The last couple of years has been exciting ones for the fountain pen, ink, paper, stationery, and accessories segment in India. On the one hand, fuelled by demand, several young and enterprising people have unveiled brands that are always out to outdo themselves, forever stretching their horizon; while on the other, old, and established players in the field have started, albeit with some reluctance, to reinvent themselves. The newcomers from among the users, too, have helped this process of evolution, as their uncompromising attitude has pushed the entire industry to focus on improving both the quality of production and the pricing of end products.
What are the major Indian brands that are in the very thick of this transformative experience that the industry is going through? More importantly, what are the Indian brands that one should know about – and I say this keeping in mind the needs of the newcomers – so that they may access the right sources at the right moment to address their sartorial searches? I have often been asked to make a list but have, like forever, kept it in abeyance as such lists are never complete and one runs the risk of hurting the sentiments of those who have been, unwittingly or otherwise, left out. But I guess I cannot ignore the demand from the readers and viewers anymore, so here goes. Just remember, this is a list primarily of Indian makers, people who are into manufacturing as opposed to mere sellers. Many in the list are multi-brand players, often selling products sourced from outside, but that is not why they are here. They are here for what they make themselves and the in-house brands that they represent.
I begin the journey with AP Limited Editions, which makes some of the most stunning pens that I have had the pleasure of seeing. Yes, the pens are mostly made abroad, by craftsmen from around the world, but APLE still makes the cut because the owner is a Kolkata boy!
Next in line is another gentleman originating out of Kolkata – Subramaniam of ASA pens. Then comes in quick succession Ayush Papers and Beena, names that need no further introduction. Bril and Camlin follow.
Click pens, makers of India’s entry-level workhorse, the Aristocrat comes next which precedes Constellations 88, which is also behind the Vazir Pens. Daytone, Deccan and Diya with her Acriv brand follow suit. Fosfor, Gama and Guider – the first representing the bespoke, boutique segment, while the other two make pens the old-fashioned way making up the rear.
Kaagazi, Krishna and Lapis Bard are alphabetically next in line, with Lapis Bard being a brand that was born in England now in Indian hands (part of William Penn) adding just the right amount of glamour.
Lotus, Magna Carta and Mohi – all based out of western India follow suit. Lotus and Magna Carta products are aimed at the middle and the upper segments while Mohi makes pens that are extremely robust not no mention the fact that they are value-for-money products.
Origin One, the enfant terrible of the design world with stationery offerings that are just out of the world comes next. Ratnam, which needs no introduction, is next followed by leather carry cases by Say FP which is the only Patna-based entity that has made it into the list.
Sulekha inks, the legacy brand, charting a fantastic turnaround story; Urushi Studio – India’s only makers of Urushi lacquered fountain pens and Wality / Airmail who have been in the business since the middle of the last century and is still creating stirs, complete the list.
The list, as I said earlier, is neither complete nor is it comprehensive. As a matter of fact, now that I have made one, I feel the time is right to work on a more comprehensive one, fortified with more relevant information and enriched with just the right bit of trivia about the brands which I feel, adds just that right amount of irreverence to the narrative, making it just that much more interesting to read. Perhaps adding the email IDs of the principal protagonists and the web URLs will also help. What do you think? Do add your invaluable comments. Tell me the names that I have missed out so that I may add them all to the follow-up story.
PS. After the Video story was out, I was inundated with the names of the brands that I have missed – Rytol, Ranga, Stex, Woodex, and Epitome being the major exclusions. It has also been pointed out that old, established brands which were given up for being extinct till a couple of years back, like Mishak, Mebsons, Sultan, and Prasad are also surfacing, albeit sporadically. However, this aspect needs to be investigated before we commit either way, as it has also been pointed out that these may be cases of either old stocks being liquidated or clear cases of inventive players palming off their products in the guise of past masters.
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