It was the year 2009, when Urjit R Patel, who is soon to take over as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), was introduced to a larger audience outside of economists and Finance Ministry mandarins.
When the UPA Government came into power for a second term, it announced a ‘100 day’ action plan, which became the subject of much discussion in the media. And Patel was the surprise choice of a Hindi news channel as an expert commentator on a programme series tracking these 100 days.
Patel was not a known face in TV studios at the time. Considering his extraordinary resume and higher studies abroad, there were doubts over how he would fare on a Hindi business news channel.
But in all the six episodes he appeared in, his simple but effective statements on economic issues and that too in Hindi floored the viewers.
This time around, Patel has once again surprised many when his name emerged for the very first time just few days ago, as a frontrunner to replace Subir Gokarn as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He was in race with another renowned economist Kalpana Kochhar and, of course, Gokarn himself. But, finally he was selected.
His profile on Brookings says, “Urjit Patel is an expert on economics and public finance in India, international trade, financial intermediation and regulation of infrastructure utilities.” He holds a doctorate in Economics from Yale University, and an M. Phil from Oxford University.
Patel has been a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution since 2009. At present, he is advisor (energy and infrastructure) to the Boston Consulting Group.
Between 2007 and 2011, he was President (Business Development) at Reliance Industries Ltd., where he, inter alia, worked on strategising commercial approaches for energy companies on climate change-mitigation policies.
Patel has also served on Government committees on integrated energy policy and the task force on direct taxes. He has also worked with the IMF and was an advisor to the Finance Ministry.
In fact, this will be his second stint with the RBI. From 1995 to 1997, he served as an advisor, on issues ranging from development of the debt market to pension, banking reforms and exchange rates.