Beena Pens. Naam to suna hi hoga!
This is a remarkable story – of yesterday, today and tomorrow – of growth, decay and renewal that typifies the Indian fountain pen in the larger context, hopefully.
It began more than five decades back in 1965 when Satramdas Motwani went into the manufacturing of fountain pens and established, what has now become, the legacy brand – Beena. It wasn’t long before he was sought after – because of his vast, hands-on knowledge about manufacturing in general and fountain pens in particular. Naturally, it wasn’t long again, before he had become a supplier of choice to most of the major brands of the day. Some Beena models, like the Magic and Lincoln, it will not be an exaggeration to state, had even attained near cult status and are still highly prized by collectors.
Satramdass Motwani was known to make no-nonsense pens – easy writers that excelled as writing instruments, were mechanically as near perfection as possible, sturdy, well-balanced and priced competitively. With characteristics like those, it goes without saying that the entity as an OEM and the brand Beena, both had earned a dedicated fan base and the position was near unassailable, when the next generation, in the form of Hiro Motwani picked up the reigns.
The many times that I have either met or talked over the phone to Hiro Motwani, he has never ceased to amaze me, with either his passion for the fountain pen or his deep knowledge about the industry and its workings. Yet, it was the same man, who in 2010 or thereabouts, was on the very verge of pulling the shutters and exiting the business, such was the terrible times that had befallen the fountain pen industry. Yes, we are talking of a time, when unable to cope up with the competition from cheap use-and-throw ball point pens, the industry was littered with the dead and the decaying. That too, was the yesterday.
It is a matter of providence (for the industry, more than Beena) that Hiro Motwani chose to continue the fight. To cater to the changing tastes of the young, he established the V’sign brand where he tinkered with a number of models that were critically acclaimed, all the while continuing to churn out fountains pens for the brands that he caters to. Yes, the present may not have been as good as it was in those glory days in the past, but has not been as terrible as things were not so long ago either. Hiro Motwani, like they say in cricket, has carried his bat through, weathering every adversity a formidable adversary called fate has thrown at the industry. His glorious innings played, as he continues to with his trademark smile, often on a literally unplayable, unprepared wicket.
Now for the tomorrow. The third generation from the Motwani family, Nikhil Motwani has just joined the family, ushering in, a breath of pure, fresh air with fountain pens that he calls “trendier and modern looking”, without compromising on either their vintage charm or their timeless functionalities. And all this at price points that are unbelievable in the modern context.
The first two models that Nikhil Motwani has prepared for the launch are the Beena Antic and the V’sign Neo.
The Beena Antic is made from plastic and Metal (brass); offers Fine nib and a Special nib option (which is a Tapered nib writing F to M in point lines). It is a three in one fountain pen (Cartridge / Converter / Direct Fill); is light in weight but perfectly balanced. The Beena Antic is a clear winner as an everyday carry pen as it writes exceptionally well and is drop-dead comfortable in the hand.
The V’sign Neo on the other hand comes with a Fine and a Medium Nib options and is sturdily built, made from plastic and Metal (brass). The most striking thing about the Neo is that, hold your breath, it is a piston filler! What is even more commendable – and this is where my Indian heart swells with Nationalistic pride, the polishing of the pen is so damn good that one can barely see the parting line between the piston and the barrel. No, I have not seen pens of Indian origin sporting such obvious excellence in manufacturing, especially in piston fillers and I am so enamoured with the filling system on the Neo that I almost failed to mention the fact that it comes with a gold-plated nib, another obsession with Indian users.
I have been using both the Beena Antic and the V’sign Neo for regular writing over the last couple of days and am extremely satisfied with their performances, to cut out the superlatives. Excuse me, but I have been a dedicated fan of the fountain pens made by the house for the simple reason that every one of their fountain pens that I have owned and used have only filled my heart with pleasure. Every time. Without fail. Period.
In passing, I want to stick my neck and make another claim – both the Beena Antic and the V’sign fountain pens are comparable to many pens, including imported ones, that are ten times as expensive as they are. Smooth, sturdy, easy to use and easier on the pocket, these fountain pens are quintessentially Indian. Our beloved industry’s Kal bhi, Aaj bhi, aur Kal bhi!