‘Canara Bank is a people’s bank’
Interview with Chairman T.N. Manoharan.
UNLIKE most chairmen of banks in India, Canara Bank’s Chairman, T.N. Manoharan, did not assume office after serving as a career banker. And, unlike most others in a similar position, he assumed this office after an illustrious career as a topnotch chartered accountant (CA) over a career spanning 35 years. Best known for the finesse he displayed in settling the Satyam Computer Services imbroglio following admission of fraud by the company’s top leadership in 2009, and for saving it from an outright collapse, Manoharan is at the helm of the bank to guide it through the challenging times that Indian banking is going through. Although Manoharan’s is a nonexecutive position, he has brought to the table a breadth of strategic drive while simultaneously negotiating the pitfalls with a mastery he has developed over the years as a reputed chartered accountant.
Manoharan qualified as a chartered accountant in 1983 and founded Manohar Chowdhry & Associates in Chennai the same year. He joined the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) at the age of 44 as elected representative. Later, in 200607, he presided over the central council of the professional body that regulates the profession. However, his eminence in the field arises not just from his professional competence and achievements but from the broader role he has played as an eminent educator of chartered accountants in India. Manoharan has travelled widely across the country, lecturing and teaching aspiring young CA students. He is also a wellregarded author of several books that are referred to by students. “Teaching is my passion,” he says modestly, without referring to the fact, vouched for by others, that he regularly reaches out to help lessprivileged aspirants who do not have the wherewithal to afford the expensive “coaching” camps that help aspirants clear the gruelling exams for entry into the profession. Soon after his stint at the apex of the ICAI, Manoharan quit “active practice” as a chartered accountant and became a “mentor” in the firm that he founded.
Born in 1956, Manoharan has come a long way from his humble beginnings in a village near Gudiyatham in Vellore district in Tamil Nadu. The son of a freedom fighter and hailing from a family of farmers, his school
ing was entirely at Gudiyatham. He recalls the reluctance of his father, a dryland farmer, to send both sons away from the town to study (Manoharan’s brother was already studying medicine in Belgaum). He recalls with nostalgia how the principal of the Government Arts College (where he did his Preuniversity) was instrumental in convincing his father to “send the boy to Madras” for college education. “The principal told my father that I was the first student in the history of the college to have obtained a First Class and therefore deserved to go to Madras,” remembers Manoharan. After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in commerce, he also obtained a degree in law, a rarity in the highly competitive world of accountants.
In 2008, following a Supreme Court ruling, he was nominated as a director in Sahara India Financial Corporation at the instance of the RBI, specifically charged with protecting the “public interest” in the residuary nonbanking finance company that owed huge amounts
Chairman, Canara Bank.