Inside the mind of Chitra Ramkrishna: She took guidance from an ‘unknown Himalayan Yogi’ to run NSE


Chitra Ramkrishna, the most powerful boss of India’s largest bourse the National Stock Exchange (NSE), was guided by a “Siddha Purusha, Yogi i.e. a Paramahansa who may be largely dwelling in the Himalayan ranges,” for the appointment of a novice Anand Subramanian as the exchange’s chief operating officer (COO) on an exorbitant cost to company of Rs 5 crore. This was revealed in a probe conducted by market regulator SEBI with regard to Ramkrishna’s mismanagement of the exchange.

The Yogi called Ramkrishna by the name of “ChitSOM’‘ while she addressed him as “SIRONMANI.” Ramkrishna also shared NSE’s five year projections sheets, financial projections, dividend ratio, business plans, agenda of board meeting and consultations over the ratings/performance appraisals of employees shared with the “unknown Yogi.”

Ramkrishna was ousted from NSE in 2016 for her role in the co-location and algo trading scam and abuse of power for the appointment of Subramanian. Late in the evening Friday, SEBI issued an interim order against her and other senior NSE officials in the matter. While Ramkrishna ran NSE the way she wanted, nobody from the senior management, board or the promoters, which are big government institutions and banks, ever objected to her ways. Instead, Ramkrishna was given Rs 44 crore as pending dues and salary when she left NSE.
SEBI’s probe reveals that Ramkrishna communicated with the yogi, whom she had never met, via an email ‘‘” for almost 20 years and he guided her to appoint Subramanian as the second in command of NSE. “Their spiritual powers do not require them to have any such physical coordinates and would manifest at will,” Ramkrishna told SEBI.

Ramkrishna considered Subramanian as her spiritual ‘Guru’ and even equated him to the Siddha Purusha, whom she was communicating with via email, SEBI has inferred from the study of her email exchanges. The contents of the email were not denied by Ramkrishna. 
On January 18, 2013 Subramanian was offered the role of Chief Strategic Advisor at NSE for annual compensation of Rs 1.68 crore against his last drawn salary (as per his claim) of Rs Rs 15 lakh at Balmer Lawrie. In March 2014, Ramkrishna approved a 20 percent increment to Subramanian and his salary was revised to Rs. 2.01 crore. In just five weeks then, Subramanian’s salary was again revised upwards by 15 percent to Rs 2.31 crore as Ramkrishna cited his performance as A+(exceptional). Thereafter, in 2015 another 10 percent increment was granted to Sbarmanian, which took his salary to Rs 3.67 crore. His CTC rose to around Rs 5 crore by the time he was given a cabin next to Ramkrishna’s. Even instruction to allow Subramanian to travel first class on international flights at NSE cost came from the unknown Yogi.

Email from the unknown Yogi on February 19, 2015 told Ramkrishna that the 5 day week working schedule for Subramanian was to be only on papers for sake of emoluments and not meant to be complied with.

“Contract to revise to 5 day week only for paper and emoluments. 3 day will continue on routine with HO and rest at will. One day Kanchan brought additional on contract per week to withdraw and surrender to me per month as gratitude on gross amt,” the email said.
Another email on September 05, 2015 from Yogi told Ramkrishna, “SOM, if I had the opportunity to be a person on Earth then Kanchan is the perfect fit. Ashirvadhams.” 
On December 30, 2015, Ramkrishna told the Yogi in her reply, “SIRONMANI, struggle is I have always seen THEE through G, and challenged myself to on my own realise the difference.”
‘SOM’ refers to Ramkrishna, and ‘Kanchan’ and ‘G’ refers to Subramanian, probe shows. Ramkrishna held Subramanian in the same light as her spiritual force, whom she greatly relies upon, and thus would have been looking towards his interest. These findings were confirmed by Dinesh Kanabar, the then Chairman of NSE nomination and remuneration committee. Subramanian was having all the powers of MD and CEO, was flying first class but remained a consultant on paper. SEBI has observed that there was a glaring conspiracy of a money making scheme involving NSE’s boss with the unknown person.
Email dated February 18, 2015 from Ramkrishna to the unknown person reads: 

“The role and designation of group chief coordination officer is fine and we could take that forward. I have a small submission, Can we make this as Group president and chief coordination officer? And over a time frame as You direct we can move the entire operations of the exchange under G and redesignate him as chief operating officer? seek Your guidance on the path forward on this Swami If this meets with your Highness’ approval, then parallely could we coin JR (Ravi) as group President Finance and stakeholder relations and Corporate General Counsel?”

The reply was: 
“I have the following questions that will place all of you in an awkward situation. I buy your argument and analysis, interesting but have not got my answers from your own concerns. If on one hand I call JR a President who is a KMP (key management person) the other person how can he/she be excused, is it subjective? Competitors bring new faces much below par at intelligent levels and functional expertise, they bring all as coo and VP, we are bringing a legitimate case here, which needs introspection? I have never suggested any changes in reporting of trading and other verticals, I am only trying to initiate the importance of levels within the organisation. So from a strategic perspective can I bring the title Group COO since subsidiaries also report to him and acceptable to all. Larger the thoughts, clearer our stand, postures become easier. ASHIRVADHAMS, a revert on this is good for one and all. GNANA VEL”

Email dated February 19, 2015 from the unknown person read: 
“I will draw the curtains down to this discussion with the following points for consideration, of course SOM can execute her authority to change if required suiting the company requirement or write to me seeking clarifications. Any journey the enjoyment is there after completion of the path that we tread, similar is the HR process. In this journey if we view our personal goals then it is difficult to align with business goals. So in order to have a mix of all and not precipitate the contract entered into and also maintain status on hierarchy, and considering legally the terms of reference in TITLE NOT AS KMP and still get an executive authority I propose with love and abundant blessings that you will be called from April 01, 2015 as “GROUP OPERATING OFFICER & ADVISOR TO MD” at the same level as group president of the company.

With this I call upon SOM to discharge the following:
1. Contract to revise to five-day week only for paper and emoluments. Three-day will continue on routine with HO and rest at will.

2. One day brought additional on contract per week Kanchan to withdraw and surrender to me per month as gratitude on gross amount.

3. Travel international first class exceeding 5 hrs journey point to point, business class for domestic for group president and above.”

SEBI order said, “It is not unusual that the whip of an arbitrary and dictatorial reign would cause any employee to be reluctant in filing a complaint against its top leader in fear of the repercussions. This is evident from the various anonymous complaints received by SEBI against Ramkrishna, from which these proceedings have emanated and various irregularities unearthed.” 

Still Ramkrishna was made NSE’s MD and CEO in 2013 as a powerful politician in Delhi was backing her, sources told BusinessLine. A forensic audit showed that only the Ramkrishna and Subramanian were imaged/checked while the laptops assigned to them were disposed of as E-waste by NSE. Even their personal emails were not available for forensic audit. 

Ramkrishna told SEBI that at the relevant time, neither the compensation committee, NRC nor the Board of NSE had ever raised any query in relation to these issues, nor was any issue in this regard ever brought to her attention. Ashok Chawla, a former bureaucrat in the finance ministry and then chairman of NSE, accepted Ramkrishna’s resignation due to personal reasons and the board appreciated her sterling contribution to the growth of the organisation.

For all this, SEBI’s punishment to Ramkrishna is a paltry formality. Ramkrishna has now been barred from capital markets for three years and SEBI has directed NSE to forfeit the excess leave encash ment of Rs 1.54 crore and the deferred bonus of Rs. 2.83 crores.

Published on

February 12, 2022


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