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Barons of Banking


of banks and bankers
KS NARAYANAN | Issue Dated: January 19, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Bakhtiar K Dadabhoy | currency | Barons of Banking | ICICI | Raj Kumar Talwar | State Bank of India |

Since currency became medium of exchange for delivery of goods and services, banks have played a crucial role in shaping the life of individuals, communities, institutions, nations and their economies for a long time now. Except for a handful of individuals who shape these financial institutions and a few thousands who run them, banks are still yet to be understood.

The AD Shroff Memorial Trust which encourages the writing of biographies of individuals who have contributed significantly to the building of the Indian economy invited the author to write the book. In his message, Minoo R Shroff, Chairman and Managing Trustee points out how books on banking often suffer from a lack of reader interest.

But the Barons of Banking: Glimpses of Indian Banking History by Bakhtiar K Dadabhoy has avoided this pitfalls the barrier as it is a captivating narrative of the evolution of banking in India, spun around the contribution of half a dozen legendary institution builders and as well as institution they built and nurtured.

These include Sir Shorabi  Pochkhanawala, the founder of the Central Bank of India, Sir Purushottamdas Thakurdas, businessman and the central banker, whose outstanding and manifold contributions to public life , industry, insurance and banking, Sir Chintamani Dwarkanath Deshmukh, the first Indian Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, AD Shroff, eminent economist and institution builder and who was prime mover behind, the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI), HT Parekh who moulded ICICI and pioneered retail finance for housing when he founded the Housing and Development Finance Corporation in 1977 and Raj Kumar Talwar who as the chairman of the State Bank of India made lasting contributions to the sector as well.

These legends not only played a pioneering role in the growth of the institutions they founded, or they actively associated with, but left an indelible mark on the banking industry as a whole. So much so Yezdi H Malegam, a Trustee of Shroff Memorial notes in the Foreward: “The Indian banking system they shaped help has stood the test of time, and the resilience with which it has withstood the challenges posed by several global crises over the last two decades is evidence of robustness.”

Bakhtiar Dadabhoy who is the author of two popular books — Jeh – A Life of J.R.D. Tata and Sugar in Milk — Lives of Eminent Parsis; traces the history of banking in India with beginning with Hundi practice in Mughal period. However proper modern day banking began with the British Raj spreading to every nook and corner of India and it saw the emergence of three Presidency banks — the Bank of Calcutta (1860) ; the Bank of Bombay (1840) and the Bank of Madras (1843).

The book is divided into four parts, each part introducing the personality and recounting his career and his institution.
Book I deals with how Sorabji Pochkhanawala established the Central Bank of India against all odds and discusses the challenges to reaches a position of eminence within next two decades. Roping in Pherozeshah Mehta as Chairman of the bank Sorabji absorbed the huge Tata Industrial Bank. Credited with more than a dozen innovations (the savings bank account, the cheque book, rupee travellers’ cheques, safe deposit vaults and the Central Fixed and Flexible Trust Company) in his bank Sorabji also faced with internal dissensions, which came to be known as the “Masani Affair” leading to the resignation of Rustam Masani.

The book II deals on Central Banking in India, which highlights the contribution of Thakurdas who is known for his role in the famous “Ratio Debate” (fixation of rupee-viz Sterling) and campaigned tirelessly for a Central Bank and went on to become Director of the Reserve Bank of India for over 22 years from 1935 to 1957. This part of the book also deals CD Deshmukh with the former civil servant, Central Banker, Union Finance Minister, Educationist and Institution builder.

The next part starts with The State Bank of India and the Presidency Banks and their amalgamations to form the Imperial Bank of India and its nationalization.

The stellar role of R K Talwar as the chairman of SBI has been brought out in the last chapter.

The final Part deals with Development Banking and begins with the ‘Shroff Committee’ recommended that called for the establishment of the Industrial Development Bank and a Unit Trust for garnering savings. Peppered with several interesting anecdotes Barons of Banking focuses on the leading dramatis persone and traces their stellar efforts set against the trial and tribulations of a nation in the making.

Author:  Bakhtiar K Dadabhoy
Edition: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-81-8400-349-9
Pages: 478
Price: Rs 599

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017