A GOLD BRAND

Dubai 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mustafa Vazayil, Managing Director of Gargash, on increasing insurance penetration levels amongst Indian expatriates, catering to corporate clients, and competing against international companies.

Mustafa Vazayil
BIOGRAPHY
The founder and Managing Director of Gargash Insurance Services, the region’s largest professional insurance intermediary, Mustafa Vazayil has over 35 years exposure in management positions with leading multinational and national insurance companies. He is a fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute in London.

How did Gargash fare over the last year?

2016 and 2017 were great years for Gargash, particularly in relation to new business and client acquisitions. The market was also augmented as a result of the introduction of compulsory employee benefits medical insurance by the government. When we look at the underlying strength of our portfolio in 2016, it was robust. We are dynamic and base our growth on various scenarios, while preparing our general capabilities to respond to and be proactive to emerging situations.

How does Gargash cater to Indian expatriates?

The reason why the insurance penetration levels are lower for Asian expatriates compared to the other expatriate communities is that insurance awareness is low in developing countries such as India. However, there is growing awareness because of the mandatory health insurance and exposure to other risks, which results in new sectors of the population getting informed and involved with the insurance business. For many Indians in Dubai, this is the first time they realize the advantages of the broad offerings of insurance companies. The life and protection insurance segment so far has especially low penetration levels because of the alleged transient nature of the expatriate population. However, over half of the expatriates here have been in Dubai for over 10 years. Most prefer to buy into pension schemes or similar products from their home country. The social security element in India is also rudimentary, unlike in Europe, where the government provides state pensions and public healthcare. In our experience the Indian attitude is still traditional: their children will look after them in their old age. However, with the globally increasing cost of healthcare and rising life expectancy, there is increasing awareness of the need for medical insurance in the Indian community, as well as need for pensions and savings.

How do you reach out to the corporate community in Dubai?

Since we cater to every business sector from construction to healthcare, hospitality, trading, and manufacturing, it is clear that Gargash has to be able to adapt to the dynamics of the evolving economy in Dubai. Gargash's corporate business is increasing at a faster rate than our individual client base. Today, our corporate clients make up about 65% of our business. When we started, it was the other way around. Our exposure has increased significantly in recent years, giving us an edge in acquiring new corporate customers.

How is competition between international and local insurance intermediaries in the Dubai market is likely to develop?

There is always a place for both international and local competitors in a market like Dubai. The presence of international insurance intermediaries is required here because they handle global accounts and insurance programs. Companies like Gargash with our global networks are in a strong position to compete with them. In the end, the customer will decide who best caters to their needs on the basis of the quality of service we provide. We need to have the best expertise on the ground as a local company, while international players can fall back on their global expertise, though that comes with a delay factor. From the clients' perspective, our edge is our expertise, network, and service. We are present in Dubai with a large organization and a well-established brand. Gargash is the only broker in Dubai accredited by the Chartered Insurance Institute in London as Chartered Insurance Brokers. This means we have in place an entire raft of systems, along with international compliance standards and annual audits for the benefit of our clients. We have maintained these standards for the last 11 years. This is the gold brand we carry, and it makes a difference. Our bench strength of qualified people on the ground is much bigger than that of our international competitors. They have far greater resources globally, but on the ground, we are stronger.