John Matthai
John Matthai in 1949
1st Chairman of State Bank of India
In office
1 July 1955 – 30 September 1956
Prime MinisterJawaharlal Nehru
Preceded byPost Established
Succeeded byH. V. R. Iengar
Union Minister for Finance
In office
22 September 1948 – 1 June 1950
Preceded byR. K. Shanmukham Chetty
Succeeded byC. D. Deshmukh
Union Minister for Railways
In office
15 August 1947 – 22 September 1948
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byN. Gopalaswami Ayyangar
Personal details
Born(1886-01-10)10 January 1886
Calicut, Madras Presidency, British India (now Kozhikode, Kerala, India)
Died(1959-02-00)February 1959 (aged 73)
NationalityBritish Indian (1886-1947)
Indian (1947-59)
Political partyIndian National Congress
Alma materMadras Christian College, Madras Law College[1]

John Matthai CIE (1886–1959) was an economist who served as Independent India's first Railway Minister[2] and subsequently as well as India's Finance Minister,[3] taking office shortly after the presentation of India's first Budget, in 1948. He was born on January 10, 1886, as the son of Challiyal Thomas Matthai and Anna Thayyil to an Anglican Syrian Christian family.[4] He graduated in economics from the University of Madras. He served as a Professor and Head in University of Madras from 1922 to 1925.[5] He presented two Budgets as India's Finance Minister, but resigned following the 1950 Budget in protest against the increasing power of the Planning Commission and P. C. Mahalanobis.[6][7] He was the first Chairman of the State Bank of India when it was set up in 1955. He was the founding President of the Governing Body of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in New Delhi, India's first independent economic policy institute established in 1956. He served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mumbai from 1955 till 1957[8] and then as the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Kerala from 1957 to 1959. His nephew, Verghese Kurien, is generally recognized as the architect of India's White Revolution.[9] Dr. John Matthai Centre,[10] Thrissur, located on the large plot of land donated by his family, is named in his honour. His wife, Achamma Matthai was an Indian social worker and a women's rights activist.[11] The Government of India honoured him in 1954 with the award of Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award, for his contributions to the society,[12]

John Matthai was invested as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1934,[13] and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1959.[14] NCAER, led by the President of its Governing Body, Nandan Nilekani and with support from the Nilekani Philanthropies, honoured John Matthai in 2019 by naming NCAER's new office building at its campus in New Delhi as the John Matthai Tower.


  1. ^ "Early Life & Education". John Mathai. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Dominion of India: Distribution of Portfolios in New Govt". Amrita Bazar Patrika. 21 August 1947. p. 6. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  3. ^ Reflections on Finance Education and Society. Motilal Banarsidass Publication. p. 114. ISBN 9788120830752. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  4. ^ Haridasan, Dr. V. (2000). Dr. John Matthai, 1886-1959 : a biography. Kozhikode: Publication Division, University of Calicut. pp. 1–2, 8–9. ISBN 978-8177480085.
  5. ^ "University of Madras: Department of Economics". Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Men who shaped up India's economy". The Economic Times. 21 February 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  7. ^ "The Concept of Collective Ministerial Responsibility in India- Theory and Practice". Rostrum's Law Review. 2 January 2014. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  8. ^ Matthai, John (1957). "A Message By the Vice-Chancellor". The Bombay Technologist. 7 (1). ISSN 0067-9925. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  9. ^ "The Nephew Of Our First Railway Minister Was The Architect Of 'White Revolution'". The Logical Indian. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Dr. John Matthai Centre". Archived from the original on 19 February 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  11. ^ Bela Rani Sharma (1998). Women's Rights and World Development. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 9788176250153. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Padma Shri" (PDF). Padma Shri. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  13. ^ London Gazette, 4 June 1934
  14. ^ "Padma Vibhushan Awardees". The National Portal of India. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2009.