The Indian-American financial services market is like a wealthy area the size of Milwaukee that has escaped the attention of many life insurers and life insurance producers.
Multinational giants such as MetLife Inc., New York Life Insurance Company and Prudential Financial Inc. have made their Indian-American marketing programs more than a footnote to their Asian-American marketing programs. They advertise on Indian-American television channels, sponsor Indian religious and cultural events, and make a point of hiring Indian-American sales representatives.
But, for the most part, the Asian-Indian market “is an exploding marketplace that’s not yet been tapped,” says Niraj Baxi, a Cupertino, Calif., life insurance agent.
Baxi, the son a former executive director of the Life Insurance Corp. of India, Mumbai, the biggest life insurer in India, came to the United States in 1979. Since then, he has built a thriving independent agency.
Meanwhile, the population of Asian-Indians living in the United States has skyrocketed, soaring to 1.7 million in 2000, up from 815,000 just 10 years earlier.
Indian-Americans speak many languages and come from many different regions and ethnic groups within India.
But a Census Bureau report on the demographics of U.S. residents who were born in India suggests that the typical Asian-American immigrant should be a great financial services prospect: in 2000, 38% of Indian-American immigrants over age 25 held graduate degrees or professional degrees, compared with just 8.9% of all U.S. residents in that age group, and about 15% of Indian immigrants had annual household incomes over $150,000, compared with 5.6% of all U.S. households. The median family income of an Indian-American immigrant was $75,000, about 50% more than the median family income for all U.S. residents.
Asian-Indian immigrants were about three times as likely as other U.S. residents to own businesses with employees and about 30 times as likely to own hotels or other lodging places.
Yet Baxi says he sees even fewer life insurance company ads in Indian-American newspapers these days than he saw a few years ago.
“I’m baffled,” Baxi says.
U.S. life insurers and insurance producers may worry about the challenge of explaining the need for life insurance to immigrants from some cultures that make little use of life insurance.
But most of the educated, entrepreneurial Indians who immigrate to the United States are highly conscious of the need for insurance protection and well aware of the need to plan for educational expenses, retirement expenses and other expenses, Baxi says.