Born on November 8, 1912, Mr.Santhanam had his education in Madurai. In 1930, he joined his father in business, and thus began a life-time involvement in automobile and finance.
He moved to Chennai in 1936, and served parent company T.V. Sundaram Iyengar & Sons, in various capacities, gaining rich experience in road transport, marketing of automobiles, manufacture of automobile components, general insurance, banking and finance. In 1954, he founded Sundaram Finance, which together with its subsidiaries, now has an asset base of about Rs. 25,000 crores as on March 31, 2018.
He played a crucial role in the establishment of several auto component units in the TVS Group among which Wheels India, Brakes India, Sundaram Clayton and Lucas – TVS are prominent. He also promoted Madras Motor General Insurance Company, which later merged into the United India Insurance Company in the wake of nationalisation. He was the Managing Director of the T.V.Sundaram Iyengar & Sons for nearly a decade before becoming its vice-chairman, a position he held till his death.
His financial acumen was always regarded highly within the TVS group and outside. He served on various committees set up by the Government of India, notably the Government’s Direct Taxes Advisory Committee and The Study Group on Road Transport Financing. He was Founder Chairman of The Federation of Automobile Dealers Association and The South India Hire Purchase Association.
A multi-faceted personality with wide ranging interests, he gave generously for educational, religious and other charitable causes.
Mr. Santhanam is widely acknowledged as a “visionary” who had understood the need for a good road infrastructure in early 1950s itself. He worked tirelessly for the growth of transport operators. He travelled across the country, often sipping tea with the drivers. He had the same involvement in non – banking finance business also thus encouraging small players to become corporate entities; he never saw anyone as a competitor.