William Penn is all set to usher in a new pen day, post pandemic. Scaling up to do what it does best – riding the crest.
William Penn. The story is just a shade shorter than two-decades old. A story that is backed by some forty odd brands that make up the bucket list of any writing instrument and accessory fanatic. A story that is near synonymous with segment retailing (read dominance) in India. William Penn is also the story of a man – Nikhil Ranjan – who had the gall to bet (and bet big) on his dream at a time when neither fountain pens were a rage, nor was an e-commerce backed brick-and-mortar retail chain, catering to men’s lifestyle with an emphasis on the intellectual a viable business proposition, especially in the ultra-conservative South India from where the entity had started its gravity defying flight.
The rest is history. The largest chain of physical stores in India dealing in writing accessories. The most thriving e-commerce platform. A prime mover status in the industry segment. Association of brands that comprise most of the milky way from Mont Blanc and Sailor to Noblia and Sheaffer with Lamy and Lapis Bard in the middle. Footfalls, Eyeballs. The jingling of the cash registers. But most importantly, the immense (read priceless) contribution to bringing the fountain pen and ink back, almost from the brink and to ensure that they remain in the fight to reclaim their rightful place in our hearts, workspaces and shirt pockets.
There is only one problem with such spectacular flights that test the escape velocity – when things go wrong, it is the high fliers that get hit the most. Naturally, the pandemic and the lockdown that followed, not to mention the tailspin into which the economy has gone into, must have impacted William Penn? Surprisingly, the answer to that is not as simple as it sounds, for though the footfalls to the physical stores dwindled, the actual eyeball connects went up manifold as the business shifted to the web, where, as the largest player, William Penn raked it in. Nikhil Ranjan gambit has played off again.
And now, as the Nation prepares to swoop down and resume its favorite activity of Mall-ing making up for the lost time by splurging and feeding its pent-up demand, William Penn is quietly going about, systematically opening its stores and welcoming the faithful back into its sacred precincts. But here too, the unmistakable touch of Nikhil Ranjan is tell-tale, as the exercise is done with an elan that is trademark William Penn.
The entity’ flagship store at Koramangala, from where the Willim Penn journey had begun in 2002, was refurbished – its reopening done by none other than the much revered and respected Dr. H Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman of the Manipal Hospitals. Said Nikhil Ranjan, spelling out the thought behind the gesture, “the last many months, people around the world have suffered due to the pandemic. Thanks to the doctor and health worker community, not only have millions of lives been saved, but have given hope to billions more. We at William Penn were hence keen to honour the medical fraternity for this service to humanity. We are indeed privileged to have a very eminent doctor – amongst us today. Thank you, Doctor!”
The gesture, touching as it was, was significant in more ways than one, as Nikhil Ranjan continued to explain succinctly in his welcome speech. “No doctor visit is complete without a prescription and handwriting notwithstanding, a pen is what is finally used to give the healing touch! The pen represents the analog device in a digital world we live in today. While there is no taking away from the power of digital devices, too much of it can be detrimental too. A balance between analog and digital is what we see, would be the future. And we at William Penn represent the analog – through pen and paper. We firmly believe in the power of the written word. We have seen a huge revival in the sales of fountain pens in the last so many months…”
As a matter of fact, over the years, since the time William Penn had originally opened the gates of the Koramangala store, much has changed. The spread at the store has become more varied in keeping with the times and with the changing preferences, even as experience and constant customer feedbacks has led to the enrichment of the brand portfolio not only have millions of lives been saved, but have given hope to billions more. We at William Penn were hence keen to honour the. What hasn’t changed however, is the practice of treating each customer as the king and of catering to his (or increasingly her) fancies, establishing in the process, benchmarks for the industry to follow and making the store a landmark, in the city that is otherwise known for its cutting edge in everything that she does.
Nikhil Ranjan is prophetic, “mark my words, a tectonic shift has already taken place in the way people will relate to the act of writing, the way they communicate and those who were keen to consign the pen, ink and paper to the wastebasket of time are in for a surprise. The pandemic experience the joy of touch and feel to seal a transaction. All in all, there are exciting times ahead and it is my pleasure to announce that Willim Penn is ready to ride the crest of the emerging waves just like it always has, pandering to every whim of our valued customers”.
Mark the words, the swinging twenties are here.
For More information: https://www.williampenn.net/