Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has now made its
services more extensive and accessible by extending
its WAN to the far corners of the nation. The next step
is serving insurance policies on the Web. by Brian Pereira
& Minu Sirsalewala
the customer base of a services-oriented company is
almost four crore, and service contracts usually span
a human lifecycle, enduring customer satisfaction right
through becomes quite a challenge for a company. In
such a business scenario, robust and extensive networking
becomes mandatory for all operations.
The LIC WAN/MAN network is a perfect example of technology
being used to streamline operations and take customer
satisfaction to higher levels. LIC has now extended
its WAN, voice-enabled it, and set up a Web server.
All this makes transactions a lot simpler and quicker
for its customers. A policy holder will no longer need
to visit the branch office and run from pillar to post,
to check the status of a policyfor he will soon
be able to do this online (akin to Internet banking).
And in the near future, if someone lodges a complaint
online or requests a change in the policy, it won't
be lost under a heap of dusty box files. LIC says the
new operational procedures will enable it to address
customer grievances within a week.
LIC is benefiting too. Its online collections for premiums
are rising rapidly every month. And because the new
network is voice-enabled, the company has cut down drastically
on costs for long-distance calls.
Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) is
a 1,93,621.69 crore public sector enterprise
(total assets as of 31st March 2001). LIC has
1,25,000 employees and 6,28,301 agents across
the country, and it services approximately four
crore policy holders.
LIC's operations span the length and breadth
of the nation through seven zonal offices, 100
divisional offices, and 2,048 branch offices.
Servicing so many customers across the country
is quite a challenging task, and LIC wanted
to improve customer services by streamlining
processes and making policies more accessible
to customers. It also needed to reduce costs
on travel and intra-office communications.
An extensive network with a Web front-end to
make policies and services more accessible.
LIC connected more branches, district centers
and zonal offices to the WAN in a hierarchical
arrangement. It then set up a Web server so
that policy holders could lodge complaints online,
modify policy information or just check the
status of policies. To cut costs on travel and
long distance calls, LIC chose to voice-enable
its WAN and deploy video conferencing solutions.
It needed to upgrade its leased lines for voice
and video traffic. This involved replacing older
routers with new voice-enabled one's having
more memory and processing power. While doing
so, LIC also interfaced its EPABX voice communications
systems with the WAN.
The upgraded and extended WAN streamlines processes,
making it easier for customers and LIC staff
to check the status of policies, address grievances,
and act on feedback. Collections via the Web
reduce time taken for transactions. All this
translates to improved efficiency levels in
service. LIC is also saving on intra-office
long distance communications, thanks to the
use of VoIP and video conferencing technologies
on its WAN.
The nationwide WAN is arranged in a hierarchical fashion.
The Central Office (C.O.) at Nariman Point, Mumbai is
the network core. Next in the hierarchy are the seven
zonal offices located at Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai,
Kanpur, Hyderabad, and Bhopal. The district/divisional
offices (also known as MAN centers) come next, and these
are in turn linked to the branch offices/branches, which
are at the lowest tier in the hierarchy. All branch
offices have LANs. To date, there are a total of 89
There are two sides to the networkthe Web server
that offers customer services through the Internet,
and the nationwide intranet (WAN) which uses leased
lines and VSATs for connectivity. The WAN is being upgraded
for zone/division communication using VoIP and video
Database servers and routing equipment form the heart
of this network. The WAN is structured for distributed
processing and there is no central databaseeach
division maintains a database of policy holders. The
servers at the branch and district offices hold policy
information for customers residing at these respective
areas only. The Central Office in Mumbai, maintains
an index of policy numbers and the corresponding IP
addresses of the servers on which these policies reside.
For the first MAN center, LIC went in for Sun servers.
Later on, for the other two MAN centers, Intel servers
were selected, to maintain compatibility with the branch
applications and systems. The servers at the MAN centers
are being upgraded to the Intel Xeon platform. However,
Sun servers are being used for Web services.
The servers at the MAN center running on SCO UnixWare
7 operating system have MF COBOL applications. The branch
centers use Softek Cobol. Mail
servers and application servers (for CRM) will be deployed
at a later stage. For
the leased line network, LIC has chosen Cisco routers,
RAD modems/multiplexers and Cisco or D-Link unmanaged
K. Chitra, Assistant Secretary (IT), LIC, says the routers
at the zonal centers had to be upgraded as more MAN
centers were added to the network. Initially, Cisco
2600 series routers were chosen for servicing the first
10 MAN centers (under seven zonal offices). But these
were replaced with Cisco 3640 series last year, when
another 33 MAN centers were connected. The routers at
the zonal offices were once again upgraded to 3600 series
as the network expanded, to connect 89 MAN centers in
"The Cisco 3640 series routers (at the seven zonal
offices) could not service all the divisions (MAN centers)
under them. So at the zonal level we upgraded the routers
to Cisco 3660 series (3661/62)," says Chitra. "The
3661/62 is a six slot router and it was chosen because
it has more memory capacity and greater processing power.
These routers also offer more slots for leased line
Presently, the MAN centers use Cisco 3640 routers and
the branches use Cisco 1750/1720 series routers. These
routers are voice enabled, but at present only data
passes through. The links between the MAN centers and
zonal centers carry both voice and data. The modems
and multiplexer (MUX) are other essential equipment,
and RAD products were chosen. The MUX helps in consolidating
separate channels, cuts down the number of modems and
also reduces margin for failure.
Explains Chitra, "In the Central Office we had
20 lines coming in to the router. We could have gone
in for an E1 channel (30 x 64 Kbps lines) from DoT.
But this would require 30 separate modems. Also, in
that case, if the E1 channel went down, then the whole
line would fail. Hence we decided to go in for a RAD
MUX which is similar to the equipment available at DoT.
We have gone in for an E1 channel at our Bangalore,
Thane, Pune and Mumbai MAN centers."
Five divisional offices/MAN centers and 15 branches
will have VSAT connectivity, for linking distant divisions/branches
(like those in the Eastern region), with the C.O. in
Mumbai. The MAN centers with VSATs are Bongaigon, Silchar,
Jorhat, Jalpaiguri, Srinigar/Jammu.
VSAT connectivity has been provided by HCL Comnet. SCPC-PAMA
will be used for VSATs.
A Web server has been set up at the central office (www.licindia.com)
for the purpose of offering policy holders basic services.
In the near future a registered user can avail of services
like making modifications to a policy (change of address,
change of nominee), querying the status of the policy,
etc. Already, LIC can send policy holders premium notices
by e-mail. Further, customers can use the Web for placing
complains/grievances and these can be resolved within
At present, policy holders can pay premiums online through
services providers (ICICI bank, HDFC bank, UTI bank,
Bank of Punjab, Corporation Bank, Billjunction.com and
"Through the website we will be offering a statement
of all the premiums paid during the financial year,
for filing of income tax returns. We plan to provide
more value-added services later," says LIC's IT
LIC is benefiting too. Payments via the Web are going
up every month, and workflow processes have been streamlined.
As of February 2002, there were 2,872 collections for
premiums made through the Web, amounting to Rs 86,28,410.
"The collections we are getting via the Internet
are much more than what we would get through a service
provider. It has also reduced the time taken for a transaction,"
says Lakshmanan. "We are paying the bank (service
provider) Rs 3 per transaction as collection charges.
But we also have to send a notice to the bank, collect
the payments, etc. When doing this the traditional way,
it takes a much longer time."
Currently, the Web server and intranet/WAN are not directly
connected, but LIC will interconnect the two with a
leased line and place a firewall in between.