Appointed as the eighteenth Governor of the RBI by the Chandra Shekhar government in 1990 during a period of a balance of payment crisis, Venkitaramanan held this position for two transformative years from 1990 to 1992.Despite lacking formal qualifications as an economist, he was selected for his familiarity with the balance of payment situation, which had led to depleted forex reserves.
Before his governorship, Venkitaramanan served as the Finance Secretary in the Ministry of Finance from 1985 to 1989. His immediate challenge as the RBI Governor was to manage the crisis by engaging with other central banks and multilateral institutions to raise foreign currency. This necessitated the unprecedented step of pledging gold reserves by the government.
He played a pivotal role in crisis management and implementing subsequent reforms under Manmohan Singh, including the devaluation of the rupee as part of the International Monetary Fund’s stabilisation programme.
Born in the town of Nagercoil in the princely state of Travancore, Venkitaramanan earned a postgraduate degree in physics from University College Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and later a master’s degree in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.
A member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Venkitaramanan served in various capacities, with his notable tenure as the Finance Secretary lasting for four years from 1985 to 1989.
Venkitaramanan faced criticism during the Harshad Mehta scam, considered by many to be a systemic failure in the government securities market operations. This incident led to subsequent reforms in the government securities market.
Post-retirement, Venkitaramanan remained active as the chairman of Ashok Leyland Investment Services, New Tirupur Area Development Corporation, and Ashok Leyland Finance. Additionally, he served on the boards of Reliance Industries Limited, SPIC, Piramal Healthcare, Tamil Nadu Water Investment Co., and HDFC.