Meet Bharat Parekh & Ravi Jethani: LIC agents with bigger pay than chairman DK Mehrotra

Shilpy Sinha, ET Bureau May 15, 2013, 10.37AM IST
(ET profiles two persons…)

ET profiles two persons of humble origins who found their calling in insurance serendipitously, faced the music for their unorthodox career choice, but finally laughed their way to the bank with a bigger pay than the LIC chairman himself…

While still a teenager, at the age of 17, Bharat Parekh risked being an outcast among his college mates. Not that he indulged in anti-social activities, nor were his friends caste-conscious, all he did was don the role of an agent for the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). It was for Rs 300 a month in 1986 that Parekh sacrificed the charm of college days. Not that he grew up money minded, but he too was faced with the bane most middle class boys still face in India — getting their sisters married respectably.

Parekh, who missed out on watching matinee shows and playing cricket during his youth, is now a millionaire who can afford most luxuries of life. As an agent, his annual income is over Rs 4 crore, around five times more than the Rs 87 lakhs that LIC chairman DK Mehrotra took home last year. The sweat and toil behind selling 1,000 odd policies a year, helped Parekh marry his five sisters off in accordance with the demands of Indian tradition.

But the journey was a rough one. “I was the youngest in the family after five sisters… I needed a job to financially support my family,” says Parekh. “My sisters asked me if there is anything else I could do. My friends in college stopped talking to me.

An LIC agent was looked down upon and the perception was that only those who had nothing else to do in life became LIC agents.” Even getting recruited as an agent was difficult given the minimum age for the job was 21. But Parekh managed to find work under a development officer at 18 and has never had to look back since then.
He sells around 1,000 policies a year, the worth of a policy being Rs 2 lakh on an average, and manages to generate a premium of Rs 200 crore for the corporation — the highest generated by any agent in India.

Even as college mates looked down on him and LIC was still taboo for the middle class, finding a prospective bride was an uphill task for Parekh. “I had to produce my Income Tax returns to prove to my potential father-in-law that I earn enough to take care of his daughter and bring up a family,” says Parekh.

We are a happy family now. But building one was probably more difficult than convincing someone to buy an insurance policy, says Parekh.

Married to Babita, Parekh has no intention to abandon his career of three decades. “It is the world’s best profession,” says Parekh citing the independence it provides and the sky-high opportunity to earn.

Yet, not all LIC agents are as successful as Parekh. What then, is his success formula? “Money is not everything,” says Parekh. “I try to understand the family and educational background of a person and then suggest which policy he or she should buy.”

Indeed, LIC agents also play the role of a wealth manager, or a fund manager, for many who are financially illiterate.

“I converted a term plan into a pension plan for a rich, unschooled, widow to ensure her a regular income. Money does not stay with anyone so it is necessary to have a regular income.”

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