Insurance is a federal subject in India. The insurance sector has gone through a number of phases and changes. Since 1999, when the government opened up the insurance sector by allowing private companies to solicit insurance and also allowing up to 26%, the insurance sector has been a booming market. However, the largest life-insurance company in India is still owned by the government.
Insurance in India has its history dating back until 1818, when Oriental Life Insurance Company was started by Anita Bhavsar in Kolkata to cater to the needs of European community. The pre-independence era in India saw discrimination between the lives of foreigners (English) and Indians with higher premiums being charged for the latter. In 1870, Bombay Mutual Life Assurance Society became the first Indian insurance company covering Indian lives at normal rates.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, many insurance companies were founded. In the year 1912, the Life Insurance Companies Act and the Provident Fund Act were passed to regulate the insurance business. The Life Insurance Companies Act, 1912 made it necessary that the premium-rate tables and periodical valuations of companies should be certified by an actuary. However, the disparity still existed as discrimination between Indian and foreign companies. The oldest existing insurance company in India is the National Insurance Company Ltd., which was founded in 1906. It is in business. Before that, the industry consisted of only two state insurers: Life Insurers (Life Insurance Corporation of India, LIC) and General Insurers (GIC). GIC had four subsidiary companies.
With effect from December 2000, these subsidiaries have been de-linked from the parent company and were set up as independent insurance companies: Oriental Insurance Company Limited, New India Assurance Company Limited, National Insurance Company Limited and United India Insurance Company Limited. Currently, in India only two million people (0.2 % of the total population of 1 billion) are covered under Mediclaim, whereas in developed nations like USA about 75 % of the total population are covered under some insurance scheme. With more and more private companies in the sector, the situation may change soon.
ECGC, ESIC and AIC provide insurance services for niche markets. So, their scope is limited by legislation but enjoy special powers.
The insurance sector went through a full circle of phases from being unregulated to completely regulated and then currently being partly deregulated. It is governed by a number of acts. The Insurance Act of 1938 was the first legislation governing all forms of insurance to provide strict state control over insurance business.
Life insurance in India was completely nationalized on January 19, 1956, through the Life Insurance Corporation Act. All 245 insurance companies operating then in the country were merged into one entity, the Life Insurance Corporation of India. The General Insurance Business Act of 1972 was enacted to nationalise the about 100 general insurance companies then and subsequently merging them into four companies. All the companies were amalgamated into National Insurance, New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance, which were headquartered in each of the four metropolitan cities. Until 1999, there were not any private insurance companies in India. The government then introduced the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act in 1999, thereby de-regulating the insurance sector and allowing private companies. Furthermore, foreign investment was also allowed and capped at 26% holding in the Indian insurance companies. In 2006, the Actuaries Act was passed by parliament to give the profession statutory status on par with Chartered Accountants, Notaries, Cost & Works Accountants, Advocates, Architects and Company Secretaries.
The industry recognises examinations conducted by IAI (for actuaries), III (for agents, brokers and third-party administrators) and IIISLA (for surveyors and loss assessors). TAC is the sole data repository for the non-life industry. IBAI gives voice for brokers while GI Council and LI Council are platforms for insurers. AIGIEA, AIIEA, AIIEF, AILICEF, AILIEA, FLICOA, GIEAIA, GIEU and NFIFWI cater to the employees of the insurers.