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Tribute: Senior Corporate Personality Sega Nagendra (1939-2022)

Sega Nagendra at LBO Horton Debate event meeting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

March 1, 2022 (LBO) - They don't make them like they used to anymore. Senior corporate personality Sega Nagendra passed away suddenly on 28th of February 2022. Sega Nagendra was a fixture on the Sri Lankan corporate circuit. Everyone seemed to know him, and there was always positivity when his name was mentioned.

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My interactions span the last 20 years, so I will leave specifics of his career and illustrious Ponnambalam Ramanathan/Arunachalam family background for others to describe in greater detail. I'll opine on which I am qualified, the person I knew.

Relatively early in life Sega Nagendra ascended to the to the top of the Carson Cumberbatch company. This was in an era before the current ownership of the company, when it was one of many Britsh founded companies with colonial era names. Names such as Hayleys, John Keells, Aitken Spence and Carsons were among the top corporate names in Sri Lanka, and Sega Nagendra was among an elite group of executives managing those most important national champions.

Mr. Nagendra was from the old school. Unlike today's corporate world, where there is a relentless focus on bottom line, those days there was a much different ethos. In my admittedly limited observation and study, corporations seemed somewhat like clubs. You joined, made your contributions, participated in fellowship, and then handed the reins over to the next generation.

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He liked clubs and associations, and was the head of several, including in his later years the Colombo Club, Sri Lanka's most important business club. I remember many an occasion where I was his guest at events with important national personalities. He seemed to like having me there and I was always touched by the invitations and being seated with him at the head table.

Sega Nagendra always wanted to contribute. He was a part of countless businesses either as a founder, director, advisor or mentor. There are literally too many to mention thus the listing of those more appropriate for another article. He partnered with people from across the whole spectrum of the business world. He always had a hand in many places, helping where he could to develop a business. He would just pick up the phone and call.

One of the things I will most remember about Uncle Sega is the fellowship. He seemed to love the interaction with people up and down the business world. He was always dining and conversing with friends, peers, or even new people to whom he had just been acquainted. He was inquisitive, always asking questions, and then giving feedback based on his own experiences.

In today's world an outside observer might think that Sega Nagendra was a networker, however in my observation he was just having fun. Money never seemed to be an interest. There was no agenda, deal, sale, or even purpose to the interactions. He just seemed to like to have them, to enjoy peoples company, learn new things, or just offer his advice. This was not networking, it was fellowship, which made the interactions more genuine.

Mr. Nagendra seemed interested in the next generation. In my interactions he always wanted to know what I was up to professionally, what my thoughts were in areas of my expertise. He liked to see young people doing well, moving forward. Lucky for him he lived to see his son Prashan do well and move forward as a self made IT entrepreneur, who has employed and helped develop hundreds of young IT professionals over the last 20 years. The slow and steady growth of eFutures into a significant entity gave him a great sense of pride, which he would unknowingly wear on his sleeve. He was never playing poker with his feelings, his joy was there for all to see.

As cruel as life often-times seems to be, this happiness was balanced by the early death of his daughter Kshirabdhi, a past pupil of Ladies College who was an educator living in the UK. The love that he had for his children was immense, and so seemed the pain he felt when one departed too soon. Such is the journey of life.

Sega Nagendra is suddenly gone, having lived a full and rich life. He was blessed with a long marriage to wife Sarala, admirable children, and two grandsons Karnan and Suhit. He excelled in his field, loved and was loved by family, worked honorably, helped people advance, and lived a contented existence. He was a soft, kind and decent man, who lived a life of example.

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