Insurance in India is a legacy of the British. With the establishment of Oriental Life Insurance in 1818, India was familiarised with the concept of insurance.
By the 1950s, Indian insurance gradually turned into a major service sector with about 154 Indian and 16 non-Indian companies. This naturally led to cut-throat competition for power and presence. There were also allegations of unfair trade practices.
All of these events necessitated regulation in the insurance sector, leading to the nationalisation of the life insurance sector on 19th January 1956.
Fast forward to 1999, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) was established for regulating and licensing the insurance and re-insurance industries in India. It is a regulatory body under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
It’s a ten-member body consisting of a chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the Government of India. The current chairman of IRDAI is Debasish Panda.
Having learnt that, let’s dive into the history of IRDAI chairmen.
N. Rangachary (August 1996 – June 2003)
- Rangachary was the first chairman of IRDAI.
- He is also a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and Institute of Company Secretaries of India.
- Rangachary has a National Diploma in Commerce from the All India Institute of Technical Education, New Delhi.
- Before being appointed as chairman at IRDAI, he served as the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes in June 1995.
- In 1999, Rangachary was awarded “International Insurance Man of the Year.”
- He served as an Advisor to the Finance Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
- Rangachary is an honorary member of the Indian Institute of Actuaries.
C. S. Rao (June 2003 – June 2008)
- Rao was a 1967-batch IAS officer.
- Before becoming the chairman of IRDAI, he served as expenditure secretary in the Union Finance Ministry.
- He promoted health insurance in a big way and the first health insurance company was started during his tenure.
- He pioneered Micro Insurance to take insurance to those who are considered to be at the bottom of the pyramid which was appreciated all over the world.
- International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) had felicitated and honoured him as a Distinguished Fellow in the year 2009.
- He passed away on 28th June 2018.
Hari Narayan (June 2008- Feb 2013)
- Narayan is a native of Mumbai and completed his education in Chennai and Delhi, consecutively.
- He has a B.Sc in Physics from St, Stephens College, Delhi and an MA in History from Madras Christian College, Chennai.
- Narayan joined the IAS in 1970.
- Narayan has been the Managing Director at Leather Industries Corporation, Small Scale Industries Development Corporation and the Industrial Development Corporation of the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
- Further, he also held positions in the Electricity Board, the Singareni Collieries and in the Steel Industry.
- He served the Government as Under Secretary in the Ministries of Defence and Education and as Joint Secretary in the Ministries of Coal and Food Processing.
- Narayan led the Indian team in the negotiations of various aspects of the WTO negotiations in relation to Trade in Processed Foods.
- He also led the team to the International Tribunal for the resolution of a major dispute with Pakistan arising out of the Indus Water Treaty.
- Hari Narayan held the position of IRDAI chairman for 5 years.
- Under his tenure, the concept of web aggregation emerged in the market, and IRDA created a new license category. While the license is slowly being made redundant, it was an important step towards improving the online distribution of insurance in India.
S. Vijayan (February 2013 – 2017)
- Vijayan was appointed as the 4th chairman of IRDAI on February 21, 2013, and held the position for a period of 4 years.
- In May 2011, Vijayan was demoted from chairman to managing director of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) on allegations of irregularities.
- Later, he was cleared of all charges by the Central Bureau of Investigation and retired in November 2012.
- Vijayan was the first IRDAI chairman to hail from the insurance industry.
- He joined LIC in 1977 as a direct recruit and was named its youngest-ever chairman 29 years later.
- Vijayan is celebrated for conceiving the ‘satellite’ or ‘sampark’ offices concept which advocated a new example in customer service at LIC.
- On 3rd Dec 2018, Yes Bank appointed T S Vijayan as Additional Director (Independent) on its board for a period of 5 years.
- Under his tenure, IRDAI launched the POSP guidelines, which allows intermediaries and insurance companies to sign on agents (after training them) to distribute policies on a strictly commission-only basis. This move was designed to increase insurance penetration outside of tier-1 cities, and help set up distribution channels throughout India.
Prior to this, distributors had to have agents on their payroll, which did not work out economically, given the small ticket sizes and premiums an agent could source outside of metropolitan areas.
Subash Chandra Khuntia (May 2018 – May 2021)
- Khuntia served as the chairman of IRDAI for a total term of three years, starting from May 1, 2018.
- He succeeded the chair after T. S. Vijayan.
- Formerly, Khuntia served the role of Chief Secretary of Karnataka from October 16.
- He is a 1981-batch IAS officer and has been acclaimed for his role in digitisation and vision of introducing the internet in various secondary schools.
- He has previously served as Secretary to the Department of School Education and Literacy, Special Secretary and Financial Advisor in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
- He has also held positions in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPL) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
- Khuntia is a native of Odisha.
- Apart from being a graduate in Law, Khuntia holds a Doctorate in Economics and a Post Graduate degree in Economics, Computer Science, Physics, Sociology, Political Science and Philosophy.
- Khuntia is an alumnus of Ravenshaw College, Cuttack; Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; and London School of Economics.
- During the challenging period of Covid-19, Khuntia introduced an instalment option for premium payment, guidelines for telemedicine, and Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak policies in order to ease the policyholder’s pain.
- In his tenure, Khuntia emphasized the importance of digital innovation in the insurance sector and brought in the regulatory sandbox to promote digital innovation.
Debasish Panda (March 2022 – Present)
- The incumbent chairman of IRDAI, Debasish Panda took charge on March 14, 2022.
- The appointment of the chairmen came nearly nine months after the term completion of Subash Chandra Khuntia.
- The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved the appointment of the insurance regulator for a period of three years initially.
- Panda, a native of Odisha, is a retired 1987-batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.
- Panda served as secretary to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) for a term of 2 years, before resigning on January 31, 2020.
- He has also served as the Joint Secretary (Health & Family Welfare).
- In Uttar Pradesh, he served as the District Magistrate in Deoria, Tehri, Uttarakashi and Ghaziabad districts.
- Panda is a post-graduate in Physics and holds a Masters in Development Management as well as an M.Phil degree in Environmental Sciences.
- Panda has undergone foreign training in Public Administration from the USA and the Philippines.