Urban reformer : Ramesh Ramanathan

Ramesh Ramanathan followed his heart from Newyork to Bangalore.
He left a successful career heading a $100 million business at Citibank in New York and later in London as Managing Director and European Head of Corporate Derivatives, returned to his hometown and started an NGO, Janaagraha.

Current activities:
Banking and Microbanking:


  • Board Member, AXIS Bank
  • Vice-Chairman, Sanghamithra Rural Financial Services: One of a small group of leading MFIs (Microfinance Institution) in the country. Helped operationalise this institution that was founded by Myrada, and anchors its Urban Microfinance activities.
    Related to National, State and Local Government institutions:
  • National Technical Advisor, Jawarharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM), Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India
  • Principal Advisor, Government of Rajasthan, State Urban Agenda for Rajasthan (SUARAJ)
  • Was a Member of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF)
  • Was an advisor to the Finance Department, GoK in its interactions with the 12th Finance Commission, and for the drafting of the Local Fund Fiscal Responsibility Act (LFFRA) in Karnataka.
    Related to civil society initiatives:
  • Founder, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit institution aimed at improving the quality of public governance by deepening democracy. Launched in December 2001, more than 100,000 citizens have participated in Janaagraha’s activities, and more than 5,000 volunteers have given their time to support the idea.
  • Trustee, PROOF(Public Record Of Operations and Finance): Conceptualised the idea of PROOF as a disclosure platform for local governments. Currently, PROOF is in its 4th year, being coordinated by 4 civil society institutions including Janaagraha. PROOF has been recognised as one of successful practices in accountability and right-to-information mechanisms by a variety of global institutions.
  • The Janaagraha vision
    Janaagraha is a not-for-profit venture started six years ago by Ramanathan and his wife Swati and supported by an initial corpus of Rs 2.5 crore from the couple. This model combines the roles of a think-tank, capacity-building organisation and a grassroots movement, which in most cities are split into separate organisations that struggle to coordinate efforts. For this reason, Janaagraha can consistently deliver practical proposals and results, drawing on the best of urban practice around the world and adapting it to uniquely local challenges. The urban development field is burdened by dominant logics, lingering ideologies, competing strategies and professional biases. Janaagraha aims to generate fresh solutions through a truly inter-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach, and it promotes its solutions boldly with a spirit of entrepreneurship.
    Future plans

    #Expand the reach and scope of Janaagraha from just Bangalore to other metros that are going through similar growth pangs.
    #Grow the 20-strong team at Janaagraha and push others (besides the Ramanathans) to the forefront of this growth
    #Make Janaagraha’s initiatives measureable and repeatable across localities and eventually cities
    #With 600 million people expected to live in urban India by 2030, hasten the pace of urban reform to meet the expected rush