The man who saw tomorrow

RH Patil (1937-2012) created the National Stock Exchange, which is among the best in the world 

Priyam Dhar

When Dr RH Patil left a cushy job at IDBI to plunge into uncharted territory, it was very out of character for someone who had spent his entire career working in government institutions. He, however, nonchalantly went on to create history. The critics were not kind, though. When he went about asking brokers from regional exchanges to become members in the new exchange that he was starting, the prompt reply was, “Why should we ever come to your exchange?” The overriding thought was, ‘babus’ from government institutions do not know anything about the market and will end up designing a half-baked exchange. The reality could not have been further from the truth.

What the ‘babu’ created has not only left regional stock exchanges miles behind, but also catapulted India to the global league of countries having a world-class stock exchange. It is among the very best by any yardstick with which you would want to compare it. So be it risk management or settlement systems, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) ranks right up there with the best. In Dr Patil’s words, “Many of the decisions that we took were bold decisions in the sense that it never occurred to us that some of them may not succeed. Others, however, were more than sure that we would not succeed; some even went out of their way to make sure that we did not succeed.”

Dr Patil clearly believed in the old maxim “speak softly but carry a big stick”. In his case, the big stick was execution. Along with the NSE, Dr Patil also helped create the National Securities Depository, the National Securities Clearing Corporation as well as the Clearing Corporation of India. Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, he recalled an interesting incident to this magazine in his last interview. Post the launch of the NSE, a prominent investment banker came up to him and asked, “Mr Patil, with due respect to you, this experiment has worked only because of you and your team, but what about continuity?” Well, the facts speak for themselves. If the Creator ever needed assistance sorting out his bad deliveries from the good, he now has a helping hand. And if India does become an important financial centre in the years to come, Dr Patil’s contribution would surely rank among the highest.