At the start of his career as sub-collector of Parvathipuram sub-division in north-coastal Andhra Pradesh way back in 1974, Subbarao learnt – the hard way – that tribal development requires more than enthusiasm; it requires most of all an understanding of poverty.

Nearly forty years later, in 2013, as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India in the midst of a fierce exchange rate crisis, Subbarao learnt – once again the hard way – the harsh challenges of emerging economies in an unequal world.

Bookended by these assignments is the journey of a small-town boy from a modest background to the top echelons of India’s civil service and then on to the helm of the country’s central bank. Subbarao recounts that journey – his hopes and despair, his successes and setbacks, his mistakes and misdeeds, and the lessons he learnt along the way – with candour and honesty. The subtext of that story though is his constant soul searching about whether he has given back to society more than he received.

Just a Mercenary? is an earnest account of an extraordinary career that tries to inform and inspire young professionals trying to find their way up their career ladders – and find meaning in their journeys.

In this episode of BIC Talks, Former Governor, Reserve Bank of India – Duvvuri Subbarao is in conversation with Professor, Centre for Public Policy, IIM, Bangalore – M S Sriram. This is an excerpt from a conversation that took place in the BIC premises in June 2024.

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