“Success is almost always achieved through the old-fashioned way, by working hard and by working honestly,” says Vijaya B Shah, CEO of NLG Insurance Company Limited and President of Nepal Insurers Association. In his own words, luck may favour you for a while, but if you cease to work hard, even luck won’t be on your side
--By Sujan Tiwari
Vijaya B Shah has been working as the CEO of NLG Insurance for the past six years. He has worked in various positions for famed organizations like Surya Nepal, Gorkha Brewery and Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation in the past. After his professional career of 25 years, Shah still works with the conviction that relations should be maintained on a personal level rather than on a professional one.
Shah started his career by joining Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd as Assistant Finance Manager in 1989 after appearing in the final exams of his Chattered Accountancy. He was soon promoted to Finance Manager, and he worked for 12 years in the company. In 2001, Shah joined Gorkha Brewery looking for better options and to further his career. He was hired as Finance Director. One day, he received a call from Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation, then known as King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation to join them.
“I joined the Trust with an intention to share the experiences of private sector in an NGO. A new designation was created for me there, and I started working as Chief of Finance and Administration,” says Shah. According to him, his time in the Trust taught him how a positive initiative with even a small investment can bring constructive change in society and community. After working in the Trust for four years, Shah joined National Investment and Capital Market Limited as the CEO. Shah worked for the company for two years and finally ended up in NLG Insurance Company Limited. This is Shah’s sixth year in NLG Insurance as the CEO.
Time in NLG
When Shah joined NLG Insurance, the company was running for two years after being separated from National Life and General Insurance. “The company was not doing very well when I joined. There were financial losses and the scale of business was very small. Moreover, the employees’ morale was low as they were separated from the composite company,” recalls Shah. According to him, the overall management of the company was suffering back then.
Shah says he was not aware of these facts when he joined, and he had to start his job amidst chaos and confusion. “As I had already joined, I had no other option that to keep performing. Looking at the state the organization was in, I also felt a sense of responsibility to make it better in any way I could,” says he.
As the promoters were not much interested in the company, all the responsibly of the company was on Shah’s shoulders. According to Shah, the biggest problem he faced in his initial days at NLG was the fact that the company didn’t have a face and an identity. “I had to put a face to the organization so that people could remember someone when they think of the company. This was the only way to build trust among our customers,” recalls Shah.
He thought of turning the company around with his experience and expertise, and to start with, Shah started counselling the employees, making frequent visits to the branches that were in languish and started making the employees involved in the decision making process. “The situation was so dismal that NLG Insurance didn’t even have its broker in the international market to resell the risks. To change it, I took permission from the Board and I went to reinsurers and I personally met reinsurance brokers,” says Shah.
Propelling the Company
After Shah’s numerous efforts, the company gradually started to recover and business started to grow. The employees were motivated; the branches were monitored and started to perform better, business targets were given and met and relations were established with reinsurance companies. “I have always believed that both people and businesses need a little push to go beyond. After all of this, I felt the company needed that extra push. The business of the company was revolving around 200 million rupees. I wanted to take the company to the next level, so I set the target of making the business reach 500 million rupees,” shares Shah.
To attain the huge goal, Shah changed the approach of the company. At the time, NLG was insuring top companies and industrial houses, the owners of which could bargain a lot and could dictate their terms and conditions. Shah says that he figured out that there is not where the company could make its presence felt. “As we were covering automobile, fire, engineering, aviation and miscellaneous insurance, instead of insuring big industries and companies, I thought of going to the masses. I also arranged the reinsurance in such a way that the protection from the reinsurer was bigger than the risk the company could actually bear,” says Shah. This approach changed the game, and NLG Insurance achieved the set target of 500 million. After that, he started consolidating the company without compromising the profitability and refining the business every year.
NLG Insurance was awarded ‘Best Managed Nonlife Insurance Company’ by New Business Age Pvt Ltd in ‘Newbiz Conclave and Business Excellence Awards Ceremony 2013’. Shah is also recently selected for ‘Manager of the Year’ award by Management Association of Nepal (MAN).
NLG has been providing insurance services to its individual and corporate clients for more than two decades now. At present, NLG is the insurance company with the most number of customers in Nepal. “We have providing our services to more than 150,000 people which is the highest in the industry. NLG’s reinsurance broker is one of the top ten in the world,” shares Shah. According to him, the lead reinsurer of NLG Hannover Re is the third largest reinsurance company in the world and it is only associated with NLG in Nepal. There are numerous other reinsurance companies who are willing to partner with us, says Shah.
Besides the regular insurance portfolios, the company also insures various events under miscellaneous insurance. The company has insured concerts, various events and commercial festivals, sports tournaments and others. “We have insured small businesses like shops to huge businesses like five star hotels and airports. We can customize insurance policies according to the need of people,” says Shah.
Shah was born in 2017 BS in Gulariya of Bardiya in a normal farmer’s family. He was born to Bir Bahadur Shah and Late Tulasa Kumari Shah. His entire childhood was spent in Gulariya. Recollecting his childhood, Shah says that he was a carefree child, and an average student. “I loved sports, and was very interested in athletics,” recalls Shah. He did his schooling from Mahakavi Devkota Secondary School, and appeared in SLC exam from there.
He recalls having to go to India just to travel to other part of his district as there were no roads. There was no photo studio in Bardiya district, so he had to go to neighbouring Indian city for his pictures. He had to go to Nepalgunj for his SLC because there was no centre in his district. He says he enjoyed a simple childhood.
“I didn’t have huge career expectations back then. At that time, even completing SLC was considered big,” shares Shah. After SLC, he appeared in an entrance exam to study his Intermediate level. When the results came out, his name was on the top of the list. “That was the moment when I felt I had something special in me. That one exam changed the way I was looking at my life and encouraged me to turn it around,” says he. After that, Shah was always more deviated towards his education.
Shah completed his Intermediate degree from Mahendra Bahumukhi Campus, Nepalgunj. “At that time, no colleges in Nepalgunj or other neighbouring areas offered the Bachelor degree I was looking for. So I had to come to Kathmandu. I did my Diploma in Commerce and Public Administration from Nepal Commerce Campus,” says Shah. At the same time, one of his acquaintances was studying Chartered Accountancy, and he also got interested in it. Shah then went to Kanpur for pursuing a degree in Chartered Accountancy after registering in Madras. He also completed his MBA from TU within the same time, in 1987.
Shah is married to Shobha Shah, and it was a love marriage. Shah met her in the library of Public Youth Campus where she was working as a librarian at the time. “I was in the library to borrow a book, but when I saw her, I couldn’t get my eyes off her and I wanted to borrow her heart too,” shares a romantic Shah. Shah’s love for books and educations also gave him the love of his life. The couple have a daughter Bibha.
Shah says he enjoys the company of his friends, and never fails to meet and converse with them. He is conscious about his health and goes to health clubs regularly. “I like to unwind and relax by watching movies and travelling, but what satisfies me the most is when I get the opportunity to connect with my roots. I like to rekindle old connections and I love it when I meet my childhood friends. I try to reconnect with my past whenever possible,” says he. He also shared his dreams of contributing for the betterment of the place where he grew up.
Shah believes that being kind and humane is the most important thing in life. “I look for closeness and bonding in a relation. I easily get touched by people and their emotions,” says he. He dislikes it when people move ahead in life and tend to forget their roots. “People even want to forget their past, but future won’t forgive you for this. You should never forget your roots and remember where you come from,” says he.