Manoj Kumar Lal Karn, CEO of Union Life Insurance, has around 25 years of experience in the insurance sector. Karn, who started his career in insurance as a junior assistant has reached his current position with years of hard work and sincerity. In a conversation with Manisha Balami of New Business Age, Karn shared his career story.
Born in 2021 in Mahottari, Karn went to India to pursue his higher studies after completing his SLC. As most of his friends went to the neighbouring country for higher studies, he too did his high school and Bachelors of Science (B.Sc) from India. After returning to Nepal, he came to Kathmandu in 1992 and started giving tuition classes to students. He worked as a teacher for around two years. Meanwhile, he also took post-graduate diploma classes in computer studies.
During his school days, he was politically active. He shares how he used to actively participate in political activities. He elucidates the time he had participated in the mass movement in 1990 where he supported democracy to overthrow the Panchayat system. “As I was very active in politics, my parents thought I might ruin or neglect my studies. So they sent me to India for further studies,” he shares. “If they hadn’t forced me to go to India, I might have ruined my studies and would not have been in this position today,” he adds.
As a child, Karn wanted to become a science teacher. He used to live with his maternal uncles when he was studying in the eighth grade. As they were science teachers, he was influenced by them and wanted to pursue his career in science. However, after pursuing teaching as a profession for two years, he chose to change his area of work.
Karn started his career in the insurance sector in 1995, with National Life and General Insurance (now known as National Life Insurance) as a junior assistant. Working in the company allowed him to learn about both life and non-life insurance. After working in the company for more than two years, he came to Kathmandu and joined United Life Insurance Company, working in the marketing field.
In 2001, he joined Life Insurance Corporation Nepal (LIC) as a branch manager. He worked with the company for around seven years and then joined Alliance Insurance (now Prabhu Insurance). He worked there for six years as a senior manager. Prior to joining Alliance Insurance, he had no formal management classes as he was from a science background. After joining the company, in 2008, he did an MBA from Lord Buddha College.
Since he had decided to continue his career in the insurance sector, he further studiedfor hislicentiate and associate exam in 2010 from Insurance Institute of India.
Further, Karn joined Surya Insurance as a Deputy General Manager. After being involved in more than half a dozen companies, he was finally appointed as CEO in Union Life Insurance in 2018.
Karn shares an anecdote about an incident that happened when he was around nine years of age. “There used to be a big log nearby the river where elders used to wash clothes. I was studying in class five then. I remember that my friends and I used to play on that log. One of the friends had taken that log in the middle of the river. We were in the middle of the river and were scared because we didn’t know swimming at that time. However, we played by pulling each other's arms and legs. We learned how to swim on that day. From the next day onwards we took the log in the middle to swim”, he recalls ecstatically. “So what I mean to say is that to learn something we must be able to take risks or challenges,” he adds. When a person can face challenges, then he learns, becomes more responsible and can move forward, he says. He has been applying this principle in every step of his life since then.
Karn says that he loves taking risks and facing challenges upfront. He feels challenges are the most important thing that contributes to a person’s personal as well as professional growth. “The more the challenge comes, the more fun it gets,” he explains.
Although there were ups and downs, challenges and risks, he says that joining LIC was the turning point of his career. Initially, when he joined LIC, he felt a lot of pressure. However, he used to convince himself that if he was able to handle the pressure, it would help his professional growth. Today he credits LIC as he feels that the company has made him the person he is today. “I am at this stage because of LIC and my hard work,” he states.
Karn believes in sincerity and hard work. He says that the sky is the limit for those who have these qualities. He says that a person should work twice as much as his salary. “In this way, there will be automatic growth in the person,” he says. He adds that if there is a sense of ownership, the person will progress as well as the company.
When Karn was young, he would seldom stay idle. He states that he used to have his small businesses. By the time he completed his SLC, he was already independent on his own and has never asked money from his parents since then.
Motivation and Ideal person
He finds Kamalji Sahay as his greatest role model. Sahay used to be the General Manager of LIC when he joined the company. Karn says that his working style motivated him the most. Even though he was a high-level officer from India, he never made Karn feel undervalued; rather he was helpful and cooperative. The two are still in contact and whenever Karn needs any help, he remembers Sahay. Along with this, his village is also a source of motivation to him. He praises every member from his village as he believes that they have supported him throughout. “Seeing people older than me from my village complete higher studies and pursue a better career, I was very motivated and wanted to do better. So they are also my source of inspiration,” he adds.
An Avid Reader
“I read”, he says. Not only when he has free time, but it’s his daily routine. “I have separated an hour a day for reading. I read anything that motivates me and enhances my knowledge”.
‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill, ‘The Power of the Subconscious Mind’ by Joseph Murphy and ‘As a Man Thinketh’ by James Allen are some of his recent reads. He says that the more we read, the more knowledge we gain.
Suggestions for Youths
Being in insurance sector for more than two decades, he suggests young people choose the proper subject before professionally entering the field. He says a person needs to wisely choose the area he/she wants to pursue his career in.
Karn sees huge opportunities in the Nepali insurance sector. He says that the scenario of insurance has changed a lot and insurance not only contributes to the country’s economy, it also increases the living standard of people.