Doyen of Co-operative Banking
Profile by Dr. Jeanette Pinto
John Henry D’Silva, Doyen of Co-operative Banking was born on May 16, 1936; the fifth of six children of Anthony and Remedia D’Silva. He hailed from an agricultural family of Sanoor, Karkala, South Kanara. He had his primary education at St. Joseph of Sanoor till Standard IV, thereafter, he went to SVT Higher Elementary School at Karkala, walking ten kilometers daily, and completed Standard VIII. He moved to Mumbai in 1951.
A keen and diligent student, he completed his secondary education from Karnataka Free Night High School. He did his B.A. from Jai Hind College (Morning Classes), and B.Com from R A Podar College (Evening Classes). Thereafter, he Joined New Law College for LLB. After graduation, he shifted to Abhyudaya Nagar, a Housing Board Colony, with over 4,000 flats / families. Amazingly, it provided the starting block for his career.
Blessed with a compassionate heart, John began to touch the lives of the marginalized. People esteemed him as a man of honesty, sincerity, and action. They elected him President of the Abhyudaya Nagar LIG Tenants Association in 1960. Seeing the need for an English Medium School in the area, he started the Abhyudaya Education Society High School.
John soon realized that there was no bank in the area around Abhyudaya Nagar where over six thousand families lived. He wrote to some leading Commercial Banks requesting them to open a Branch. None showed any interest. In the absence of banking facilities, the common man would keep his savings with local shopkeepers, and take it back when in need. This urged John to start a Co-operative Bank to provide thrift and credit. The capital required for starting a Credit Society was Rs. 5,000 and for a Bank, Rs. 50,000.
In December 1963, he collected Rs. 5,000 from 87 people, and on January 16, 1964 registered the Abhyudaya Co-operative Credit Society Limited. The Housing Board allotted office premises to the Society. As soon as the Capital amount touched Rs. 50,000, John got it converted into Abhyudaya Co-operative Bank Limited in 1965. That was a fantastic achievement.
In April 1988, the Reserve Bank of India gave Scheduled Bank status to 11 big Co-operative Banks. Abhyudaya Co-operative Bank Limited, although the youngest in age, was one amongst them; a mere sapling, it attained the third highest position amongst almost 2000 Co-operative Banks in the country. Kudos to John, his foresight, was rewarded. He then offered his expertise to start a Co-operative Bank for taxi drivers. Up until the Nationalization of Banks, the taxi trade was financed only by money lenders. In 1967, he got the registration for the New India Co-operative Bank Limited, the first Bank to be registered in Mumbai after the Banking Regulation Act was made applicable to Co-operative Banks.
In 1920, the Christians of Mumbai headed by Mr. F.A.C. Rebello, the Doyen of the co-operative movement, had registered the Bombay Catholic Urban Co-operative Credit Society Limited. It was dormant till 1982, with total funds of just Rs. 26,500/-. In August 1982, John was elected its President with full powers to convert the Society into a Bank. John accepted the challenge, and in 1984 got the Society converted into “Citizen Credit Co-operative Bank Limited“. It was the first bank which started functioning overnight, with seven branches all over Mumbai. This was a big miracle!
The KCA had, in 1916, under the leadership of Mr. F.A.C. Rebello, established the Mangalorean Catholic Co-operative Credit Society Limited. This too lay dormant till 1992 with total funds of around Rs. 117,000/-. In October 1993, Mr. John D’Silva was elected its President with full powers to convert the Society into a Bank. In the nineties, the Reserve Bank of India had revised its norms of capital requirement for converting the Society into a Bank to Rs. 60 Lakhs. It was a big challenge. For the sake of his fellowmen, and as a tribute to its Founders, John accepted the challenge, collected the required capital, and in 1998, the “Model Co-operative Bank Limited” was born. It was the second bank, which started functioning overnight with ten branches all over Mumbai. It was another miracle!
The Reserve Bank issues circulars and directives to regulate the working of Co-operative Banks. To overcome the difficulty of staying on track, and up-to-date, John started publishing a unique reference book since 1976, which is considered a Bible by Co-operative Bankers.
John D’Silva has the distinction of organizing four Co-operative Banks – namely, Founder and First Chairman, Model Co-operative Bank Limited, and Citizen Credit Co-operative Bank Limited; Founder and First Managing Director, New India Co-operative Bank Limited, and Abhyudaya Co-operative Bank Limited.
For his outstanding work, he has been recognized by many institutions, and received several Awards – notable amongst them are – Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005 from Rachana Catholic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mangalore; Lifetime Achievement Award 2008 from the Federation of Konkani Catholic Associations of Karnataka, Bangalore.
Distinguished Achievement Award to Outstanding Konkanis 2008 from the Dr. T.M.A. Pai Foundation, Manipal; Sandesha Special Recognition Award 2012 from the Sandesha Foundation for Culture and Education; the George Fernandes Social Award 2016 for outstanding work from the Jayashreekrishna Parisara Premi Samiti; and the New Year Award 2017 jointly instituted by Manipal University, Academy of General Education, and Syndicate Bank.
At present, he is associated with the following – Founder President, Fuddar Prathisttan; Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman, Christian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; President, Mangalorean Catholic Educational Co-operative Credit Society Limited; President, Konkani Bhasha Mandal Maharashtra; Editor-in-Chief, Co-operative Bankers Reference Book, and Trustee, S.V.M. International School.
Besides co-operative banking, Mr. D’Silva has had the privilege of organizing and working on the management of many institutions and organizations.
John is married to Gladys, and they have two children – Amalanand and Amithanand, both married and well settled.
An inspiration life such as John’s is not only impactful, but one that all should emulate to make this world a better place.