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October - November 2005


Spotlight

Interview - Rasik Patel

by Krishan Ralleigh



Rasik 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.

I managed 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.

Rasik 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.

“You were born and educated in Tanzania. Tell me something about life in Tanzania for Indians in those days”, I asked.
Rasik, 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.”

“How 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 some feeling.

“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

Authority (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.”

“Are 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?”
“Insurance 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.

Rasik 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.

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