October - November 2005
Interview - Rasik Patel
Patel, tall and handsome, with deep booming voice, can easily be taken,
at the first encounter, as some Bollywood actor of yester years who
is on a short visit to London to see old pals in Wembley. He is in
fact the CEO of an international conglomerate, the Afro-Asian Insurance
Services Ltd., that has its tentacles spread over three continents,
Europe, Africa and Asia. The Head office of the company, is of course,
in Wembley, NorthWest London. Moreover, Rasik Patel’s stay in
London is normally short, albeit he has a beautiful, artistically decorated
large house in the posh part of Stanmore where he lives with his wife,
Kunjlata, son Udai and his charming wife Priti and two grandchildren
Tanya and Anushka.
to meet Rasik Patel at his Head Office on the 13th floor of York House
in Wembley. It was a bright, sunny summer day. One can see from the
window, the vast complex of Wembley Stadium being built fast to be
ready in time for the Olympics in 2012.
Patel’s variegated life story is fascinating to hear, not only
because of the method of his narration, a sort of
‘dramatic monologue’; but for the vast variety of experiences
and anecdotes he fills in the contents of his talks. He is a past master
in the art of conversation.
were born and educated in Tanzania. Tell me something about life
in Tanzania for Indians in those days”, I asked.
looked at the ceiling for a while, reminisced, “Life in Tanzania
for a young person like me was full of hopes, social reforms and progress.
Tanzania, under the leadership of Julius Nyerere had adopted socialistic
path of development. He had united together 27 major tribes. One national
language was declared and the progress was to be based on village upwards.
As a young man, full of ideas, I thought socialism was the best route
to progress. You know, they say, if at 20 you are not a communist you
heart is not at the right place; and at 40 if you are still a communist,
your head is not at the right place. The friendship between Nehru of
India and Nyerere of Tanzania was the basis of the non-aligned movement.
This was the first experience of my life when I saw Africa and Asia coming
together. Somehow, it seems, this remained in the remote corner of my
mind for my later business ventures.”
did your career develop”?
“My early education was in Tanzania, then Nairobi at the Kenya
Teacher Training College. I started my professional life as a teacher,
became a head teacher and then District Education Officer. It was at
this stage of my life that I began to take interest in insurance as a
career. Soon I was appointed as Office Superintendent of the Crusader
Insurance (a British Company) in Tanzania. That was in 1965.”
“With your personality and such impeccable
diction, I wonder why you did not choose film or
broadcasting as career!”
“Well I was always interested in Speech & Drama.
The Director of Radio Tanzania did offer me a job.
I did part-time broadcasting for some time – about
three or four days a week. It was a part of English
service with Radio Tanzania”, said Rasik with
“Why did you choose insurance in the end”,
I probed, trying to fathom the secrets of his success
in this line of business.
“Insurance for me was a natural and inevitable transition to a
line of business in which all the talents I had could be stretched to
the extreme. You see I have always been a social animal. I love to meet
people. I also like to make money by fair means. I am also by instinct
a teacher. I love to explain and convince my client about the services
I am going to offer. All these attributes enabled me to make an impact
in all British companies I was associated with. As early as 1975, I was
appointed as Managing Director of the Tanzaian and Zambian subsidiaries
of a well known British Insurance brokerage firm. I was then chosen to
work in London as the Head of the Africa Desk of that company. I later
became the head of the Africa, Middle East and South Asia Desk of a major
Lloyd’s brokers’ firm called Hogg Robinson & Gardner
Mountain (HRGM). In 1988, I founded the Afro-Asian Insurance Services
Ltd. This Insurance Brokerage firm has expanded rapidly. With the opening
of the insurance sector in India, there is a great opportunity for us
to serve India, the land of my ancestors. Our Indian associate company,
Afro-Asian Insurance Services (India) Pvt. Limited (AAISI) was granted
the necessary licence by the Insurance Regulatory and Development
(IRDA) to operate as a composite broker (i.e. insurance and reinsurance
broking). AAISI has a paid-up share capital of Rs. 25 million, and
is a member of the Insurance Brokers Association of India. This investment,
I must emphasise, has opened up opportunities in one of the most vibrant
and rapidly developing economies of our times, presenting new markets
for “Afro-Asian” clients for inward and outward reinsurance
business in this exciting region. We now have our corporate office
in Mumbai and contact offices in Pune and New Delhi.”
“What is your vision about the company?”
“We are, and intend to remain as a professional
leader in our chosen field. We have a team of dedicated
people who are efficient and highly trained in their
field. We also believe in bearing with aplomb our
social responsibility to the client, society and
the country where we work. We believe in providing
on-going training not only to our own but also to
the staff of our clients.”
there any ethical norms of Insurance business? We often hear that
some Insurance salesmen use devious tactics to sell their products.
What would be your advice to a layman?”
Business is a service to an individual. It is the duty of every person
to encourage reliance on insurance to a certain extent for the protection
of life and wealth. Here, risk is shared by many companies. Relative
cost is insignificant. Family’s wealth is protected from any natural
or man-made calamity. It is a pity that many people do not give enough
importance to insurance as an institution. In many ways, it is the bedrock
of the survival of capitalism. It does happen that some unscrupulous
salesmen try to oversell their products or do not sufficiently inform
the client about the benefits of the product. In Britain, we have regulatory
bodies to safeguard the interests of the client. I cannot overemphasise
the importance of on-going training to the sale force of any insurance
company”, said Rasik with some fervour.
Patel is a businessman of conscience. As a performer, he is persuasive
and as a teacher, he knows how to communicate to his clients the intricacies
of insurance business. A man of well-rounded personality, he has varied
interests. However, his love for his family always comes first. That’s
how it should be.
More articles by Krishan Ralleigh
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