Sunday Observer Dec 14 2008
Fifteen years ago today on 9th December 1993 Dr. Damithlal Senakumar Jayasundera (popularly known at Hayleys as DSJ) died suddenly at the age of 56 years in Australia while on a business tour. Cremation took place in Colombo on 15th December.
He was educated at Royal College and abandoned a prospective medical career to join Hayleys Ltd., in 1956 and within a short period of 8 years he became the first Sri Lankan to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the Company in 1964. He was elected the Managing Director in 1974 and the Chairman and Chief Executive in 1977.
Most people would not be much interested in reading about men in business as the general impression created in our society of such people is not very pleasant. They are generally considered as people bent on making profits for themselves and their progeny. This is not true in the case of DSJ. He really created wealth for the shareholders of Hayleys and the Nation. He was not the usual capitalist although born with a silver spoon in his mouth and later inherited colossal wealth from his parents. His glorious father, Hayes Jayasundera, was the biggest shareholder of Hayleys when the Company became a public company in early fifties. DSJ inherited his of it on the demise of his father and he himself became the major shareholder by gradually acquiring Company shares in the open market using his own wealth. Exhibiting a very rare quality, he bequeathed his total shareholding in Hayleys in a last-will written way back in 1987 to a Trust. In the list of beneficiaries of this Trust, employees of Hayleys Group rank first. Every year Hayleys distributes quite a sizeable amount amongst employees as income arising out of this DSJ Trust along with the income from another trust called `Hayleys Employees Share Trust' created few years later in 1999 under the able management of Messrs Sunil Mendis and S. Krishnananthan, two of DSJ's board members who tried their best to keep alive the DSJ traditions in the Company.
He can be aptly described as a human dynamo because of his capacity to work with seemingly unlimited energy. This resulted in his becoming a great asset not only to the Company but for the whole nation. He served on the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, Banking and Finance Commission, National Industrial Policy Committee, Industrialization Commission. He occupied the chair, at certain times, of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Employers Federation of Ceylon, Council of Governors of Sri Lanka Business Development Centre (funded by USAID) and Ceylon Coir Fibre Exporters Association. For a short period he was appointed as Consultant and Technical Assistant Expert to International Trade Centre UNCTAD/ GATT in Geneva. He also worked as Technical Consultant to UNIDO, Vienna and Asia Pacific Coconut Community. His extraordinary business leadership was acknowledged not only by the business community but by the academia and the general public as well. He was conferred with a doctorate D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) by the University of Sri Jayawardenapura in 1992.
His tremendous capacity to work goes hand in hand with his love towards others and the following lines from a noble book amply fits DSJ. " Genuineness, feeling for others, appreciation of beauty, religiousness, virtue are all embedded in love and when there is this kind love, one can do what one will, whatever one does is right, whatever one does has order".
The writer had the opportunity to silently observe the noble character of this great man while being an employee, for a sufficiently long period, in the organization he headed.
My first encounter with him was a 45 minute interview he had in his office prior to my being recruited in July 1981, as an executive of Haycarb Ltd, the most prosperous subsidiary of Hayleys at that time. He proved he could infuse colossal amount of enthusiasm into a person using very few but powerful words. This enthusiasm can remain throughout one's career undiminished. In a friendly manner he told me that I was going to work with an MD who was just 1 1/2 years elder to me which meant, later only I realized, that I must be prepared to run with him. He praised me for having done a written test extremely well. Then he asked me the salary expected and I gave my figure Rs.500 more than my previous job's salary. To my great surprise he said "We will not cheat you. We will pay you more".
He had a broad smile to everybody regardless of one's position in the Company. Many a times when I met him on an alley inside the premises, seeing his radiant smile looked behind doubting that it was for somebody else to see that nobody was behind.
Nothing was unimportant to him. He attended to every scrap of paper that came on to him promptly and very carefully.
DSJ was very much disturbed to see his employees leaving the Company. The following lines of the speech he delivered on 10th January 1978 on the occasion of the centenary dinner of Chas P Hayley & Co. clearly show how he valued his employees. "As I have said before, the Company's greatest asset, which unfortunately is not recorded in our Balance Sheet, is our employees, for without the required quality of manpower, no diversification scheme of the Company would be a success even if we were able to provide the necessary input of capital. If it were possible to clearly quantify the efforts of our employees and record it in our Balance Sheet, it would look even better than it is. This is my tribute to our employees."
Hayleys has an annual all night Pirith Ceremony followed by a Sangika Dana the following day. Despite his globe trotting busy schedule, DSJ made it a point to be in Sri Lanka on the third Saturday of March every year to participate in it, being essentially a man of religion in every aspect of his life. Associated with this event there is mini cultural pageant with traditional dancers and it parades from Hayleys head office to Ode Pansala and back taking more than an hour to complete its journey, with the help of Maradana Police to control traffic on these busy roads. DSJ used to carry the dhathu karanduwa on his head from the temple to Hayleys, which takes about 20-30 minutes without showing any sign of fatigue. Even the climate never disturbed the man. Hayleys under DSJ's able guidance created wealth for its shareholders so abundantly that in 40 years to 1992 the Company's paid up capital had increased 450 fold to Rupees ninety million.
May his journey through Sansara be short.