Satramdas Motwani – the man, the Beena, the Magic!

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August Eberstein and Alfred Nehemias are names that are well known to fountain pen fanatics. The names Kyugoro Sakata and Walter A Sheaffer are also recognized instantly. And they should be, for they are the founders of Montblanc, Sailor and Sheaffer pens respectively, people who have created brands that have outlived them, making enormous contributions to the growth and development of the instrument and the industry in the process. But ask the same fountain pen aficionados about Satramdas Motwani and you can be certain to draw a blank – and not for any fault of the fountain pen lovers. Satramdas Motwani, like all achievers, is extremely reticent, shunning the glare of publicity as he worked all his life, chasing his dreams. Besides, I am sure you all will agree, we Indians are awfully frugal in heaping praise on those, who from among us, surmount all odds to reach the top, preferring instead, to seek our heroes from foreign shores.

But it is time we set the record straight, if not for our nihilistic countrymen, then for posterity.

Satramdas Motwani arrived at Mumbai at the age of 12, the partition having robbed him his everything except his indomitable spirit. The year was 1947. And no, he didn’t stand in any queue to seek dole, but started his life as a fruit seller outside what is now known as the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. From there to becoming a pastry seller in the local trains may sound like just another step. But for a boy, alone against the world, financing his own education, the scars of partition still fresh on the soul? Satramdas completed his SSC in the year 1953.

Satramdas Motwani

The next step up was reselling ballpoint pens in Crawford market. Not an easy job, in those days when the fountain pens ruled the roost, more so for a young boy with the footpath as his address and nothing except his grit and determination to fall back upon. But young Satramdas worked hard and learnt faster. For, he took a leap of faith that turned his life on its head.

In 1957, he came across the owners of Pen Service, a hole-in-the-wall establishment that repaired imported fountain pens – Sheaffer, Parker, Montblanc, et all. It was here that Satramdas learnt about the tines and feeds of his trade, becoming a master in no time. As a matter of fact, such was the confidence that he gathered, he had the audacity to have his own fountain pens manufactured by third parties, which he started selling under the brand name Beena. The year was 1958.

Having tested blood, the entrepreneur in Satramdas Motwani, by then a young man of 23, could not be held in check any more and a small office space was rented in Mohatta Market, from where Beena fountain pens made their formal appearance, even while the master continued to supplement his income by repairing pens. It will not be out of place to mention here that among his regular customers was the late Morarji Desai, who would go on to become the Prime Minister of India.

Satramdas Motwani

In those early days, the main market for Beena pens were Karnataka, though it wasn’t long before Satramdas started expanding his geographical spread, by appointing a series of distributors, beginning with Bharat Stationery Mart in Pune looking after Maharashtra. However, conscious about the fact that the pens supplied by him could be qualitatively improved manifold, Satramdas Motwani continued to toy with the idea of entering into manufacture, for which the biggest constraint was resources. Besides, in those days, with Mumbai based industry leaders like Mathre and Wilson firing in all cylinders, getting into manufacture – and direct competition with the well-entrenched leaders – was no small matter. But Satramdas Motwani was no pushover either – he had learnt the trade by the dint of sheer dedication, had worked his way up from the footpath, had full confidence in his abilities and was ready to put stake his everything to realise his dreams. In 1962 he tied the knot, was blessed with his first child in 1963 and in 1965 Beena’s factory was started in Ulhasnagar. The Indian fountain pen, arguably with the most consistent quality had arrived. Hiro Motwani, the name that is now synonymous with Beena and V’Sign was born soon after, in 1968.

 

But there is much more to the Beena story. In 1974, Sharad Dandekar, the then Chairman of Camlin called on Satramdas Motwani, at the Beena factory, with a request that Bena start working as an OEM for Camlin. The numbers were huge and were big enough to tempt any businessman. But Satramdas Motwani politely refused, stating that even one rejected lot would jeopardise the very existence of Beena. Sharad Dandekar was so confident about Beena’s prowess in maintaining excellent quality, that he had committed that Camlin would never reject any lot from Beena, had shaken hands and sealed the deal on the spot. With that was born a partnership that has tested the vagaries of time and establishing Beena as one of the leading OEM manufacturers of fountain pens in the world. For obvious reasons I cannot divulge the names of the globally acknowledged brands that Beena caters to, but rest assured, it is enough to take your breath away.

Satramdas Motwani arrived at Mumbai at the age of 12, the partition having robbed him his everything except his indomitable spirit. Today Beena and V’Sign continues to wow a new generation of fountain pen converts, thanks to a dream that a young boy dared to dream, as his tired limbs dozed off.

Satramdas Motwani

August Eberstein and Alfred Nehemias, Kyugoro Sakata, Walter A Sheaffer … Satramdas Motwani. Tell me Indians, if this is not “Garv Se Kaho”, what is?

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/Vsignpens

 

One Reply to “Satramdas Motwani – the man, the Beena, the Magic!”

  1. Most affordable, beautiful and working pen in a category where everyone can afford a piece

     

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