Star Health founder, director Venkatasamy Jagannathan resigns from board
For the 79-year-old industry veteran, this is not the first retirement in his 53-year stellar career
On Saturday, when Star Health founder, director Venkatasamy Jagannathan resigned as the non-executive chairman and director, the market capitalisation of Star Health was close to Rs 30,100 crore with over 14,000 employees, scripting an unparalleled growth story for the country’s first standalone health insurance company.
For the 79-year-old industry veteran, this is not the first retirement in his 53-year stellar career. Before Star Health, he had scripted a real turnaround saga with state-run United India Insurance Company (United India).
When he took over as chairman and managing director (CMD) of United India in 2001, the company was ratcheting up losses of Rs 50 lakh. When he retired in October 2004, it chalked up a profit of over Rs 400 crore.
Ensconced in his home in Poes Garden, Jagannathan turns philosophical when asked about his future and of Star Health’s.
Jagannathan started his career at Hercules Insurance Company on June 3, 1970, and became an administrative officer with United India during Nationalisation. In his sure-footed pursuit of success, he slowly climbed up the rungs of the ladder to become CMD of the company one day.
It was after his retirement that he joined hands with ETA Star Group to start Star Health.
To save money, he had to lease typewriters. For the first two years, people looked at the venture with trepidation of failure. However, getting two government health insurance programmes, first in Andhra Pradesh and then in Tamil Nadu, turned out to be a game changer for the company, following which people started reposing trust in Star Health.
The company created a team of doctors to look into every minutiae of every bill.
Today, it has 400 doctors and is credited with having one of the largest health insurance hospital networks in India, encompassing 13,000 hospitals.
Jagannathan recalls how he ensured branch managers were hired from their respective areas and how the founder would field customer calls, often at midnight.
When asked about the highest point of his career, Jagannathan calls attention to the company’s 2022–23 performance. The company clocked a profit of Rs 618 crore and an underwriting profit of Rs 204 crore, helping him to hang up his boots and post the highest-ever profit and the best industry numbers.
Looking at the Star Health numbers, nearly 39 per cent of its revenue was derived from South India, 23 per cent from West India, 30 per cent from North India, and 8 per cent from East India.
Jagannathan is credited with starting lunch for Star Health employees and even offering employee stock ownership plans (ESOPS) at the branch manager level, going against the grain of companies restricting ESOPs to senior-level executives only.
Although he resigned from the post of CMD in May this year, he continued as non-executive chairman and director. However, the industry veteran is holding his cards close to his chest as far as retirement plans go, saying he is weighing up all fields for his comeback.