Opinion

Remembering TA Pai’s contribution to India's banking sector

Updated on: Jan 16, 2022
Welfare of people was Pai’s top most priority

Welfare of people was Pai’s top most priority | Photo Credit: marchmeena29

Welfare of people was given top most priority

Vishwanathan Iyer

‘Never be bogged down by the limitations of the current situations, never shy away from bold steps and most importantly always look for long-term sustainable solutions (and not quick fixes)’

– Dr. Tonse Anant Pai

Many of the initiatives pioneered by Dr TA Pai as Chairman of the Syndicate Bank that were unheard of -- all women bank as early as 1962 in Sheshadripuram (followed by nine such all-women branches across the country), finance foreign education to more than 5,400 students without the guarantee of anybody (yet with a track record of 100 per cent repayment) and more importantly being interested in welfare of people and not just as prospective clients.

Women-centric

His oft repeated one-line mantra every time he visited any branch was ‘never under-estimate the power of a woman’. Whether it was reaching out to women vegetable vendors at Belgaum or fisher women of South Kanara district, he truly believed in the ability of women to transform not just their own families but also the environment in which they interacted. He looked at women and young students as change-agents of society.

“The banker gets satisfaction only when his money, his loan, has built up people” something that Dr. T A Pai genuinely believed and demonstrated throughout his association with Syndicate Bank. And it is his conviction of helping people ‘to carry them forward’ made him see banking not just as a lending institution, but an organization that truly cared for her depositors and borrowers. He often quipped “your client has to be kept busy earning more money so that you can get back what you have lent”.

It is this genuine interest in the welfare of people that pushed Anant to undertake various initiatives within the bank and later through the Foundation (when the RBI rules prevented it). Dr. T A Pai was truly a father-figure of his times in the co-operative movement. Some of his unique initiatives include agricultural finance for pump sets and power tillers, supporting soil testing and many other pro-farmer initiatives, promoting, and supporting many value-added activities around fisheries, farming and village industry. He was a true practitioner of the ‘triple bottom line’, long before the world knew or understood it.

Bank mergers

In an era where socialism was foaming, everything that CEOs/MDs did particularly with respect to mergers or expansion was seen with a lot of suspicion. It is at that time, he managed to merge 20 big and small banks with Syndicate bank and that too without any labour disputes or litigations – a tribute to the patience and understanding of Dr. T A Pai. The assimilation of human resources was skilfully managed – a major task considering the unevenness of the qualifications of the personnel that had to be absorbed. He had seen to it that bank staff members were given special training to fit them into Syndicate Bank culture. It was indeed an exercise in ‘tact’ as much it was in ‘goodwill.’

Dr Pai led Syndicate Bank to phenomenal growth all the way till 1969, when it was nationalised along with 13 other major banks. Even after that, he stayed on as Custodian of the Bank for another eight months and helped nurture the same. It is to the credit of Pai family and particularly Dr. TMA Pai and Dr. TA Pai that a bank based out of rural India grew at such remarkable rate that it was counted among the most innovative as well as well performing major banks worthy enough of nationalisation. A compliment that Dr. T A Pai cherished till the end was from Mr. C Rajagopalachari: “you have now shown what a bank can do even to build people”.

Post nationalisation, Dr. T A Pai took up the Chairmanship of LIC and continued to contribute to the sector of financial services. His one last act of contributing to the banking and financial services sector before his untimely and rather early demise was to set up a Business school in 1980. True to the founder’s vision, the T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), located in the remote Badagabettu village (Manipal), stands tall and gets counted among top B-Schools in India and offers an excellent Master’s Program (MBA) in Banking and Financial Services.

The writer is Professor, Dean – Academics & Chairman – International Accreditation, T A Pai Management Institute, Manipal

Published on January 16, 2022
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