Indian insurance company Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance has recently won an award for “financial inclusion initiatives” in India. The company was presented the SKOCH Financial Inclusion Award for its efforts to provide affordable life insurance products to rural customers across the country. Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance serves over three million low-income customers in India. The FINANCIAL — Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance has been awarded the SKOCH Financial Inclusion Award 2011 for its execution of financial inclusion initiatives through life insurance across India. Financial inclusion is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to low income segments of society.

“The award recognizes Bajaj Allianz’s micro-insurance product catering to rural markets, Sarve/Swayam Shakti Suraksha (SSS). A flexible and simple plan, SSS offers rural customers insurance protection against unforeseen events and an opportunity to save systematically,” Allianz said.

“We have been working to provide affordable insurance products to a vast uninsured population whose financial needs also need equal consideration and attention. This has been challenging considering the profile of customers and geographical spread of locations,” said Yogesh Gupta, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Senior Vice President and Head-Business Procurement, at the awards ceremony. “It is a proud moment for us to be recognized by SKOCH in the area of financial inclusion through life insurance and is a testimony to our commitment to the needs of rural India.”

Microfinance in crisis

The independent civilian award comes at a time when microfinance in India is under heavy criticism. With fast loans being offered at people’s doorsteps, many poor families have fallen into a pattern of multiple borrowing.

“Microfinance institutions are undergoing a spate of changes with new regulations being framed to streamline lending process and also protect the MFI customers. We hope that the new regulations will remove anomalies in the system and ensure the industry regains its status of elevating the poor,” says Gupta.

Three million SSS customers

Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance first began the SSS project in 2008. The product was rolled out after conducting extensive studies on consumer demand in cooperation with various Financial Institutions engaged in microcredit, Regional Rural Banks, Co-operatives and Dairy Boards with the aim of meeting the insurance needs of rural Indian masses.

In the first year of launch, a total of 1.8 million customers were enrolled. Today, through 5000 consumer touch points, SSS serves over three million customers spanning 19 Indian states.

SKOCH Development Foundation, a not-for-profit company, is widely recognized in India for its independent civilian awards in the field of financial inclusion, economy, industry, governance, capacity building, empowerment, inclusive growth, citizen services delivery, technology, academics and change management.