Fountain Pen Shows – killing the goose that lays the golden pens?

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Fountain Pen Shows – the season of plenty or one too many?

The economic indicators are going south as if there is no tomorrow. Jobs are being lost. Farmers are committing suicides. The Core Sector indices are falling with ceaseless abandon and even the most “optimistic” agree, however grudgingly, that things are not as hunky-dory as the powers that be would want us to believe.

Fountain Pens and the art of reducing your Carbon footprint.

Naturally, these are not the best of times to buy fountain pens. “Naturally” because, fountain pens are not a necessity any more, and economic prudence insists that their acquisitions be delayed, at least till such time that one has disposable, surplus income in one’s hands. Besides, even to the handful of passionate fountain pen collectors – who constitute what we call the “industry” – acquiring a fountain pen, now, when the economic condition leaves so much to be desired, is surely a luxury one can ill afford.

That brings us to the next question that is begging an answer: how do we then justify the string of Pen Shows that are lined up between now and March?

More importantly, do these Pen Shows make any sense, whatsoever? And if they do, to whom?

Fountain Pen Show
Chawm Ganguly on his way back from yet another pen show

Take the oxymoron called Indian Pen Manufacturer. He has to pay a Queen’s ransom to book a table at the show (I’m told that tables cost here more than what they do in Europe and the USA). Then take care of the logistics – boarding, lodging and stuff like that. Hire people to man the counters. This, in addition to the time and effort put in to prepare a stock of pens for the show. Does he recoup the money and time put in to be present in a show? Well, honestly speaking, yes and no. Yes, if we are talking about one Pan India show where the footfalls and business generated would, at the lest, lead to a break even. No, if it happens to be the n-th show, where the sellers outnumber the buyers.

But what about the distributors and dealers, especially of global brands? Are they the ones looking forward to attend every show? If you ask them to cross their hearts and tell you the truth, they too will answer in the negative. The market surely does not have enough depth to sustain all of them, the shows that is. The fundamentals are just not there, however bitter the truth may sound.

Fountain Pen Shows
Fountain Pen Shows – one too many, too soon?

But why have things come to such a pass? Well, for one because of our herd mentality, which ensures that when it rains pen shows in India, like everything else, it pours. We just had shows in Pune and Ahmedabad. And now we have two more lined up, Ahmedabad and in Mumbai within the first three months next year. Surprising, considering the fact that both Gujarat and Maharashtra are known more as worshippers of Lakshmi than of Sarashwati. Even more surprising considering the fact that the eastern, southern, central or the northern parts of India are “unaffected” by the fever.

Okay, so there will be opportunities galore – industry insiders will get the priceless opportunity of hobnobbing with business partners, both potential and otherwise, and network like never before. Handwriting experts will showcase their talents. Pen lovers will browse through the tables. Members of the families and friends, of those taking up stalls, will add to the crowd with their typical disenchanted demeanour. The odd reporter from the media will ask irrelevant questions even as the doting PR person will smile from ear to ear to impress the client. But little else will be achieved – like the booming stock market that is not reflecting the fundamentals, the shows too will create a lot of noise that won’t be music to anybody’s ears.

Will they contribute to making fountain pens popular again? Will they help improve the art of handwriting? Will more young people break out from the abyss of their digitally damned lives and pick up the fountain pen? Will the industry benefit in the long term? Will the events drive the kind of sales that would make participation worth the trouble?  Will the Pen Shows help push the hobby of fountain pen collecting up by a few notches? Will they help fountain pen collecting shed its elitist tag and create a wider base for itself? Will they help the Indian fountain pen manufacturer break the Chinese hegemony? Only time will tell, for at this juncture we can only surmise about the outcome.

Fountain Pen Shows

Point is, why are these shows being held, that too in such regular frequencies, if the odds are stacked obviously so heavily against them?

The answer is in the social media. The cahoots who cheer and shower emoticons have obviously done so good a job, that Don Quixote is ready to wage the crusade to obliterate the windmills. That in the process the fountain pen is being made the victim, is something that obviously does not cross the mind of the perpetrators. Yes, by holding one show too many, we are in fact, killing the goose that lays the golden pens!  


6 Replies to “Fountain Pen Shows – killing the goose that lays the golden pens?”

  1. Sir,
    Very well analysed and written,
    Making a lot of sense and forcing one to think the other way round,
    Enjoyed reading it thoroughly like an essay
    With warm regards,

  2. Dear Chawm,
    What a story! You have the uncanny knack of analysing this industry…like Edward de Bono, with “Six Thinking Hats” and “Thinking out of the box” and you hit the nail on every pertinent head.
    The demand and exclusivity dies when there are one too many and it dilutes the cause!
    You are now the finest example of “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword” in the true sense! I hope the realization dawns on these souls that showcasing is important but loses its potency if not put to use. The emphasis must be more on how to use these pens effectively.
    A fountain pen must be put to use effectively with the vocabulary and expression adding value to the ink that flows and the nib that crafts the letters guided by the hand which translates the thoughts in the mind and the feelings in the heart.
    When the content is packaged well with good handwriting as it’s container, it touches many hearts and kindles the minds to think, its purpose is served as it becomes a writer’s pride and a reader’s delight!
    This story is such a reader’s delight served with sumptuous food for thought and the icing on the dessert cake… are the questions and answers which leave a tingling taste!

    1. Prof K C J, What exactly is your point? I read your comment from top to bottom and then in the other direction but I have no idea what you are trying to say. Could you please write another comment for lesser folks once you have figured out what you wanted to say?

  3. this one is simply awesome. one just has to read the articles you have written earlier about the industry to get a complete picture of how our greed forces us to shoot us in our own legs. that the malice is magnified manifold by the relative ease with which the destitute have taken over the social media is the finer nuance that will be lost to many, but I guess, you have never written to address “the many” and will continue to wield your pen regardless!
    Keep up the good work Chawm. I know that some elements in the fountain pen fraternity will not like your words, for they know not that you write for their salvation only. The rest of us, we will wish you Godspeed!


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