The LIC Story – Making of India’s Best Known Brand – Kamalji Sahay

Book Review by Prof. (Dr.) Abhijit K Chattoraj

The book “The LIC Story: Making of India’s Best known Brand” written by LIC’s former Executive Director Kamalji Sahay and published by Pan Macmillan, is a wonderful attempt to reveal the secrets of success of the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Sahay has eloquently brought out the LIC story in his inimitable style. The book describes the pains taken by the insiders; the managers, the employees and the agents of such a large organization, to not only perpetuate its existence but also to develop itself into a business entity of immense value to the society. This is a story of an extra ordinary team work and leadership at all levels of organization which made LIC the strongest among all the financial institutions in India. The information and the experiences shared by the author should inspire the employees and the managers in different organizations in public as well as private sectors, to grow their respective organizations through team building, integrity and commitment to excellence. There are thrilling episodes discussed in detail which highlight the constraints of a public sector organization. There are stories that go on to prove that all such constraints could be converted into strengths if leadership at all levels in the organization displays strong will to perform and to create a culture of accountability

Different episodes narrated in the book in respect of variety of management issues would reveal to the readers the right attitude and right actions to achieve excellence in whatever business or mission one is involved in. The LIC story ultimately proves that the secret of an organization is the ability of the leadership of the organization to promote team work. Anticipating the future and effectively cultivating the opportunities that the future unfolds and controlling the constraints that may come along with the opportunities have been the single most powerful differentiator for LIC in a fiercely competitive market. This book goes on to vindicate that the LICians do not just work, they create. Occasional reference to different styles of leadership practiced within the organization go on to prove that doing the right things alone cannot take an institution to great heights of success. The urge to be number one in all areas of performance and the understanding of the interdependent nature of individual performance have been a strong driving force behind LICs success.

The book is replete with numerous anecdotes capturing Sahay’s immense experiences that make pulsating reading. The strength of a good society lies in its institutions. LIC is one such institution that contributed gloriously towards nation building and continues to do so. LIC was rightly called “The Jewel in the Crown” by Mr.P.Chidambaram, the former Finance Minister. LIC remains one of the deepest brands in India, truly Zindagi ke saath bhi Zindagi Ke baad bhi.

Sahay explains beautifully how LIC could build and sustain large field force. The way senior officials nurtured relationship with field force was unique. As the relationship developed and deepened over a period of time, it inculcated a great feeling of belongingness among them for the organization The relationship instilled a great sense of pride into the field force. LIC could reap great dividends by translating this relationship into huge business.

Sahay cited plenty of examples from his personal experience that went on to hone his leadership skill. He cites an incident of Howrah branch to prove how man management has never been easy both within and outside the organizations. There are some people in the organization who throw spanner into the smooth functioning. It takes both courage and tact to deal with such peccadilloes.

LIC provided livelihood to many people who had no idea of career. Sahay cites the example of one his senior who had the uncanny skill of converting people who came to his contact into successful and responsible sales persons. There is an example which is very touching when this senior colleague of Sahay desires that everybody on its way to burial should be accompanied by an LIC cheque. If that happens really one day, India would be one of the best countries to live in. LIC teaches you to be philanthropic. I am reminded of beautiful lines written by Swami Vivekananda espousing his nation building ideas. “ The Life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are most dead than alive”.  He wrote to one of his disciple. In Life Insurance also, It can aptly be concluded after reading this book that LICians are trained and groomed to live for others. Unfortunately, they are unsung foot soldiers and heroes who devote their lives for wiping out the tears from the eyes of others.

Youngsters entering the insurance industry today may not be aware of the constructive role played by LIC towards nation building. They may not be knowing how successive government repose faith on LIC to source capital. Sahay also counters the Government’s Piggy Bank tag bestowed upon LIC.

The achievements of the organization in its six decade long journey towards growth certainly deserved to be chronicled. The LIC Story: Making of India’s best known Brand is one such story that may inspire the present workforce, business leaders and the aspiring managers to contribute to the growth of a healthy, competitive and profitable organization. The LIC story is the story of an extra ordinary organization told in a simple and convincing manner

Towards the end of his career, Sahay headed a private sector insurance company as MD & CEO. His experience in the private sector reinforced his views on the invincibility of LIC. Who would be a better business leader than Mr. Kamalji Sahay to interpret LIC’s strengths and weaknesses ? The LIC story is a must read for everybody in the insurance sector.

While reading this book, you can ruminate about the past , present and future of doing business in  the great LIC tradition.