Click, scripting the future befitting its glorious past, secure in the present
Four decades. A period that witnessed the worst downturn in the global fountain pen industry – when demand vanished, with the young increasingly adopting the ball points as their preferred instrument of writing, and then, slowly replacing the very act of writing by keying in their thoughts. Then an internet and e-commerce led revival of sorts. One Indian brand that has seen it all and has lived to tell the tale is Click – makers of some of the most affordable fountain pens that are aimed at the mass as opposed to the glam end of the market for the elitists. Harsh Gagwani, the young and dynamic man who has taken up the onerous task of spearheading Click’s forays forward talks to www.inkedhappiness.com in a rare tête-à-tête about the days that were and the days that will be. Excerpts:
Q1. Starting in 1978 it has been a long journey – how has it been for Click the brand so far?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: Yes, we have seen it all. The Journey from 1978 has been of many up and downs, from making products for student consumption to making products for consumption for professionals, we have done it all. The time changed wherein earlier fountain pens were mostly used as writing instruments till 1993, when almost suddenly, they were virtually cast aside due to new technology and a variety of other reasons. People those days used to say “ink pen se kaun likhta hai”? It was the South Indian market, especially Tamil Nadu where the majority of writing was still done with fountain pens, especially in schools, that kept things going.
The resurgence, however long in the coming, was also equally interesting. The trend of calligraphy pens also came into existence, the hand turned pens, especially ebonite and acrylics, which were once in demand and had virtually become nonexistent, again made a gradual comeback. From filling mechanism such as eye droppers to pistons and from them to Cartridge-Converters which are now the rage is also a story of metamorphosis that is worth telling – one in which we too had the pleasure of participating.
It will not be wrong to acknowledge the role played by e-commerce and internet in the whole scheme of things. The internet is accused of killing handwriting, but paradoxically, it is the net that has shrunk the physical boundaries and have made fountain pens accessible to all, leading to this resurgence in demand.
Even during the tough times our focus on quality, workmanship and ability to provide value for money products kept things going for us. It is my pleasure to point out that the dedicated consumer base never left the use of quality fountain pens, nor did they stop patronising Click.
Q2. How did you survive the severe downturn in the industry which had almost sounded the death knell for the fountain pens? How did Click make it when many a big and mighty Indian name fell by the wayside?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: As I said earlier our focus on quality, workmanship and value for money products was the major differentiator. Irrespective of the difficult market conditions, the fact that we continued experimentation- adapting to market trends, with different materials, finishes, filling mechanisms also stood us in good stead. We have a huge range of fountain pens (more than 70 models) aimed at all price points that too catering to all major consumer segments, was also another major plus.
Besides, we used the down turn to expand, by taking over the facilities (moulds, machinery etc.) of some reputed manufactures who were closing down, consolidating our position in the market. This was a huge thing those days, to go against conventional logic and against the grain – we did it because we believed that the fountain pens would certainly make a comeback, sooner than later.
Q3. Do you see the fortunes turning now? Is there a revival in the demand for fountain pens? Or is it just a flash in the pan? How do the industry prospects look at you from your vantage point?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: I am seeing these changes since 2013, the main aspect in demand is awareness which is being fuelled by the internet. Today fountain pens are a niche product and it is not possible to network them in every retail stationery store for the sheer logistics involved in the process. And it is precisely here that e-commerce is proving to be a game changer.
What we are witnessing today is definitely not a flash in the pan. The industry’s prospects look good, but the manufacturers will have to cater to the demand with reasonably priced pens. Attracting new users will be the key point that must be addressed by the industry.
Q4. Going forward, what are your plans for Click? What are you doing to in cash the obvious strengths of the Click brand?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: With experience of more than 40 years and 3 generations into manufacturing of fountain pens we are confident, but also cautious, as we have also seen the hard times. We are aggressively expanding our range of fountain pens in acrylic and ebonite, introducing new packing and also steadily increasing our dealer network. We may not be visible all over the place yet, but we are definitely on a roll.
Q5. How successful have been your export efforts? How do we, compere with Chinese pens that seem to have flooded the market? What have been your winning mantra?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: We are doing OEM work for a number of global brands which is a major revenue stream for us apart from establishing our credentials as a quality player of international standards. In the field of export too, we are steadily increasing dealer network so as to increase our visibility and availability, so that we may slowly, but steadily, get into the consumer’s comfort zone. In everything that we do, our focus is always on our strengths, which is our winning mantra.
Q6. Why haven’t you ventured into the top end of the fountain pen market? You have the resources, the brand name and the goodwill as a manufacturer of quality products – yet you remain content in the volume end, why?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: We manufacture fountain pens that the users can use and enjoy – pens that will give them the pleasure of writing without pinching the pockets. Our aim is to touch the maximum number of lives with our products – students, professionals, artists, writers – in the top end of the market, pens are like jewellery which are more for hoarding than for actual use.
Q7. What message would you like to give to our readers – fountain pen lovers all – as one of the stalwarts of the industry? What advice do you have for those wanting to enter into the world as manufacturers?
Harsh Gagwani, Click Pens: Motivate your friends, colleagues, family to write with fountain pens. We at Click are here, we produce world class quality Fountain Pens and will continue to be at your service. And yes, together, we can make India great again, as a maker and user of quality fountain pens!
For More information: http://www.uniquepen.in/