N Sankar, a leader par excellence on and off the field

Former India captain Kapil Dev said Sankar had looked after many cricketers, which only exemplified his passion for the game for over 50 years.
N Sankar, a leader par excellence on and off the field
N Sankar

CHENNAI: On Sunday at a memoriam function, a diverse set of accomplished individuals gathered in the city to pay tributes to N Sankar of the Sanmar Group, who died last month.

Business barons, noted sportspersons, friends and family took turns to express their love and affection for late Sankar, who had touched their lives in some way or another. During the two-hour session moderated by well-known historian V Sriram, the audience learnt about the impact and legacy that the doyen left behind.

“It is difficult to imagine a life without Sankar,” said his brother and VC of Sanmar Group N Kumar about his 72-year-old sibling, fondly recalling how Sankar painstakingly laid foundation of the specialty chemicals conglomerate ‘brick by brick’.

Hailing him as a corporate governance pioneer and a joint venture specialist, Kumar said his brother was known to think ahead of time, investing in planes and helicopters to tide over the hardship of travelling. Sankar epitomised the ‘attached yet detached’ characteristic that one distinctly finds in the Bhagwad Gita, he added.

Arun Bharat Ram, Chairman-Emeritus of SRF, said he knew Sankar when he came to Madras in 1972 with his two small boys. “Sankar and Chandra were our first friends,” he said, highlighting his involvement in steering Assocham with finesse. Recalling his “passion and love” for cricket, he said Sankar would endlessly discuss all aspects of the game, including selection of a team member. On a nostalgic note, Ram remembered the tradition of receiving Imam Pasand mangoes from Sankar’s Tiruchy orchard every year. Now, his sons Aashish and Karthik have forged a similar bond with Sankar’s family, he added.

R Seshasayee, former executive chairman, Ashok Leyland, said Sankar had rejected his candidature as a junior accountant at Sanmar five decades ago. As providence would have it, Seshasayee had to decline an offer to join the corporate board. “Sankar played shots all around the field,” he said, recalling his large-heartedness, spontaneity and ‘Satvik’ aspect to contribute generously.

Tennis legend Vijay Amritraj described Sankar as a player who “brought beauty to the game.” Always seeking perfection, he had wanted “everything to be the best.” Such was his love for the game that Sankar was instrumental in setting up Sanmar Tennis League, one of its kind in the country.

Former India captain Kapil Dev said Sankar had looked after many cricketers, which only exemplified his passion for the game for over 50 years.

Messages from global stalwarts, past employees and long-term business associates, including HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa and Marti G Subrahmanyam, professor of finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University, were also played.

Sankar’s daughter Madhurika also paid a poignant tribute to her late father while son Vijay Sankar, the deputy chairman of the group, delivered the vote of thanks.

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