Veteran publisher and distributor K.S. Padmanabhan, who was the founding father of Westland, passed away on Saturday morning after a prolonged illness. He was 77.
In a career spanning over five decades, he has also been an active force in bringing together booklovers in the city through the Madras Book Club. His first job was at the International Book Shop in Bombay. He quit the job to be by the side of his father, who had suffered a heart attack, in Calcutta.
There he took up a job at an automobile company, but 18 months later moved to Delhi, where he set up the Affiliated East West Press, the Indian arm of scientific textbooks D Van Nostrand.
In the mid-seventies, he moved to Madras, diversified into distribution of general books, and started publishing literary works under the title ‘Manas’ whose titles included the first translations of writer Paul Zacharia and Mahesh Dattani’s first collection of plays. He also started the Madras Book Club, which continues to promote literature by hosting book launches and reading sessions.
With chronicler S. Muthiah as editor, he started the Indian Review of Books in 1991. It was Mr. Padmanabhan, whose Affiliated East West Press had first published Mr. Muthiah’s ‘Madras Discovered’ (subsequently reissued as ‘Madras Rediscovered’) in 1981. In the mid-nineties, Mr. Padmanabhan set up his own company, East West Books (Madras), and got into a 50-50 partnership with Landmark, the chain of bookstores, to form a new distribution company, Westland.
Westland, which went on to become a prestigious publishing house, was taken over by the Tata group in 2008. Even though Mr. Padmanabhan retired in 2011 at the age of 75, he stayed connected to the world of publishing and the Madras Book Club.
He is survived by his wife Chandra, son Gautam (who is the CEO of Westland), daughter-in-law and his grandson.