Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXII No. 14, November 1-15, 2022

A loss to the world of small journals

-- by Sushila Ravindranath

I feel such a sense of loss and grief over the passing away of S. Viswanathan, the founder, publisher and editor of  Industrial Economist, the business magazine published from Madras. I do not think he approved of the name change.

Viswanathan was truly an under appreciated pioneer and icon of Chennai. He dared to launch a business magazine from this city in 1968 when business journalism was an unknown subject. Personlity-based business stories as a concept did not exist. Business newspapers were dull. Businessmen particularly from the south did not engage with the press. Viswanathan managed to put business people on the cover, breaking barriers.

After the emergency, there was a media boom. It was in the latter part of the 70’s that magazines like India Today and Business India were launched. They captured the imagination of the country which was becoming more literate. These magazines were mostly from Delhi and Bombay and because of the sheer numbers they sold in these cities, they were able to attract advertising support.

Industrial Economist did not have that advantage because of its location. Viswanathan remained undaunted. His magazine did stories which were detailed and well researched. In those pre-internet and Google days, when information was at premium, Industrial Economist steadily built readership.

In the ‘70’s and 80’s, Tamil Nadu launched a whole number of joint sector projects which were private-public partnerships. Viswanathan’s coverage of these units was of great help to journalists of the 80’s like me. By the time I started writing about South-based businesses, Viswanathan was a veteran who had seen it all. He understood government, industry and institutions and had covered them all. In those years I turned to him often for contacts and phone numbers. He was most helpful.

It was always a wonder to me how publicity shy industrialists of those days responded to him and were his friends. His network was vast and his knowledge equally so.

He started the magazine with letter press. Today it has gone digital. In 2018, Viswanathan celebrated the magazine’s golden jubilee. With so much competition and onslaught of news from all sides Industrial Economist has survived. He was always a journalist at heart. I remember him at press conferences. He would always ask the right question at the right moment. That was the last thing he did at a book launch before his heart failed him. 

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