Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Bureaucracy Today|March 01-31 2017

The inspiring Usha Sangwan needs no introduction. She is a technocrat who has shattered a major glass ceiling by becoming the first woman Managing Director of the State-run Life Insurance Corporation of India, a feat achieved in the insurance behemoth in its nearly six decades of existence. Under her leadership, the LIC has scaled amazing heights. Her glorious journey of rising to a position that for decades has been a male bastion is an inspiration for crores of women in a world which stereotypes the finance sector to be a men’s domain. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day this month, Bureaucracy Today speaks to Sangwan about her journey to the top, her life’s philosophy, her work and the recent trends in the insurance sector of India.

Soma Chakraborty

You have broken the glass ceiling to become the first female Managing Director of the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Please tell us about your journey so far and the challenges you encountered to reach the top echelons in the insurance sector.

It is indeed a humbling and challenging state to be at this position in the LIC for anybody. The fact that a woman is there, is a credit to all womankind and to all those who recognize a woman’s merit.

I joined the LIC of India as Direct Recruit Officer in 1981. The journey has been full of challenges, risks; good times, difficult times and times of success, setbacks and achievements.

One thing that kept me going was an attitude and firm belief that everything happens for a reason and the end-result is always good. I try to focus on my work and results rather than on any activities that drain your energy. Innovation and technology fascinate me.

Our people in the organization have been my strength. I have always got tremendous support from my teammates and fellow workers at all levels. I also had absolute support of my family- my husband and children. My mother was the first motivator to nudge me to have a career and be a financially independent woman.

Furthermore, the LIC is a great organization to work for. You get enough opportunities to implement innovative ideas. You are exposed to different work situations and different operational areas to enable you to handle higher and more responsible positions

I am proud that I could ensure the presence of the LIC in digital space, setting up ‘Direct Marketing Channel’, selling Online policies, putting the LIC on social media, institutionalizing Corporate Communication activities connecting with youth, children and rural India, setting up e-Services and LIC helpline for our 30 crore customers, so on and so forth.

How have you coped with gender issues at a level that was an exclusive male preserve?

I am happy to say that the LIC is by and large free from gender bias and provides equal opportunities to women. The main problem one faces is when you go out on posting. Leaving your family and young children is the main issue on your mind and staying alone ensuring your safety and security and still doing justice to your given assignment can be very challenging.

But that is what life is. One has to face challenges head on and move on.

How do you strike a balance between your personal and professional life?

Million Dollar question on the mind of every working woman is how to balance her personal and professional life If your family understands your responsibilities and helps you in coping with the same, that helps a lot. But for this to happen, one needs to communicate clearly with family members and be there when they need you.

I ensure not to keep any office work pending. When my children were very young, I used to get up very early, say around 3.30-4 am, and finish my office work before the children wake up for school. Similarly at every stage in your life and career, you develop your own ways and means to manage the situation. If your purpose is clear, solutions emerge.

What is your life’s mantra?

“Have courage to change things you can, serenity to accept what you cannot and wisdom to know the difference”. I also believe in positive attitude, hard work and sincerity. Remaining calm under all situations helps you solve problems in a pragmatic manner.I believe in being fair, firm, fearless and forward looking.

Please share with us the current focus of your work.

Our first priority is to provide best in class service to our valued customers. For this the LIC has adopted technology in a big way. The records of all individual policyholders are digitised. Customers can pay their premium all over the country in any branch of the LIC. Online premium payment facility and Online services have been made available. We are accessible to customer through SMS-based LIC Helpline. Claims are being paid directly in the bank accounts of customers. Our Claim settlement ratio is 99.49%.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BUREAUCRACY TODAYView All

Is it a Crackdown or Creation of New Lords of Black Money Hoarders?

On the night of november 8 this year, Prime minister narendra modi appeared on national television to declare his Government’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, with a window of 50 days for a smooth transition. no doubt the move has hit those who have accumulated unaccounted black money. the Bureaucracy Today magazine analyses whether the move will stop the hoarding of black money in time to come.

10+ mins read
Bureaucracy Today
November 16-30, 2016

A Paradigm Project for the Future

What makes for a great development project in Morocco? Which qualities imbue an initiative with longevity and sustainability, enabling it to meet a whole range of interconnected material and emotional needs? Is there a single concept applicable to a specific geographical location that exceptionally embodies those qualities?

4 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
November 16-30, 2016

Minority Shareholders 'Short-Changed' At Bombay House

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has turned down a request from Shapoorji Pallonji Group (SPG) vide its investment outfits, viz, Sterling Investment Corporation and Cyrus Investments, to initiate action against Tata Sons for the “oppression of minority interest and mismanagement”. It was done on the ground that the petitioner does not have the required minimum shareholding of 10%.

