Cigna to be first U.S. health insurance seller in India

Cigna will become the first U.S. insurer to sell health, wellness, and insurance products in India as part of a stand-alone joint venture with Indian conglomerate TTK Group, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The insurer is making the big international move in hopes of attracting the ever-growing affluent Indian middle class. "For health insurance, for private insurance, India is very underpenetrated, only 4 percent," Michael Ross, senior vice president for marketing at Cigna International, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "All the demographics are favorable."

The potential healthcare market in India includes 90 million households. Plus, Indians pay out of pocket for 64 percent of healthcare expenditures, suggesting a huge untapped market for insurance, reports the New York Times. Also key to Cigna's decision to sell insurance in India is that healthcare is the Indian economy's fastest growing sector, notes the WSJ.

Cigna's partnership with TTK, a consumer goods company best known for its pressure cookers and other appliances, will help it sell personal insurance products directly to consumers through TTK's 1,500 retail stores, phone, Internet, and other partners like banks. "Matching up with a retailer makes perfect sense," Bill Atwell, president of Cigna International, told the Times. "It allows you to think more broadly about how to reach the customer."

The companies hope to sell insurance policies beginning in 2013 after obtaining regulatory approval.

Cigna's international division is the company's fastest-growing and most profitable division with third-quarter profits up 58 percent over last year, compared with a 3.3 percent increase in profits in Cigna's main employer-sponsored insurance business, the Inquirer notes.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the New York Times article
- see the Philadelphia Inquirer article

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