Chose The Tough Road, Went From Rs 5 Lakh To Rs 100 Crore Turnover
Doing a business is not only about earning profits but it’s also means building lasting customer relations. With rise in awareness regarding benefits of insurance, the sectors have seen good growth in its various verticals. One such company in this sector is the Ideal Insurance Company. The company started off with only an investment of Rs 5 lakh but today has a turnover of more than Rs 100 crore.
Rahul Agarwal is the name behind the success of Ideal Insurance, who despite of having a well-established family business decided to be a self-made entrepreneur. He comes from a well-to-do Marwari family who was into share market and real estate. Drawing inspiration from his elders, he too decided to be an entrepreneur. He wanted to start his own business and was looking for ideas when the insurance sector caught his fancy, a field in which he had briefly worked during his college days and could see a huge potential for it in India.
After graduating from the St Xavier’s College of Commerce, Kolkata, he earned the title of becoming the youngest Chartered Financial Analyst in India. He is currently pursuing a degree in Family Managed Business Programme from ISB, Hyderabad.
Rahul grew up in a middle-class set-up around the hardships in business and living on the financial edge. His family became virtually bankrupt around the time of Ketan Mehta share market scam in 2001. His father was into share broking from the early 1990s and lost money when the scam broke out. “It was the worst phase of our lives,” recalls Rahul. “My father suffered losses to the tune of several lakhs, but he managed to pay off all the debts.”
In 2001, Rahul joined the Max New York Life Insurance on which he says, “The reason for joining the private insurance company was to add to the family’s income and also gain some knowledge before moving to the US to do my MBA. I thought it could be helpful to acquire work experience in the insurance sector. I joined as an agent advisor, responsible for selling policies. My payment was on commission-basis.”
With an attitude to build individual identity, Rahul worked hard and became the youngest Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) member by earning Rs 4 lakh within four months of joining the company. This feat was achieved without any prior knowledge on insurance. That’s when Max Life sent Rahul to the US to attend an event in 2002. “The rosy picture I had about the US completely flipped because I didn’t like the country. I returned vowing not to go there for higher studies.”
He returned from US with clarity. In an interview with KenFolios, he says, “From the time I can remember, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Having terrific entrepreneurs in my family as my father and uncle, and with the right kind of grooming, it was quite natural for me to become an entrepreneur.” And so, after completing his MBA in 2005, Rahul started with Ideal Insurance at the age of 23. Ideal Insurance is an insurance management company that manages the entire insurance portfolio on behalf of its clients, both retail and corporate. It is different as being a broker as they don’t represent any insurance company rather work for clients.
Without any external funding received till date Rahul has built the company from scratch. “We have built the business completely bootstrapped and have grown primarily from reinvestment of our profits. My strength has been in identifying key people and bringing them on board and today we can boast for one of the best team in the country.”
“No money, no knowledge, no network and no team, that is how I started.” Getting the broker license to start the company was the first hurdle as it included a lot of formalities to get the permission to practice from the government. But, eventually he received the license in 2005. “I used to go from one company to another, meeting people and convincing them to buy policies that were best suited for them,” says Rahul. “Insurance is a hard job and it was even tougher to sell policies by a new company. I used to walk for miles…” Even today, selling insurance is known to be tough work – it’s neither easy nor pleasant to convince people to buy policies as the returns often don’t compensate for the hard work one puts in.
Ideal Insurance started with an investment of Rs 5 lakhs and, in 2016-17 the company’s turnover crossed Rs 100 crore, with 35,000 clients and sells around 40,000-50,000 policies every year. A target to be to achieved to be a Rs 500-cr company, Ideal Insurance currently is a team of 170 members. They currently have their direct branches in 6 cities, which are, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. They plan to expand rapidly in the second-tier towns having a target of opening 10 more branches in the coming future.
Rahul says, “I could write a whole book on reasons behind taking up entrepreneurship. I didn’t have the money. I didn’t have the technical expertise. I didn’t have support from family or friends. People were not willing to work with a start-up. You see your batch mates working with big companies, drawing huge salaries and going on expensive holidays. And you start questioning your decision."
“And so, prior to starting a business, the entrepreneur must have a vision for the proposed business. A detailed plan of action with market analysis, execution layout and projected financial statement which will help the entrepreneur to avoid mistakes and increase the chances of succeeding in his business."
He says, "The above-mentioned factors are crucial for starting up a business. But one of the most important things one should make sure to have in place before he starts, is his personal finances. If one’s cash situation isn't great which means if he can’t sustain for a year without any income from his start-up, then, he should wait to reach this point. Nothing can be worse than running a business when you can't pay your own bills!"