3 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
June 1 - 31, 2017

Should You Buy Your Dream Home Now?

The RERA or the Real Estate Regulation Act has finally become a reality. Though there are still plenty of hiccups and it will obviously take some time for the industry to absorb all the facets of the Act, it should be kept in mind that the RERA is a process, not an event. Meanwhile, the foremost question in property buyers’ minds is - should they wait until the RERA process is streamlined, or can they go in for home purchase now? 

3 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
June 1 - 31, 2017

Can Fintech Companies Replace Traditional Banking In India?

This is one of the most exciting times for Indian banking and financial services industries. FinTech or financial technology companies have emerged as a new crop of firms which have a high growth potential and many opportunities for disruptive innovation. They can complement the traditional banking services and help in financial inclusion. In some quarters, they are seen as competition to the classical banks also. FinTech, a very trendy industry for start-ups, has the potential to take away 4.7 billion dollar of revenue from traditional financial services, according to a US-based Finance firm, Goldman Sachs. FinTech has evolved from startups that want to take on and compete with incumbents to a broader ecosystem of different businesses that are, in many cases, looking for partnerships. Bureaucracy Today analyses the pros and cons of this new financial phenomenon. 

7 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
June 1 - 31, 2017

Indianising The Bureaucracy

The subjects listed in the Civil Services Examination are colonial. Their syllabus was mostly suitable to the British regime to make an in-depth study and research to deal with various sections of Indians in different geographical zones.

2 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
June 1 - 31, 2017

Why The Black And White View In Banning Ilmenite Exports?

Any picture depicting India would have hues of Holi and vibrant colours of the bazaar. So it is surprising that the ban of ilmenite exports has been done with a black and white view thereby robbing the Indian paint industry of its sheen.

3 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
June 1 - 31, 2017

How Progressive Policy Has Enabled The Evolution Of Indian Automobile Industry

The stepping up of the Indian automobile sector began when the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises announced the Auto Policy 2002 to promote its integrated, phased, enduring and self-sustained growth. For the first time a national level policy support was declared to promote the sector as a lever of industrial growth and employment and to achieve a high degree of value addition in the country. However, the period of 2006-2016 was a step further from Auto Policy 2002.

3 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
February 01 2017

What Makes Real Estate Investment Location Lucrative?

The year 2017 should be for residential real estate investment as the Government is ensuring low interest rates and a slew of incentives via schemes such as the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana. So, interest in and appetite for real estate investment is back in force – but where should one invest? After all, successful real estate investment is proverbially driven by “location, location, location”.

2 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
February 01 2017

Are We Punching Above Our Weight?

International diplomacy is about Games Nations Play. This title of the celebrated book on world politics suggests that the success and failure of a country in the international arena will be determined by how good or bad it plays the game of politics at the global level. Like any other game, diplomacy is also about the calibre, skill and strength of the players which will decide the outcome of the game. In this context, we are talking here about the Ministry of External Affairs which is mandated to project India in the comity of nations and promote national interests by a sound mix of depth touches, dexterous policy measures and a bold declaration of official intent. 

5 mins read
Bureaucracy Today
May 01 - 31, 2017
RELATED STORIES

The New Fighter At the CFPB

Rohit Chopra wants to know more about tech companies’ plans for financial products

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

Next on Your Plate: Bug Burgers

The faux-meat industry is starting to explore fruit fly patties and mealworm nuggets

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

Ready Aim Omicron!

Drugmakers always knew variants would arise. The latest will test their preparedness

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

Crossing Borders With Crypto

A Mexico-based startup says it can send remittances from the U.S. cheaper and faster

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

A Crash Course in Omicronomics

Sussing out the impact of the new coronavirus variant on growth and inflation

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

Treasure Hunters Of the Stalled Supply Chain

For salvage companies, an unclaimed shipping container is a potentially profitable mystery box

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

In the EV Age, Hyundai Still Has High Hopes for Hydrogen Cars

The South Korean automaker sees fuel-cell technology as key to decarbonizing global transportation

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

The Next Accounting Fiasco

Twenty years after Enron’s failure, investors are still vulnerable to corporate numbers games

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

When Same-Day Delivery Is Too Slow

Gopuffis trying to outrace its competitors in the “dark convenience store” business

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 06, 2021

Health The growing influence of Apple on healthcare

In a 2019 interview with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “If you zoomed out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’” After a short pause, he answered his own question: “It will be about health.” Two years on, his vision is already becoming a reality for the company.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
December 03, 2021