Chandra Schaffter

Janashakthi Insurance

Sixty years in any industry or sector is an astonishing achievement. But this gregarious, silver maned octogenarian wears the mantle of ‘Father of Insurance in Sri Lanka’ with a disarming humility.

Chandra Schaffter has defined much of the insurance sector, and its format and regulation, in his long association with it. His mercurial personality and dynamism imbued what had been hitherto perceived as a rather drab and lugubrious sector with energy and verve.

There was a restlessness that nothing seemed to assuage. He left school with a distinguished record and gained entrance to the coveted Medical Faculty but walked away from its opportunities. Schaffter then found work as a clerk at Ceylon Insurance but moved on from this too, to find himself at Carson Cumberbatch where he set his hat down for a while.

But the risk taker in him wasn’t appeased and he walked away from his stable job to venture out at the bottom of the pile as an insurance agent.  Schaffter understood that if he were to make it, he’d have to do it himself… because he realised he had “no influence or social connections.”

The privatisation of the insurance sector opened new opportunities, which Schaffter’s keen appreciation of its nuances led him to explore and exploit – and spurred him to set up his own business. In 1994, Janashakthi Insurance entered the insurance providers’ milieu.

Memorably he has said of the decision: “This was another risk in my life. We started a company with no money but it became a success… I was confident that with our innovative products and services, we would continue to grow.”

Schaffter is still very much a force to be reckoned with in the nation’s insurance sector. And he is as vociferous as he ever was in providing insights and directions on many aspects, including regulation and business segregation. He has not relinquished his competitive streak either and hopes to see the company he formed lead the insurance segment in his lifetime.

His pragmatic and no-nonsense attitude bears emulating; it is the secret to the success of his entrepreneurial risk taking. Asked what key qualities would propel innovative venturing in business, he advises: “Have a lot of confidence in your ability, be honest in what you do and do it well.”

Confidence and honesty aside, that special brand of dynamism and sheer energy is all his – and regrettably, rarely replicated.

Chandra Schaffter: a restless appetite for risk taking.