Mumbai: An economist by profession, Urjit Patel has his task cut out as the next Reserve Bank of Indai (RBI) Governor — to keep inflation under check without hurting growth — but he will have to do that without being seen as an interest rate hawk, a title incumbent Raghuram Rajan had to carry unwillingly.
While Rajan's exit has been seen in many quarters as driven by his often candid views against various policies of the government, Patel's appointment as the 24th RBI Governor may end up ensuring continuity of the monetary policy of the current Governor.
Ironically, Rajan will be succeeded by a Deputy who went on to be known as his 'inflation warrior' for steering one of the biggest reforms carried out by the RBI in recent history by changing its face to an inflation-targetting central bank.
52-year-old Patel headed a committee on Monetary Policy Reforms that suggested a medium-term target on inflation and a glide-path to achieve the number. It was this report that led to the signing of an agreement on inflation targeting between the government and the central bank on February 20, 2015.
When he assumes charge as RBI Governor after Rajan demits office on September 4, Patel will have an inflation target of 4 per cent for March 2018, with a legroom of two percentage points on either side, which has been since notified by the government as per his own recommendations.
Patel, who was made Deputy Governor in January 2013, will also be among the few RBI Governors to have had a corporate background as most of the occupants of the top post at Mint Street were either career bureaucrats or economists with academic institutions.
A soft-spoken person of Gujarati origin who has kept a low profile throughout his term at RBI, Patel was first given a three year term as Deputy Governor and got an extension this January.
He has been heard rarely in the media and analyst conferences, barring a few media interviews, though his name has been doing the rounds as the next RBI Governor ever since Rajan made the surprise announcement in June that he would not opt for the second term.
Like Rajan, Patel also worked with International Monetary Fund before coming to India — first at the Finance Ministry and then at RBI.
He also served as Advisor (Energy and Infrastructure) with the Boston Consulting Group.
Some of his previous assignments include, President (Business Development) AT Reliance Industries Limited, Executive Director and Member of the Management Committee at IDFC and Director at Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
Born on October 28, 1963, Patel is a PhD (Economics) from Yale University (1990) and M Phil from Oxford (1986). He has been a non resident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution since 2009.
He was with International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 1990 and 1995 and worked on the US, India, Bahamas and Myanmar desks. He was on deputation (1996-1997) from the IMF to RBI.