Amazon to buy publishing business of Tata-owned Westland

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Bengaluru/Mumbai: Online marketplace Amazon has agreed to acquire the remaining 74% stake in Westland, the publishing unit of the Tata group retail company Trent Ltd, indicating its interest in expanding its presence in India books market.

The terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

In February, Amazon bought a 26% stake in Westland for about Rs9.5 crore. Trent had said at the time that Amazon had the option to acquire the remaining 74% stake later.

Following the investment made by Amazon.com NV Investment Holding, Inc., Amazon will get right to name one member to the Westland board.

Amazon said the acquisition would help Westland’s authors to grow their physical and digital book businesses in India as well as expand their reach to customers globally. Westland’s current roster of authors include Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Rujuta Diwekar, Preeti Shenoy and Devdutt Pattanaik.

“In just three years we have built India’s largest online store that customers can trust to find, discover and buy anything online. Our acquisition of Westland continues our commitment to India—enabling Amazon to bring Westland’s highly talented authors and their books to even more customers in India and around the world,” said Amit Agarwal, vice-president and country manager at Amazon India.

“Since investing in Westland earlier this year, we have built a great relationship with the company and its authors. With this acquisition, we are very excited to take our relationship with Westland to the next level,” Agarwal said.

“This is a great day for our authors and their readers across the globe,” said Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO of Westland. “Amazon’s roots are in books and we are excited to be part of that team in the next phase of our journey.”

Amazon, which is the world’s largest Internet-based retailer, started out as an online bookstore in 1994. From selling books by third-party publishers on its platform, Amazon has since started its own publishing unit, Amazon Publishing. Since its founding in 2009, Amazon Publishing has published in different genres from romance and thrillers to spirituality, comics, and science fiction.

Chennai-based Westland began as a book distributor but ventured into publishing in 2007. Today, it is one of the top five English language trade publishers in the country and its imprints include Tranquebar Press (for literary fiction and non-fiction), EastWest (focusing on South Indian heritage) and Westland (for trade books, both fiction and non-fiction).

The present company was formed from the merger of two companies, Westland Books Pvt. Ltd and EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd in April 2008.

In February, Reuters reported that Amazon.com had planned to open up to 400 physical bookstores worldwide, after the opening of a bookstore in its home city of Seattle in November last year.

Tatas had acquired the book publishing business from Chennai-based entrepreneurs Hemu and Nataraj Ramaiah Rs100 crore in 2005 as they looked at getting into the book publication and distribution business. It was the country’s largest book retail chain at its peak in 2010. Today, there are hardly a handful of stand-alone Landmark stores and some that exist are within Westside.

Even its website landmarkonthenet.com has been integrated with Tata Group’s new online shopping venture – TataCLiQ.com. However TataCLiQ, does not offer books as a category and is focused on electronics, mobiles, apparel and footwear.

Overall, in fiscal 2016 Trent reported a net profit of Rs100.03 crore, an increase of 84% from Rs54.24 crore a year-ago. Revenue grew by 9.65% to Rs1,432.47 crore, from Rs1,306.36 crore a year-ago.

For Amazon the acquisition will give it entry in the booming India authors publishing business in India. However Westland lacks breadth and it will be interesting to see how Amazon grows the business, said Ananth Padmanabhan, chief executive officer, Harper Collins India.