A Journey from Selling Salt and Soup to Insurance
Career choice in general is determined by what one aspires for in life – money, fame, passion, cause, or even command from the family. For Anup Rau, it was love at first sight for a building.
That was the time when even the busiest financial district in the country, Nariman Point in Mumbai, was dotted with buildings where paint was peeling off and pan stains made offices stink.
Even though the land on which the building was coming up was once a garbage dump, the ICICI Building was a marvel when it came up. It probably was the first building with such a lovely glass façade at the turn of the century, though many buildings with better architectural designs have sprung up in the locality since then.
Excited at the waterfall that greeted him, Rau committed the cardinal s i n t hat no a s pi r i ng e mployee should do – take the lift reserved for the top bosses. But the kind man that Kevin Wright was, he still gave Rau the job though the latter hardly knew insurance.
Taking up the role also meant being part of history – selling the first insurance policy from the private sector after the Life Insurance Corp of India’s monopoly was broken. All that he wanted to do was sell, and the swanky ICICI Bank Tower in the Bandra-Kurla Complex was just the icing on the cake.
Rau as the country head of Edelweiss’ general insurance business will be rolling out 29th insurance company in the country, thanks to his journey through some of the best companies in the country – ICICI Prudential Life, HDFC Life and as chief executive of Reliance Nippon Life.
The journey to the corner office has been through the salt godowns of Sasaram in Bihar and Renukut in Uttar Pradesh, and selling tea for Duncans firm.
What has been the formula for his success after cutting teeth selling Captain Cook salt?
“When what you sell is just white in colour, with no price differentiation and no value addition…. You are the difference,” says Rau. “A lot of the decisions I take are impulsive and intuitive. There is very little point in over analysing.”
Born into a family of men serving in military and inspired by the uniform, Rau had a stab at joining the Army. But the attempt ended in a disaster with him breaking an ankle at the selection drill.
The next best thing was to follow his dad who was selling research instruments to government institutions. But he was less lucky, he ended up selling salt and flour for DCW where his target on day one was to sell a truck load of salt which gave him a sense of achievement. The exit was not so though when the company defaulted on its provident fund obligations.
Someone in the company was kind enough to offer him a barter deal – here’s 6 tonnes of unsold salt and you make good by selling it. Not one to waste an opportunity, Rau managed to make the best of it.
Although ICICI Pru and HDFC Life were companies that laid the foundation, it was Reliance Nippon Life where he made a mark. During his tenure, the revenue of the company grew in double digits to around ₹ 1,200 crore on the individual Disposals per judge per year
Total disposals per year weighted received premium basis. Its national ranking jumped to 5th, from 7th before his entry.
Management is simple, says Rau, who has an economics degree from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and a management degree from SIES in Mumbai. Where did he learn the way to deal with people? Pat comes the reply – Saurav Ganguly. “Look at the way he handled Sehwag, Parthiv Patel and even Harbhajan’s return,” says Rau. “You have to have conviction and faith in your choices.”
For him, talking about cricket and interacting with cricketing greats, like Jeff Thomson recently, are big stressbusters. Rau has a passion for cricket.
Even now he plays tennis ball cricket with friends, but prefers reading books because it is less demanding physically. He has a collection of 4,000 books.
Despite appearing to be soft, he can be stubborn when it comes to something he is convinced about. Even if there are enough arguments to prove him wrong, he would persist with it.
At ICICI Prudential, to escape the ever chaotic Mumbai traffic, he came up with work hours of 7.30 am to 5.30 pm for his team despite many opposing it as their outside engagements were getting affected. He went ahead despite opposition, but had to ultimately withdraw it after much suffering by all. What would be the one guiding spirit that he would hang on to?
“It is the team sport that played. There may be times whe n yo u have to drop someone, or push the order in which a player bats. But I have not sacked anyone in my life, except for integrity issues. I outpace them.” The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) is expected to overhaul existing framework for resolving corporate and individual insolvencies and bankruptcies
The IBC stipulates that The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to be the single adjudicating authority for all corporate default cases
With the dissolution of the Company Law Board (CLB) approximately 4,000 pending cases in the CLB are bound to move to NCLT I