R H Patil: Builder of Institutions

The founder of the National Stock Exchange and an intellectual, died on April 12. He was 74

Published: Apr 20, 2012
R H Patil: Builder of Institutions
Image: Adeel Halim / Reuters

Name: R H Patil
September 5, 1937
Education: MA (Econ), & PhD (Econ) from Mumbai University
Achievements: Set up the National Stock Exchange and Clearing Corporation of India. Instrumental in creating National Securities Depository Ltd

In early 1992, SS Nadkarni, the chairman and managing director of IDBI, then India’s biggest industrial financier, told a colleague that there could be some big news in the organisation. RH Patil is going to quit, Nadkarni told him. “But you have been grooming him for a bigger operational role,” the surprised colleague said. “Yes, but he does not want to work under anyone anymore. He wants to be on his own,” Nadkarni replied.

While Patil’s itch for independence was egging him to leave IDBI, a crisis was brewing in the Indian capital markets; a crisis so big that it would shake the very foundations of the country’s financial architecture. The infamous Harshad Mehta scam put the spotlight squarely on the century old Bombay Stock Exchange and the powerful brokers who ran it as their fiefdom. In the scam’s wake, the government decided to create a competitor to take on the BSE and Patil was handpicked by Nadkarni to set it up. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ramachandra H Patil was 55 then and had quietly established for himself the reputation of a sharp economist with an eye for operational details. Born in Nandgad in Belgaum, Karnataka, Patil studied at Karnataka College in Dharwad. “I got bored of Dharwad,” he told an interviewer in 2010, “and shifted to Pune’s Fergusson College.’’ He went on to do a PhD in economics from Mumbai University before joining the Reserve Bank of India and later, IDBI.

Chairman and managing director of Prime Database, Prithvi Haldea, who was a member of a Patil-chaired panel for suggesting a framework for a corporate bonds market, remembers his nondescript office in Mahindra Towers in Worli, Mumbai, where the NSE was initially headquartered. When Haldea pointed out that the chief of NSE deserved a better room, Patil remarked, “What for? All you need is an alert brain, a table and a pen.” For someone who required only basic office supplies to function, Patil created an institution that rivalled the world’s best in technological sophistication and organisational standards.

“He was a true institution builder, a warm and gracious human being; a person from whom I have learnt the most. I will miss him. NSE will miss him. The financial sector will miss him,” Ravi Narain, the current managing director and CEO of NSE said in a tribute.

RH Patil perhaps passed away with a regret. His panel’s suggestions for a corporate bond market in India remain on paper. “If those recommendations were acted upon, India would have had one of the biggest bond markets in the world by now,” says Prime Database’s Haldea. 

(This story appears in the 11 May, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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