Magna Carta. The Charter that establishes that everyone, including the King, is subject to the Law, that the rights to justice and the right to a fair trial are guaranteed – is one of the most important documents ever written in history. To create a line of writing accessories that bear the Magna Carta name, to craft pens that have the audacity to be good enough to ink documents of such stature, needs gall. And gall – call it boldness, daring or courage if you may – is a trait that Hiren Kanakhara is blessed with in ample quantities. Otherwise, how do you explain the sheer chutzpah of a newcomer from India, taking on the might of the well-entrenched global players, with legacies, that are for some, a hundred years old? How do you explain his nonchalance as he goes about creating the proudly Indian masterpiece down to its core components, when fountain pen making in India is all but reduced to assembling the parts sourced from the far ends of the world? How do you explain the ostentatious, even flamboyant designs of his lines? How do you comprehend his nerve to price his pens at the top, premium end of the market – targeting the connoisseurs who not only have the wherewithal but also the freedom to buy only the best, that too from anywhere in the world?
www.inkedhappiness.com caught up with the man who is, turning the industry on its head – and in the process, rewriting the rules of the game. There is more to Magna Carta than enshrining the concepts of government accountability and protection of individual rights, after all. Excerpts:
Q1. Magna Carta has curved out for itself a distinct niche as the makers of the most ostentatious writing instruments in India. How did you achieve this, that too in such a relatively short span of time?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: We started in August 2013. In calendar years, it may not look long, but if you consider the fact that eight of us from the family have given our single-minded devotion to the cause – day in and day out, the picture changes. Please remember, the reputation that the name Magna Carta now enjoys had to be earned – through dedication, hard work, with our blood, sweat and tears.
In hindsight, the fact that we did not have a legacy to fall back upon was our biggest strength – for we learn as we move forward, on the job. We take nothing as sacrosanct and for us, every day, every pen that we turn, is a test by fire. That perhaps explains our philosophy the best – at Magna Carta, the adherence to quality norms is not an afterthought, it is ingrained in everything that we do!
I personally am obsessed with technologies and the investments we have made in our machines and materials are not things that can be taken lightly. As a matter of fact, I can say (and I say it with a lot of pride) that R&D, to us, is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Out materials are not only robust but also the best in class, our designs come from the most celebrated in the field and the finish that we impart on our creations are proprietary. It is not merely a pen that you buy from us, you take a piece that represents our value systems, a piece on which we have staked our reputation.
Q2. The designs, the choice of materials, the craftsmanship – Magna Carta pens seem to straddle the entire spectrum, from acrylics to metals. How do you manage such a varied spread?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: Our core philosophy is simple – nothing but the best matters. That is why, the designs we consider must adhere to only one rule – they must be original. If you ask me personally, I must confess my fascination with metal pens which I believe have all the qualities of becoming heirlooms. However, keeping the demand of the market in consideration we restrict them to about half our collection with the other half comprising of acrylics and other materials. It will not be out of place to mention here that we are equally adept at turning acrylic pens as we have been working with them since 2003 when we had started off as an OEM for one of the major global brands. As a matter of fact, we have proprietary systems, developed in-house to manage such productions.
Q3. The top, premium end of the market, is crowded with some of the biggest, “legacy” names from the world of fountain pens – how do you cope up with the competition? What is Magna Carta’s USP?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: The best term that describes a buyer at the top end of the market is “discerning”. He or She is a connoisseur. Someone, who does not buy a fountain pen as a mere accessory but is capable of and looks forward to putting it on paper. Such people are far superior to be influenced by brand names alone and consider many things – built quality, design, aesthetics, visual appeal, value for money – before making their purchasing decisions. The very fact that we are where we are as a brand underscores Magna Carta’s acceptability to such discerning buyers.
We make “conversation pieces” and that is our USP. As for the legacy, join us, we will create it together!
Q4. Do you see a revival in the demand for and use of fountain pens? How does the industry look to you, from your vantage point?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: Yes, we do and are extremely excited about it. What is especially heartening is the way the revival of the demand for fountain pens is being led by the youngsters the world over. We have just done the 1st India Pen Show and the response that we got there, from old loyalists and new lovers of fountain pens makes one confident about the portend of things to come
I am personally a great lover of vintage designs and am now seriously working with some classic designs from the past to make them acceptable to the younger generations by re-engineering them to meet the functionality norms and requirements of the modern times. The same is also true for some filling systems which too we are trying to work upon.
Q5. What are your plans for the future? Where do you see Magna Carta five years from now?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: Apart from the regular R&D work that is an inseparable part of the Magna Carta manufacturing process, we are working on some vintage designs with the view towards adapting them to meet the needs of the future generations. In other words, we are busy bridging the gap between the past and the future.
We are also working at various nib and feed options. We realise the importance of the nib and the feed in any fountain pen and believe that it is one area where Magna Carta must leave its mark. Suffice to say, we are giving it all that we have and are confident that here too, we will soon emerge as a force to reckon with, globally.
Where Magna Carta will be in five years’ time? I am tempted to say, “In the sky, with the stars”. But before that we have to ensure the availability of our products in every corner of the world. In five years, we plan to and are hopeful that Magna Carta products will be easily available in every corner, just a wish away from the lovers of quality fountain pens.
Q6. As a force to reckon with in the industry, what are you doing / propose to do to popularise the use of fountain pens, especially among the young?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: We have a number of plans that are aimed at ensuring that the fountain pen get the love and respect that it deserves. The 1st India Pen Show was a step in the direction, and I can tell you in all sincerity that Magna Carta will not be found wanting when we are expected to stand up to be counted for something that we all love so dearly.
Q7. What would you like to communicate to our readers – fountain pen lovers all? What is your message as an industry stalwart for the ones wanting to enter into the world of fountain pen making?
Hiren Kanakhara, Magna Carta: Keep Writing and stay tuned – we at Magna Carta cherish and share the same love and will not disappoint you .
As for new entrants, come on in. Magna Carta’s doors are open for anyone who seeks with a true soul, with passion for the pen.