When one hears the word ‘maharaja’, an image of royalty, of leadership instantly enters one’s mind. Perhaps, this was one of the reasons why the Capital Maharaja Group was named as such during its early years.
In its 90-year history, Capital Maharaja Group (CMG) has been a trendsetter, market leader and trailblazer for many industries in the country, ranging from mass media to manufacturing. The company has braved the stormy weathers of the Great Depression, World War II, multiple global recessions, the 1983 riots followed by civil war, multiple attacks by armed groups and threats to the lives of their journalists. Throughout it all, the company has stayed strong, resolute and uniquely Sri Lankan.
Ceylon Today learnt more about the achievements and history of CMG from three of its Main Board; the Group’s CEO Sunil Kanojia, Director of Electronic Media Business Nedra Weerasinghe and Director for News 1st, Chevaan Daniel.
A daring start
It all started with two friends, Sinnathamby Rajendram and Subramaniam Mahadevan who acquired the two American companies they were working for, Dodge & Seymour and LD Seymour in 1930. As the World War II was breaking out, the companies had decided to move back home, leaving the two friends with what Kanojia believes was probably the first management buyout in Sri Lanka. “An audacity that is typical of CMG!” he commented.
The two pressed forward amidst all that was happening with the world and even incorporated their own establishments; Rajendrams Ltd. and Mahadevans Ltd.; their headquarters being the Maharaja building on Bankshall Street.
When the two friends passed away, the businesses were passed onto the next generation and with the acquisition of AF Jones, now a popular exporter of premium tea, the companies were amalgamated and The Maharaja Organisation Ltd. was born in 1967.
A critical stage of growth
What came next was to be a critical stage of The Maharaja Organisation’s growth to what it has become today. Nedra Weerasinghe told more about the second generation, current Chairman Rajendram Rajamahendran and his brother Rajendram Maharaja.
“The spirit of optimism and enterprise continued with the current Chairman and his brother Maharaja who forged successful joint ventures with a number of international companies.”
“The company entered the global market thereafter, forging alliances with many international brands like Pepsi Cola Int., the New Zealand Dairy Board, to name a few.”
The Group’s Director for News 1st, Chevaan Daniel also chalked the company’s current success to these early years which skyrocketed the company’s growth. The Chairman’s recognition that successful partnerships could be the fuel to the group’s ambitions paved the way to some of Sri Lanka’s biggest brands, including the partnership with Singapore Telecom and Malaysian Telecom helped establish South Asia’s first GSM operator in Sri Lanka; Dialog.
A Media maharaja
Of course, one cannot mention CMG without giving attention to its massive arm in electronic media. What started with one channel built up to the massive network it is today – handling three TV and five FM Radio stations broadcasting in all three languages.
The industry was never the same once CMG came into the mix in 1992. Since thereafter, all Media brands have been massively successful, providing world class productions using state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, setting new trends even today.
Regardless of the massive success CMG is today, their journey hasn’t been easy. In the 90 years they have operated, they have braved through the 1983 riots, where almost all of their company was burned to the ground. Then there were the multiple attacks made against the company and threats to the lives of journalists working for them. Now, the company has faced one of its biggest challenges alongside a nationwide lockdown and the many after-effects caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
Through all opposition, the company has pushed through and beat the odds in the past and Sashi Rajamahendran, the third generation shareholder and Managing Director of the Group has the confidence that they can face this new challenge head-on as well.
“As far as I know, there have always been challenges, even from my grandfather’s time, but we always came out of them stronger and wiser,”
“The Maharaja Organisation is known to give strong leadership, and we never back off, even when the chips are down.”
The Maharaja today
“Our Group has rightly earned a reputation as fearless innovators and created waves in the way we do business both locally and globally. Today we stand a multi-faceted conglomerate,” he continued.
At the mark of 90 years, the company has rebranded itself and is ready to take on the future while staying true to its roots in the past. Just as its beginnings, the company’s next 10 years will be critical to their continual success as the world moves toward a new age and era.
90 years strong with a bright future
Going 90 years strong, Nedra Weerasinhe believes that CMG will succeed in taking on the challenges of the future and continue to be a trendsetter and leader in the country.
“Our Maharaja spirit is one of resilience. To go where no one else has been. To align ourselves to adapt fast! This is the visionary leadership of the Chairman Rajamahendran and filters down to Managing Director Sashi and the rest of us.”
Photograph: Ceylon Today