The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program


Fellowship Year:

Host University:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

World Region:
South and Central Asia


Duvvuri Subbarao - India

In the last two decades, as it has opened up to foreign trade and investment, India has transformed from a relatively self-reliant economy into one of the world’s fastest-growing large economies. Though India suffered from the worldwide financial crisis that began in 2008, it should recover quickly and continue its explosive growth, says Duvvuri Subbarao, the new governor of the Reserve Bank of India, which is similar to the U.S. Federal Reserve. “I am optimistic about India and its growth potential,” he says. “The entrepreneurial spirit, the improved productivity, the increased savings—those drivers are all in place.”

During his nearly four decades in India’s civil service, Subbarao has played an important role in India’s budding economy. He began his career in the civil service in 1972, after earning a master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. After spending several years at junior postings in India’s districts, he left to study economics in the United States and earned his master’s from Ohio State University in 1978.

Impressed by the U.S. educational system and eager to learn more, he became a Humphrey Fellow at MIT in 1982. “At MIT, I really wanted to study quantitative economic modeling,” Subbarao says. “But I ended up doing a lot of other things—a bit of economics, a bit of system dynamics, and a bit of business school courses.”

Subbarao says the program “was structured exactly to fit my needs,” including the ability to do research outside of the United States. While he was a fellow, Subbarao spent a week at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, in Austria. There he learned economic theories that were being put into actual practice. For Subbarao, it was a “bridge between the real world and academia.”

After returning to India, he used these experiences abroad as he rose higher in India’s civil service. In 1988, he became joint secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs in the country’s Ministry of Finance. He was there during the country’s 1991 economic crisis, when India’s currency weakened rapidly because the rupee had been valued higher than what it was worth in international markets. The crisis was a turning point in India; after 1991 a host of economic reforms opened up the economy. Subbarao worked on teams that addressed the crisis by a variety of methods, including loosening the country’s import restrictions.

“The whole model had been that we should be self-sufficient,” Subbarao says. “After the reforms it was more free—import what you need and export what you can. It was an integration of India into the world economy.”
From 1999 to 2004, Subbarao worked as a senior economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and was promoted to lead public policy specialist. There he concentrated on public finance in Africa and Asia and managed a study on decentralization across East Asia. After returning to India, he served as secretary of the prime minister’s economic advisory council and became India’s finance secretary in 2007. In September 2008, he was nominated to his current position at the Reserve Bank of India.  

Subbarao says that in the years since his fellowship, Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s ability to “make a difference” has stayed with him. The fellowship “has helped me more than in the narrow sense of giving me academic inputs,” he says. “It has helped me become a better individual and a more professional civil servant.”





© Copyright 2007 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program