Lotus Pens and Arun Singhi are living legends. Ask any fountain pen aficionado and they will swear by his creations, not only enamoured by the sheer aesthetics of the writing instruments that he turns, but also because of their no-nonsense functionality and artistic appeal. Many connoisseurs are even willing to go to the extent of calling him the first among equals of the select few creators who are putting Indian pen making in the same league as those that make the cut as the best in the world. Here in a rare and exclusive interview with Inked Happiness he bares his barrel:
Q: Why and how did you get into the manufacturing of Fountain Pens? What makes you continue, especially in the backdrop of changing preferences with the younger generations going overwhelmingly digital?
A: It all started about two and a half years back, when I came across hand-painted pens that caught my imagination. I was propelled by the urge to replicate them, bought some ready pens from the market and got them hand-painted. I gave out the pens to Fountain Pen collectors like Sanjeev Prakash and Rodrigues who gave me the feedback that while the painting was beautiful, the pens weren’t of good quality. They suggested that I manufacture my own pens in Ebonite to take, what had by then become an obsession forward. Problem was, I had no clue what Ebonite was!
Undaunted, I researched about Ebonite. Figured how to produce it. Then sourced the raw-material locally. I produced one pen, but the material quality wasn’t up to the mark and it was then that I decided to import Japanese raw-materials.
Initially I had produced about 4-5 pens, and they turned out to be outstanding and got sold quickly. After this I met Yusuf Mansoor. I already knew Sanjeev Prakash who are, as we know, renowned fountain pen lovers, collectors. They mentored me about the art, craft and science of Fountain pen manufacturing. Things like balance, design. It was their guidance that made me confident enough to start my own manufacturing unit. And that is how I started. I researched designs in the net, imported from Japan and the journey of Lotus pens began!
I manufactured, pens like Hide & Seek and Tectona. And the one of its kind pen which is only made by me, an Ebonite with wood-finish.
Q. Do you feel that there is a resurgence in the demand for fountain pens of late? Is it a kind of “protest” against all things digital – a kind of self-embraced digital detoxification by a certain section of the society?
Yes! there is a resurgence in the space of fountain pens. And there are some key-contributing factors to it.
As I see it, humans are an emotional species, a large part of us tied to a lot of nostalgia – the joy of older, simpler times. And this is the reason we see a regular cycle of retro trends, where a rage at one point of time had died down is revived. This is one of the reasons, as I feel the love for fountain pens has been reignited. In this digitally dominated world we miss the joy of writing and hence Fountain pens are witnessing a resurgence.
Secondly, the spike in demand for hand-crafted, specially customised articles in the gifting segment is also providing a boost to these pens.
Arts like calligraphy and all are also the reason why fountain pens are being given its due.
Finally, a small but growing segment of fountain pen collectors and aficionados are spreading the cheer, putting their pens on paper.
Q. What are the problems facing the Indian Fountain Pen industry? How do you feel that they can be resolved? How good is Indian quality, when compared to those of the pens turned in the west, or in Japan?
A. To answer the first part of the question, the core problem we are facing in the Indian fountain pen industry is the availability of quality raw material, which makes the very beginning of the process a challenge. We at Lotus Pens, for example, are sticklers for quality and thus haven’t been able to scale up because we believe in producing with only quality materials.
As for India in comparison to West or Japan, we are catching up – the quality of Indian pens is improving and reaching a benchmark faster than you can believe. I am certainly optimistic.
Q. How big are your operations? How many pens do you turn in a month on an average? What are the USP’s of your pens?
A. We produce more than 100 pens a month. We believe in quality over quantity. We also plan to expand and scale up in the near future as we are confident of handing bigger numbers and meeting the demand.
The USP of our pens is that they are handcrafted, of high quality, and are good enough to be a collector’s dream come true.
Q. Many fountain pen aficionados consider your creations – especially the “Shikhar” – to be one of the best fountain pens of the modern-with-globally-accepted-components genre, ever Made in India. How do you react to the compliment?
I feel truly proud. Because we put our heart and soul into that pen. It is one of our finest creations and we aim at creating more such wonderful pens. The compliments truly overwhelm and excite me to keep doing better, to keep thinking deeper and to keep making amazing pens. Because for me pens are subject of pure passion.
Q. How well are Custom hand Painted pens, especially with Indian traditional motifs accepted by the community, especially those in the West?
A. In the west, India is seen as a country and culture with absolute fascination. The west has and is increasingly showing curiosity and unbridled love for India. The colour, the vibrancy, the multi-faceted diverse culture of India is something they truly appreciate and when we translate this into our pens through intricate motifs and royal designs, the pens are embraced with great vigour. To say that they love it, would be an understatement!
Q. What are you doing to spread awareness and popularise the use of Fountain Pens among the young in India? What do you feel needs to be done?
A. To connect with the youth we are active on the social media. We keep sharing our latest creations, we keep talking about interesting facts and trivia about fountain pens. We also create awareness about Lotus pens by participating in exhibitions which are specially for writing instruments. We are present in relevant trade magazines and try to do everything within our means to stoke the passion for the pen, to rekindle the romance that is synonymous with a fountain pen.
As for attracting the youth, I believe we can create a series of pens that are graffiti infused and representative of the new age pop-culture – make pens a fun and stylish thing to have, writing instruments that they can relate to.
We are also heavily concentrating on marketing.
Q. Why are the prices in your website only in US$? How do we Indians pay from your products if we want to be the proud owners of Lotus pens?
A. That is an aspect which is already fixed in the updated site of Lotus Pens. Consumers can now pay online through credit/debit cards. We have an integrated payment gateway as well.
Q. What is your message to the Fountain Pen lovers out there?
A. My message to the fountain pen lovers is keep the love going! And let it strengthen with every passing day. Fountain pens are the tangible element of writing as an art, they carry legacy, they are history and they are a beautiful harbinger of the future. Let us keep the love for writing and pens alive.
Q. Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
A. We at Lotus Pens are coming up with many new stunning Fountain Pens, stay tuned! It will only get more exciting from here.
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