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.
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%.
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