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Born on March 10, 1911, in a banking family at Surat, Mr. Hasmukh Thakordas Parekh, fondly referred to as ‘Hasmukhbhai’, was the doyen of the Indian housing and financial sectors
He imbibed the spirit of banking from his father, but what shaped him more was the deep influence of his mother, and the stamp of her self-effacing character. He also grew up in the Gandhian era, and this had a deep impact on his values and philosophy.
A graduate in Economics from Mumbai, Mr. Parekh also pursued a B.Sc. degree in Banking & Finance from the London School of Economics.
After returning to India in 1936, Mr. Parekh began his financial career with a leading stock broking firm, Harkisandass Lukhmidass. Simultaneously, he was a lecturer in Economics at the St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai for about three years. He considered his two decade-long stint at the broking firm valuable, as it not only gave him his most basic lessons in the business, but also immensely contributed to his personal growth.
During this period Mr. Parekh also continued to study and write on different aspects of the economy and economic policy, money and banking, and also participated in public discussions.
Driven by a deep interest in investment banking, he decided to move on to his next major assignment. In 1956, Mr. Parekh joined the newly set up development finance institution, Industrial Credit & Investment Corporation of India Limited (ICICI) as its Deputy General Manager. ICICI was one of the earliest institutions sponsored by the World Bank in co-operation with the Government of India and the US Government.
A nationalist to the core, he valued global involvement and co-operation. In fact, he acknowledged his debt to the World Bank, in creating in him an interest in development banking and international co-operation. He advocated the formation of a ‘common market’ between India and its neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malaysia, etc., way back in 1962. This was followed up, over the years, by appeals to political leaders and even more characteristic, by suggestions regarding private action which would pave the way for a change in public policy.
Mr. Parekh rose to become ICICI’s Chairman in 1972. Under his leadership, ICICI grew impressively to gain acceptance of the Indian business community, recognition of Government and even became a showpiece for the World Bank. He was instrumental in helping the first generation of entrepreneurs of India live their dreams and, in turn, was able to bolster India’s economic growth.
By the time he moved on in 1978, ICICI had more than fulfilled its ambitious goal and became a financial landmark of India.
Extraordinary achievements start with unconventional thoughts. He was a man who dared to question, “Why can’t Indians have a home of their own with housing finance in the earlier years of their lives? Why should they have to wait till the end of their working careers?” Though the question was simple, the answer was not so. The uphill task notwithstanding, at an age of 66, when most people think of retirement, Mr. Parekh was determined to set up his most ambitious enterprise.
His lifelong dream of helping Indians own their home, as he had seen abroad during his student days, led to the formation of the Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC) in 1977 and as they say, the rest is history.
It was the first of its kind in the country. His setting up of HDFC, without any financial assistance from the Government of India was a milestone in the Indian financial history. It was under Mr. Parekh’s leadership and direction that HDFC grew manifold while being strongly rooted in the principles of integrity, transparency and professionalism.
Mr. Parekh was a man of few words, and believed that strong views need not be expressed in strong words. He had a keen eye for talent and nurtured it by providing direction and ample learning opportunities.
He never underestimated the power of teamwork. He believed that the success of an organization was possible only with a group of dedicated professionals who shared a common goal to serve, and were willing to take reasonable risks.
Soon HDFC became a role model not only for the country but for the entire Asian region. His dream of providing better housing and living conditions for people was accomplished with an organization that was modelled on its international peers but was Indian at heart.
In keeping with Mr. Parekh’s zeal for establishing new ventures, in 1983, he promoted the first private sector oil exploration company in India, Hindustan Oil Exploration Company Limited (HOEC).
He also set up Gujarat Rural Housing Finance Corporation Limited (GRUH) in 1986, an institutional structure for providing rural housing finance in villages and small towns. As Mr. Rohit C. Mehta, former Chairman of GRUH recalled, “It was Mr. H. T. Parekh, who conceived GRUH and took initiative against odds in establishing the company. Mere words cannot describe the rare amalgam of a path-breaking intuition, pioneering vision and, above all, that even rarer quality of always remaining an eminently lovable human being. He was truly ‘a man who saw tomorrow’.”
Known for his humility, affection and concern for fellowmen, Mr. Parekh was associated with several philanthropic causes and welfare organizations.
In 1986, he was one of the founders of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy and served as its Chairman since its inception until his retirement in 1993. His concern and love for the city of Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) led him to form the Bombay Community Public Trust in 1991. This venture was designed specifically to address the needs of disadvantaged citizens in the city of Mumbai. He took the initiative to finance Mumbai’s first public toilet by any corporate house ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’. Additionally, Mr. Parekh served as a trustee of the Sameeksha Trust, Saurashtra Trust, Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, The India Foundation, The lndia Heritage Trust, and The Chakallas Puraskar Trust.
He also served as the President of the Social Service League. This charitable institution undertakes activities in several areas such as adult education, medical relief, technical education, cultural activity, industrial schools for women, night schools, children’s education classes, mobile libraries and gymnastic institutions among others.
Guided by a strong urge to be of some help to the downtrodden and the underprivileged, and to lighten their burden, he believed in service without publicity, and without a thought of personal gain. He believed that while public participation in cash and kind did play a significant role in the process of social betterment, it was far from adequate, and a lot more had to be done with organized public awareness and creation of suitable agencies.
Mr. H. T. Parekh was also the Chairman of the IMC Economic Research and Training Foundation for nearly 16 years.
A simple man, Mr. H. T. Parekh avoided the limelight and lived in a typical middle-class home all his life. It is ironic that a man, who created a revolution in housing finance and provided homes to millions, was so selfless, that he himself didn’t own a home of his own during his lifetime.
He believed in the little pleasures of life, in friendship, in reading and writing. His wisdom and warmth drew people from all walks of life to him for advice, guidance and inspiration.
In addition to being a regular contributor to the media with over 200 published articles to his credit on a variety of subjects, he authored ‘The Bombay Money Market’, a novel book detailing the intricate workings of the money market in lndia. He also chronicled his considerable experience as a development banker in his book, ‘The Story of a Development Bank (ICICI: 1955-1979)’.
Some of his other books include ‘The Future of Joint-Stock Enterprise in India’, ‘India and Regional Development’, ‘Management of Industry in India’ and ‘Indian Capital Market - Past, Present & Future’. Also, his writings in Gujarati, ‘Hirane Patro’ and ‘Hirane Vadhu Patro’ are considered works of great importance in Gujarati literature.
The country has showered him with many accolades such as the Padma Bhushan in 1992, but perhaps he gave a lot more to the nation.
Mr. H.T. Parekh passed away on November 18, 1994, marking the end of an era for HDFC as well as Indian financial world. But the thoughts and dreams of this legend live on forever, changing lives for the better...