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How Modi's government is already looking like the UPA

By hurtling from one controversy to another and responding with unconvincing spin-doctoring, the new regime appears startlingly like the old.

As the dust settles around the new Bharatiya Janata Party government in New Delhi, there's little that sounds new. There's supposedly a new order that wants to control the flow of information, and yet this doesn't seem that new. In any case, this control over information has not prevented the government from giving the impression that it is battling one crisis after another.

The previous government's crisis managers, who were clearly rather bad at their job, must be watching with some glee. If this is the state of affairs when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is still on its 100-day honeymoon, what great governance can we expect will follow?

Take the rail fare hike. We should laud the government's efforts to cut back on expenditure but also condemn its hypocrisy in defending the increase when Modi had opposed the previous, Congress-led regime's attempt to raise rail fares.

Defenders of this government accuse the UPA of leaving the treasury empty, something that the Congress denies. Couldn't the government have handled this better? Did it really need to do this before the rail budget? It should have considered in advance the measures it is now planning, such as introducing the hike in phases. If the government is selling us a Congress decision to raise rail fares, why did we elect this government?

This is just one example of how the BJP government is beginning to look like the UPA: doing damage control when the damage has already been done, acting unthinkingly with the arrogance of power and blaming the Opposition and the media and everyone else but itself.

This is how it has been from the start. First, the government faced some embarrassment over Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani's educational qualifications. Second, it had to make a minister in the Prime Minister's Office retract a statement that Modi was rethinking Article 370, which grants autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Then it had nothing to say about the use of draconian laws to make out cases against and arrest people critical of the prime minister. As the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Modi had condemned the hate crime that had led to the death of a student from Arunachal Pradesh in Delhi. Niether Modi nor his home minister had anything to say about a Hindutva outfit in Pune killing a Muslim just for being Muslim.

The government issued a circular saying bureaucrats should use Hindi instead of English for Tweets and updates on Facebook and couldn't defuse the backlash for days. All it needed to do was to issue another circular saying the government would Tweet and post Facebook announcements in all 22 languages of the Constitution's Eighth Schedule.

The government has revealed no plan to curb inflation, only calling a meeting and passing the buck to state governments, saying that they should curb hoarding. Inflation will come down, the government promises, echoing the promise that the UPA made every month for five years.

While campaigning, the BJP attacked the Congress regime's immorality, nepotism and arrogance. But how moral is this government in not sacking a minister in Rajasthan accused of rape? How moral is it when it copies the UPA's immorality of sacking BJP-appointed governors in 2004, despite a Supreme Court judgement that does not appreciate such pettiness?

If the BJP government is going to defend all indefensible things by saying the Congress did it too, why indeed did we boot out the Congress? If the Congress victimised an IAS officer for exposing Robert Vadra's alleged corruption, this government is not letting a lawyer become a judge because he did things inconvenient to the party in the past: he argued in the matter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh's fake encounter.

If the Congress regime saw cases regarding Bofors closed, the NDA is moving to close cases against Modi's right-hand man, Amit Shah. What is moral about deliberately leaking an Intelligence Bureau report calling inconvenient non-profits anti-nationals and curbing their right to receive donations from abroad?

From day one, the prime minister has shown dynamism in his approach towards foreign policy and yet there's already a big crisis on foreign shores. Indian workers in Iraq are being kidnapped and the government has made little headway.

You can imagine what the Bhartiya Janta Party would have been saying if it had been the Congress handling that crisis. It would have been called a weak government that was making India a weak state, one with no foreign policy leverage. How exactly is a "nationalist" government's approach to this hostage crisis different from what any other?

The good days, it turns out, are just like any other day. The next election may be five years away, but that's what the UPA also thought.

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45% consumers purchase financial products online according to our survey. Here’s why

How one of the last bastions of offline transactions is rapidly moving online.

With flight bookings, shopping and buying movie tickets all moving online, it was only a matter of time before purchasing financial products followed suit. In fact, with greater safety, better user interfaces, simpler processes and of course, busier lives, many Indians are opting to buy financial products like insurance and bank deposits online and on-the-go rather than at a bank branch.

