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Centurion ‘Leo’ rests in peace

P A Seshan, breathed his last, two days after he turned 101. For over seven decades, Seshan wrote on corporate performance. His News and Note column in The Hindu for five decades provided performance highlights of corporate units, big and small.

Southern business, mostly family-owned and controlled, was not too keen to share information. With its limited shareholding, access to performance details was limited, until a couple of decades ago when SEBI directed wider disclosure.

In this background, Seshan’s efforts on providing performance details of companies, including those with little public investments, were invaluable. Despite a severe handicap of almost complete loss of vision, Seshan used to collect information through telephoning business leaders and executives on a continuous basis. And what a phenomenal memory and yen for details he had!

Seshan’s stints with the Indian Chamber of Commerce and with the Indian Finance, Kolkata were of great help in honing his skills as a business journalist. He was liberal in providing coverage to a vast number of corporates, both big and small. His disposition to present facts and not be critical, was of great comfort to corporates. Several of these like Sakthi Sugars, Chettinad Cements, Ramco, TVS Group, Amalgamations, Shriram, etc. in Chennai retained him as advisor - some for lifetime.

Even more than the pundits in the advertisement department of The Hindu, Seshan was instrumental in substantially expanding the advertisement revenues of the paper.  Leo’s News and Notes induced many parsimonious business leaders to open their purse strings. Seshan introduced the The Hindu Annual Survey of Indian Industry, which proved to be a money spinner through copious advertisements. In a sense, indirectly a quid pro quo of business-for-editorial-coverage got established long before TOI’s Sameer Jain made no bones about it. It was  particularly precious when the family patriarchs (owner-directors) were rather busy with horse racing, music, playing cards, films and (left) politics.

I received a good deal of advice and support from Seshan for the launch of IE. We were on almost daily contact in sharpening and expanding corporate coverage in IE.

Seshan maintained reasonably good health, thanks to the good care bestowed by his son Ananthanarayanan and daughter-in-law Banumathi.

 IE records its tribute to this Bhishma Pithamaha of business journalism.

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