Vishakha RM: A Visionary Who’s Set to Make Life Insurance a Sustainable Reality in India

Vishakha RM | IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Limited

At the heart of every company, every work culture, and every success, is the guidance of a great leader. The lustre that comes with a CEO’s role is also contingent on the leadership skills of the individual. They are the ones that call all the important shots – like the strategic roadmap, alignment of the organization, leading the top team, working with the board, being the face of the company for external stakeholders, and managing one’s own time and energy! All these responsibilities highlight grit, determination, passion and above all the drive for excellence.

Talking about these qualities, a model example of CEO excellence is Vishakha RM, MD & CEO of IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Limited (IndiaFirst Life). She mentions that in her career spanning over three decades, life insurance has always been her calling. Her passion to democratize life insurance to reach every strata of the society fuels her achievements and has now earned her a place in our list of “The 50 Fastest Growing CEOs of the Year 2021”

Vishakha RM has helmed IndiaFirst Life as its MD & CEO since March 2015 and can be credited with the sustained success of the company’s growth. Her prudent leadership has earned her numerous milestones and won her several awards and recognition throughout her career.

“Insurance for All”

IndiaFirst Life’s mission is “Securing lives and creating value for all stakeholders”. It is promoted by two of India’s largest public-sector banks – Bank of Baroda and Union Bank of India, which hold 44% and 30% stakes in the company, respectively. Carmel Point Investments India Private Limited incorporated by Carmel Point Investment Ltd, a body corporate incorporated under the laws of Mauritius and owned by private equity funds managed by Warburg Pincus LLC, New York, United States also holds 26% stake in IndiaFirst Life

In November 2009, the brand became the 23rd entrant among private sector insurers in the country. It has since offered simple, sustainable, and easy-to-understand life insurance solutions. Headquartered in Mumbai, it is one among the youngest life insurance companies in India. Its diversified range of over 44 need-based solutions are curated to satisfy various customer segments through investment augmentation and by leveraging distribution capabilities.

Growing from strength-to-strength, under Vishakha’s able leadership, the company continues to be one of the fastest growing private insurance players in the industry with a y-o-y growth of 71 percent in individual new business, 3.9 times the overall industry and around 2.3 times the overall private life insurance industry.

#CustomerFirst Always

IndiaFirst Life’s competitive advantage is its new-age intuitiveness that delivers value through state-of-the-art digitalization initiatives across the complete value chain, that stems from its #CustomerFirst ideology. The company has leveraged technology to ramp-up operations and build critical mass to maintain economies of scale, while offering simple products and solutions across all touchpoints. Thanks to its new-age tech innovations, IndiaFirst Life has bolstered itself as a trusted brand among customers and other stakeholders alike. “As insurers, it is our responsibility to proactively anticipate and fulfil customer requirements and drive the holistic change we wish to bring about,” states Vishakha.

Notable Achievements & Milestones

In addition to its strong market presence, the company also has to its credit a plethora of noteworthy awards and recognitions. The company’s success has been built on its ability to quickly adapt, improvise, and innovate. Thanks to its strong Bancassurance network and diversified distribution capabilities, it ended FY21 on a positive note, despite the pandemic.

As an organisation, IndiaFirst Life has been agile in strengthening its brand offerings in the past year. It launched initiatives like OneDay claim Settlement, e-Sampark, and Ghar Baithe Insurance to establish a better digital connect with customers. The brand’s campaign #BhonduJustChill and the affiliation with the Netflix dramedy Pagglait strengthened its visibility multifold.

Some of the notable milestones in its FY21’s performance include:

  • Gross Premium at INR 4,056 Crores, with 21% YoY growth [FY20: INR 3,360 Crores]
  • Group Term Life New Business premium (excluding PMJJBY) at INR 139 Crores, a growth of 73% YoY [Last year: INR 80.9 Crores]
  • AUM at INR 17,109 Crores, grew by 16% YoY [AUM as on FY20: INR 14,723 Crores]

Some of the milestones on IndiaFirst Life Individual New Business APE Performance – H1 FY 2021-22 include:

  • Achieved the magical number of INR 345 Crores in Individual NB APE for Q2, which marks the second highest quarter since inception (Highest Quarter: Q4 FY 2021 at INR 362 Crores)
  • Individual NB Sum Assured crossed INR 12,000 Crores with a growth of 47% YoY (Highest growth among top 10 peers).
  • Paid Rs 481 crore in Covid-19 claims to over 13,000 families, with a claim settlement ratio of 99.06 percent

The company’s initiatives have been recognized by reputable industry bodies. Most recently, IndiaFirst Life was awarded the Best Financial Performance Award by Entrepreneur Awards 2021 for its exceptional market performance. It has also been the recipient of multiple industry recognitions from Great Places to Work, IDC Future Enterprise among others.

The Brand’s Powerful Digital Presence

Amidst the pandemic while many companies were struggling to make the digital shift, IndiaFirst Life adapted to the change rather easily. “The shift to the new normal wasn’t felt — for both customers and employees. We continued to focus on reinventing business models through innovation and technology,” says Vishakha.

The company utilizes technology and digitalization across operations like differentiation, customer engagement, risk management, operational efficiency, and so on providing unmatched customer experience. Further, IndiaFirst Life is focused on implementing the hybrid cloud model and will be expanding it further to help the digital arm of the business.

“We engage with and deploy the most sophisticated tools and services available across the organization, not just in our back-end processes but also in customer facing areas and data analytics.”

– Vishakha RM

#EmployeeFirst: Building A Thriving Work Culture

“At IndiaFirst Life, work culture is a common alignment to the values of the company and being ‘Happy, Passionate, and Connected’ as employees,” she affirms. Owing to the company’s virtuous workplace practices, it has garnered the title of one of India’s Best Places to Work and been certified as ‘India’s Best Workplaces in Insurance 2021’ by Great Place to Work® (GPTW) Institute. Apart from this, the company was also recognised as India’s Best Workplaces for Women 2021, and India’s Best 100 Companies to Work for 2021.

The Company’s Vision for the Future

From being the 23rd entrant in the private life insurance space, the company’s concerted efforts have led it to rise through the ranks to be among the Top 10 life insurers in the country as of 30th September 2021.

Going forward, IndiaFirst Life wishes to continuously outdo average industry standards with focused efforts towards fulfilling customer needs, having engaged distribution, empowering employees, and meeting shareholder expectations. For Vishakha, growth doesn’t stop at her company’s current altitude and treads beyond just New Business data. At the end of the day, she believes true mettle is based on enabling customer satisfaction and delight.

Vishakha’s Message To Young Professionals

Every professional, in their career journey, faces challenges and tribulations. When one problem resolves, another arises indefinitely. The point of power, however, lies in one’s power of choice. Vishakha shares the importance of this in her insightful message:

“Set your own benchmarks and constantly raise the bar to realise your optimum potential. Embrace conscious choice. Every time you take a decision, stop, and ask, “Is this what I really want to do?” Don’t ever think that you do not have a choice. You always have a choice if you are willing to pay the price,” she says.


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