Two of the crown jewels of IE, S V Mony and N K Thingalaya, died on 25 January. The day was auspicious, Bahula Panchami when the great composer Thyagaraja became immortal 172 years ago. These stalwarts had several sterling qualities of the great saint, of humility, devotion and passion for their mission.
S V Mony was a director in the board of Economist Communications Ltd for over a decade.
For over four decades Mony was intimately connected with the insurance sector not just in India but across the globe from the West Indies to Australia. He is one of the principal architects of the general and life insurance businesses.
For a decade from 1975, Mony was the regional insurance advisor to 13 Caribbean countries. He made sterling contributions to the formulation of insurance policies and for setting up a regulatory framework for the national and reinsurance companies of these countries.
Over the next decade, Mony headed the New India Assurance Co, the largest general insurance company of India. Later he was the Chairman of General Insurance Corporation of India. This period witnessed the industry registering handsome expansion both in India and abroad.
Mony’s advice continued to be sought for his vast experience and involvement in the whole range of insurance business. Look at some of the companies with which he was closely associated: Asian Reinsurance Corporation, Bangkok, LIC of India, Security Trading Corporation, UTI Bank, CRISIL, IRDA… He represented India on financial services in the Uruguay Round talks as also the UNCTAD.
Mony opted for early retirement despite Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh requesting him to continue. He shifted to Singapore and was a senior fellow at the Business School of the Nanyang Technology University where he taught actuarial science and insurance. His services were continued to be sought by international and national organisations. He was the Asia Director for GIO, Australia.
After years of extensive involvement in general insurance, Mony shifted to life insurance and headed the life insurance business of Sanmar Group, AMP Sanmar.
An eloquent speaker, Mony firmly held that life insurance is the only financial service that took care of the long term investment needs of the retail customer. He expressed concern over both the insurance density and penetration of insurance in India being among the lowest in the world. “Economic growth presents us with a God-sent opportunity to spread insurance,” used to say this eternal optimist.
When IE was planning the celebration of its golden jubilee on 15 March 2018, Mony contacted several leaders in Mumbai and Delhi and apprised them of the seminars on India 2030 and invited them for participation. He wrote an exclusive article for the commemoration volume and participated in the day-long programme.
R Thyagarajan reminisces
Here are the views of another stalwart of the insurance industry, R Thyagarajan, Shriram Group, who was closely connected with Mony for three decades:
“A post graduate in mathematics, Mony’s thinking was logical. He looked at issues without emotion and bias. He provided clarity to an issue and analysed its impact.
“Mony headed GIC with great distinction guiding the performance of the four public sector general insurance companies. When he found the autonomy of the institution was eroded, he opted to resign ahead of his tenure and he did it quietly without making an issue.
“He offered his advice on insurance issues without putting a high price for consultancy. Where he was an arbitrator, Mony disposed of the cases quickly and for a modest fee. The respect he commanded for impartial and fair decisions ensured that his awards were readily accepted. “I don’t think anyone else in India could be compared with Mony for his knowledge and command over the subject of insurance. I admire his extensive experience and his ability to decide on insurance issues. He was a very constructive thinker and conveyed his thought clear and bold.
“His demise is an irreparable loss to the insurance industry,” said Thyagarajan.
His passion for rural banking
Dr N K Thingalaya (NKT) will be remembered for his extensive research in various aspects of banking, mainly rural banking. Concepts of pigmy deposits, regional rural banks and economic profiling of rural customers owe a lot to NKT.
I first met NKT at a conference of housing inaugurated by then Minister of Planning, C Subramaniam at Ooty in the early 1970s. Our visits to the colonies of plantation workers and the discussions at the seminar helped gain insights into the problems of rural housing.
Our relations with NKT thickened and continued over the next 47 years. This period saw NKT building Syndicate Bank ’s economics department. NKT rose to become the chairman and managing director of the bank. The all-women branches and the massive branch expansion with particular emphasis on rural banks owe an great deal to NKT.
On his retirement in 1997, NKT started writing a regular column on banking for IE. For 21 years his column appeared in the IE issues without a break. Not just on banking; with his extensive knowledge in financial services, NKT had written on mutual funds and helped us produce a comprehensive issue on the famous cradle of banking, Mangaluru. NKT holds the record for regular contributions to IE only after the editor!
NKT has been intimately connected with Justice K S Hegde Institute of Management where he had been teaching. NKT has authored several books including the history of banks like IOB. He was intimately involved with the Bank Economists Association which used to hold periodic national level conferences.
I have my admiration for NKT for his humility and spartan simplicity. His contributions sent from Mangaluru always reached us ahead of schedule.
Let me end by quoting NKT:
“I realised that rural banking can be made an instrument for mitigating the pangs of poverty, if not its complete elimination. Though I was not able to wipe out the tears of many, I was fortunate to see some smiling faces in rural India”
IE feels orphaned by the death of two of its close associates. It recalls with gratitude their sterling contributions. We convey our condolences to the families and pray for the souls to rest in peace.