real last working Day for me and I was given a touching FAREWELL!

Sometime in the middle of April, I sought permission for a couple of days to attend the Sr. DM’s daughter’s marriage in Coimbatore. The permission was GRANTED with a request that I may hand over some papers of great importance to the Divisions- in — Charge of Coimbatore and Thanjavur which I did meticulously!!!!!

And thus my TRYST WITH LIC came to a glorious END on May eighth 2001!

Post retirement an episode that lives green in my mind. Penchant for service knows no age, no retirement etc. I was talking to a friend when another LIC officer of my rank also recently retired came there. Having known that two persons connected with the LIC were there, an unknown person came to us and began to express his woes in not getting a particular service from the LIC. The moment my friend heard this, he got up so hastily from his chair and began to say” sorry, sorry. I don’t know anything and I am retired from LIC”. Poor man he was so annoyed and I made him sit calm and cool. I collected the details from the policyholder, took up the matter with the Office concerned and solved his problem in a week’s time.

Another person of course not very closely known approached me for getting his documents from the LICHFL Chennai, repaying the loan. As he had to leave for US in the next couple of days, he wanted the document immediately. I advised the policyholder to take a letter from the Bank to the effect that the cheque issued in repayment has been collected and the amount credited to the LIC account. LIC  HFL was so kind to release the documents in the next day. The policyholder was immensely happy.

I am only very happy that even after my retirement in 2001, still I enjoy some respect and regard from my friends in LIC and am able to help those who come to me!

After retirement I spent some time as Regional Trainer in the Allianz Bajaj Life Insurance Company Limited Chennai, as a Faculty member in the Schoolnet, as a Director in an HR Organization giving training to the aspiring persons to be a part of any BPO and then as the Managing Director of a small company counseling students for higher education in US and Canada.

At my 70th year, I gave up all gainful employment and now devote my time in literary pursuits. Till now, I have to my credit 32 books written and 19 published. Out of the 32 only one pertains to life insurance subject- a translated book from English (SEVEN STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESSFUL SELLING) to Tamil (விற்பனைக் கலையின் ஏழு நுணுக்கங்கள்) well received by the marketing force of life insurance companies.

To the extent possible, I have truthfully recorded my experiences without any exaggeration or epitomizing. What purpose this write up will serve is a big question mark. Yet I write something to derive a peace of mind when I am in great grief at the loss of my wife who gave me unlimited love and affection and a great source of strength and support in my thick and thin — officially and domestically for more than four decades.

I know everyone who happens to read this note may be having much greater experiences, far better achievements and more pleasant language and scholarly expressions. Yet I have made my own story with my limited power of expression and vocabulary.

Thanks for your patient reading.

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11 thoughts on “My Tryst with Life Insurance Corporation of India

    1. Quite interesting presentation of an involved career spanning a period of nearly four decades. I remember the association I was privileged to have with you in Thanjavur D.O. during late. 1960s. When. We were together. In P.h.s. and you used to give the highest number of revival quotations and acted as a role model for others to follow. I cherish the association We had on subsequent occasions when you were heading Bikaneer and subsequently c uddapah. divisions of L.I.C. And even after your retirement When. You Visited. Hyderabad. As a. Trainer. Of. Bajaj alliance. Best. Wishes for a. Long, healthy future.
      V.Krishnan.

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      1. Yes; I vividly remember your leadership that shaped us. Thanks for your kind feed back. Shri VK and Shri SVR are always in my thoughts

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    2. Thank you Esakkirajan. Quite green in my memory. Nice help you extended then was a source of strength to me. Thanks again

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  1. Dear Sir, it was nice reading your autobiography relating to your experiences in LIC. I too had the good fortune of working with you (not under you…!! while you were MM at Salem and I was Sr.BM at Salem North) I was also receiving your copies of “Young Poet” and used to enjoy going thru’ the poems. I remember one of your advises that you gave me when I told you that I was transferred to Delhi in 2001, you told me… keep your head cool and your feet warm.
    Sir, I wish you all happiness, joy, good health and prosperity in your life….
    V. Balagopal

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