David Davidar, the former head of Penguin India for 17 years, has been the head of Penguin Canada for four years now, making him, along with Sonny Mehta, head of Alfred A. Knopf, one of the most influential South Asians in international publishing today. Learn more about him in a Toronto Sun profile by Ajit Jain. From "A Page Turning Career":
He was barely 26, but David Davidar was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time.
It was 1985 and Davidar was completing his diploma in publishing at Harvard University when he encountered the chairman of the Penguin Group.
"He said to me, 'Would you like to go back to India and set up Penguin India?' " Davidar, now president and publisher of Penguin Books Canada, told me. "It was kind of a gift from God. You can either make something of it or throw it away."
Hard to believe, he concedes, that Penguin India was launched in 1985 with only $10,000.
"Not exactly the amount for starting a publishing company," he says now. "Today we are a multi-million dollar company in India."
In 1987 Penguin India published a mere seven titles. Today it has 200 titles. Davidar is the brain behind all this. He's the one who brought on board authors like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Chandra, Rohinton Mistry and Anita Rau Badami among others.
By 2003, senior Penguin management decided that if he could build their company from scratch in India, he might be able to transform Penguin's operations in Canada, which had been languishing for years.
'That's how Davidar landed in Toronto on Jan. 1, 2004, as president and publisher of Penguin Canada.
"Last year we crossed $100 million here," he said about Penguin Canada. "We are profitable now."
As in India, Davidar has built an impressive list of authors -- Margaret Macmillan, Zadie Smith, John Ralston Saul, Michael Ignatieff, Roy MacGregor, Stuart Maclean, and the list goes on.
More on Davidar, who's also a successful author, in his Wikipedia entry. Post your comments.