We conducted a survey among 150 consumers in 4 metro cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad) and 2 tier-II cities (Indore and Bhopal) to understand the financial products Indians are buying online and their needs.

The market for financial products still has huge potential for growth with 29% respondents reporting that they owned no financial instruments. Insurance is without a doubt the most widely owned financial instrument for Indians. Nearly half the sample—45% of the respondents—reported investing in insurance. Apart from that, around 27% invested in bank deposits like Fixed and Recurring Deposits and only 13% opted for mutual funds, 13% bought stocks, and just 10% took home loans. While many people still consume financial products only at their bank branches, a large number have started seeking financial information and buying financial instruments online.

The shifting tide

We found that 45% of the survey respondents bought financial products online, indicating that a large chunk of Indians is trusting the internet to manage something as sensitive as their financial investments. It is clear that Indians value the distinct advantages of transacting online. Convenience is an integral part of the experience—60% of those who bought financial products online felt that convenience played an important role in choosing to purchase online. Multiple aspects of convenience resonate with buyers—over 40% felt that the availability of 24/7 services and the ease of comparing different products from drove them to buy online.

However, findings also reveal some concerns that even tech-savvy Indians have with the online medium.

Security is king

Understandably, security is a key factor for buyers of financial products. Even among the 45% who purchased financial products online, almost half felt that the lack of security prevented them from buying more financial products online. Tellingly, the most commonly bought financial product online is general insurance. It has to be bought (in the case of travel) or renewed (in the case of car insurance) regularly and quickly, which is easier done online. It also doesn’t require the submission of too many personal documents—another­ factor reported by many as a barrier to online purchase of financial products.

To overcome these security concerns, many companies are taking concrete steps to improve the online security of their portals. They are setting up SSL security systems that encrypt and protect the user’s data and payments and are educating customers on how to recognize online payment scams. Thus, people are slowly moving towards buying high involvement financial items like life insurance as well online.

The human factor

Research is a crucial part of the buying process, and most buyers seek information from multiple sources. While research for several consumer products like electronics and furniture has moved online even if purchase is offline, financial products have been slower to move, especially due to the need for expertise. From the sample, 55% rated talking to financial consultants and advisors as very important. Similarly, 55% rated advice from friends and family as very important.

As is evident, while the world is going online, there is something to be said for the familiarity and comfort of human interaction. Even online buyers value non-digital channels of communication. Of those who bought financial products online, 25% felt that visiting bank branches was important, 30% felt that recommendations from friends and family was important, and 33% felt that discussing it with financial advisors was important.

However, we find that online forums and aggregators are also gaining in terms of people using them to research products. According to a BCG report, search queries on life and health insurance have grown 4.5 times from 2008 to 2013, showing that digital is certainly influencing the research part of the buying cycle. Many life insurance companies and banks have caught on to this trend and are finding ways of making customer service executives available online through chat facilities on their portals. Additionally, companies are also investing in a better online user experience by designing their websites to be simple, attractive and easy-to-understand, so that the process of purchase becomes easier for customers.

When it comes to buying insurance, finding an appropriate plan is not an easy process. Life insurance companies are using technology and algorithms to overcome these human biases with innovative products like life insurance calculators. An example of this is the HDFC Life insurance profiler which simplifies the process of choosing an insurance plan. A person can enter five to six parameters and get an objective opinion on the best insurance plan suited to his or her time and status in life.

HDFC Life Insurance has also taken detailed note of its customers’ requirements as they move towards the digital age. Its product website has been designed to ensure consumers feel secure and well attended to when transacting online. All payment gateways have SSL security and are ISO 27001 certified to ensure optimum security. Additionally, to facilitate easy query resolution, it offers an online chat function along with co-browsing where a user can give control of her or her system to the chat executive so that details can be filled in for them. To solve for the barrier of document submission, HDFC Life even allows users to submit documents through e-mail or upload files on Google drive in place of hard copies. Easy e-KYC facilities allow for the Aadhar card and address proof to be uploaded online to quickly verify identity. To find the right insurance plan for yourself and experience the innovative services that the organization has to proffer head to their insurance profiler to start your journey towards buying a life insurance plan.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HDFC Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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