Indian fountain pens the beginning of the end, or is it a new dawn breaking?
Indian fountain pen lovers, look at this TWSBI pen that I just bought. It cost me “X” in INR. The pen writes like a dream, is sturdy in its built, looks good, is technologically fully loaded and the internet is gushing with rave reviews. Besides, it comes from the house of TWSBI, which is considered to be one of the best things to have happened to the fountain pen industry in the last decade, apart from being Taiwan’s most celebrated gift to the world.
Now one honest question to you, the lover of all things Indian, especially Indian fountain pens. Five questions in fact. Rhetoric ones, if you are so inclined.
Q1. Will you pay twice or more to buy an Indian fountain pen that will not match this pen scratch for line?
I know it pays to stoke xenophobia. I know it makes business sense to wrap your inefficiencies in the tinsel of nationalism. But for how long? At what cost? Will you, yourself throw your hard earned “good” money behind such “bad” pens? Put your hand on your heart, look yourself in the eye and tell your heart the truth.
And then there is the inconvenient thing about non-existent customer service. I am not asking for service of the quality provided by the European pen manufacturers. Let us not even get into comparisons – are you happy with the kind of pachyderm apathy that the average manufacturer doles out? Do you guys think you can take the customer for granted forever? Especially now that you have started showing the prices of your products in US dollars in the websites without addressing issues of shoddy products and lackadaisical after sales service?
Q2. If TWSBI, which started just about a few years back can make this pen, why can’t our Indian monoliths with legacies that (they claim) are as rich as those of the German, American and the Japanese pen makers do it?
Look at the aesthetics of the pen: the streamlined body, the form follows function philosophy – now compare this to the Indian pens that are being churned out, as if by rote, the same way the grandfather learnt many decades ago? Design innovation, anyone?
Q3. How much does it cost to make a fountain pen anyway?
Again, there is no need for answers. We know the math very well. The point is, by charging the “premium” that you are charging, whose cause are you actually rooting for? Mother India’s? Of fountain pen lovers? Of collectors of your outsourced masterpieces?
Its not “If Tomorrow Comes”. Its more like “If TWSBI comes”. Do you guys honestly think you will stand a chance?
Does it mean that India does not make a reasonably priced, good quality pen? No. That is not my contention. As a matter of fact, she does produce some very good fountain pens, that too at price points that are revolutionary. Point is nobody seems to know about them. For one, they are few and far between, and without advertising support with conspicuously absent PR, the average pen lover does not even know about their existence.
Q4. If TWSBI can go global from Taiwan, what is stopping us?
Taiwan is approximately 35,980 sq km, while India is approximately 3,287,263 sq km that is, India is about 91 times, yes ninety-one times, bigger than Taiwan. And our great brands, which highlight three generations of pen turning legacies, still cannot look beyond their village boundaries? All the while TWSBI does as Ashwamedh Yagna? And why TWSBI alone? There is also Opus 88 among the relative newcomers. Look at BENU from Russia, will you?
Q5 Is Brand India as far as Indian Fountain pens go, an oxymoron?
How much of your production cost is spent on advertising? Market development? Branding, Public Relations? Research and Development?
Zilch you say? You have enough enquiries that will last you a lifetime you say? You are unable to meet the demand at the rate of five pens that you make per day, you say? By restricting supply and keeping the demand artificially high, you think you can continue to enjoy the fruits of scarcity? In the free market twenty years into the new millennium, that too in a borderless economy? Where the kids don’t even know what fountain pens are? Who are you kidding?
My friend, time and tide wait for no one. Ramp up your production. Invest in innovation. Breakout from the comfort zone bequeathed by your grandfather. Start refurbishing your identity, building your brand. Accord the maximum amount of importance to quality, followed closely by efforts to maximise customer satisfaction.
And start right away. Or else a fate, worse than that befell the dinosaurs await you.
PS. One last word of caution – all of you Dollar pen sellers, pay heed before the irate customers sue you. The damages too, will have to be borne in hard currency.
Now a word of sincere appreciation:
I bought this pen from Vasani’s Pen Gallery in Ahmedabad – my first dealing with the entity and the price was definitely “attractive”. The picture of my packet, as ready for dispatch, was mailed to me even before I had actually walked up to my bank to transfer the money physically. The pen was delivered within twenty-four hours. Now, that is the kind of service that should be the norm as opposed to being an exception. I use the term “exception” after due deliberation – I have never experienced such prompt and no-nonsense service before (and I buy pens from around the world, including India, almost every week). A huge thumbs up for the Vasani’s Pen Gallery. Keep up the great work!
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