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We want to offer affordable solutions to the middle class: Analjit Singh

Interview with Non-executive chairman, Max India

Sudipto Dey & Digbijay Mishra 

Max India non-executive Chairman Analjit Singh refers to the move of splitting the company into three verticals as something that will bring "structural clarity". He sees in this a resurrection of his entrepreneurial spirits. "It is a new phase in my life," says Singh, known for his big-ticket joint ventures with global partners like Hutchison Whampoa, Motorola, Lockheed-Martin, Mitsui Sumitomo and Bupa Plc. He gives Sudipto Dey & Digbijay Mishra a glimpse of his game plan for the new ventures. Edited excerpts:

What is the thought behind your business' demerger into three verticals, something that had begun around 12 months ago?

The thought process was simple. Today, investors and shareholders like pure plays. There are very few investors who say they are sector-agnostic. Most are focused on health care or financial services. Now, the financial services investor is interested in us because of the work we do in the life insurance business. We are the largest non-bank promoted life-insurance company. But as an investor they have to understand the whole group. So, the idea was to simplify the ownership structure and have a clear line of sight - for investors, the company and the family. The family might choose to have more investment in one sector and less in another. We have that flexibility now. We could have done this two years ago but we might not have got such a wide top management support.

With this, where's the group going?

It is a new phase. First, it is a new phase for India as it is perceived from outside. Second, it is a new phase in my life. I relinquished my position as executive chairman last year, after detailing a succession plan. If you look at three or four decisions taken over the past few years - I stepped down as managing director and became a non-executive chairman, then I relinquished my position as chairman of Max Bupa and of Max Healthcare.

In this phase, we have verticalised the as much as we could, and there could be more verticalisation later. Over the past three-four years, we have worked hard to build competencies in boards. We took the help of (executive search firm) Egon Zehnder to bring nine directors on board. So, the chairmen of various sub-committees are specialists in their areas. Our board meetings last two to three days every quarter. We have the highest level of disclosures and compliance. It is definitely a new phase.

Where do you see the group's insurance and health care businesses two-three years from now?

There is no reason why our life insurance business will not grow at the same rate as in the past five years. But the growth curve for our health care business will be much steeper and higher. We will do in the next five years what we have done in the past 11-12 years. We are well capitalised. We have stronger execution and management teams.

Are we now going to see your comeback as a serial entrepreneur - something we last saw 10-20 years ago?

I think so. We now have a very active private side of business portfolio. Many people ask me why not the Max India side. That is because of pure play - investors do not like a complicated business mix. Those that were not part of Max India were moved to the private side. Now, with the creation of Max Ventures and Industries, we will revisit new opportunities in this environment. In the past 12 years, we were totally focusing on health care and insurance. We now have a strong top leadership team to help me. Though I have pulled back, I have energy, and I am fitter than I was earlier. I plan to re-engage and create new things for the Max group, and for the family.

Could you give us an idea of the new businesses that you have in mind?

Today is Day-1 of this new journey. We are going to work on new ideas. The theme will more or less have to fit into 'New India'. The theme will be affordable solutions to tap the mass markets - the middle class. We have to analyse the gaps in the market at that level. I want to address at least 33 per cent of the population, and not only the top two per cent.

Is it different from what you have done earlier?

It is, of course. You might eventually end up at the same place but the thinking is fresh.

First Published: Wed, January 28 2015. 00:49 IST