Published: 14th August 2020
How this 26-year-old from Chennai is reviving the forgotten fountain pen - by building a global 'nib' network
Aditya Bhansali launched his online store The Pen World in 2013 with the aim to make premium pens available in small towns. Today, his brand ships to over 23 countries
The art of writing is somewhat lost. Gone are the days when people would strive to improve their penmanship. Now, we all prefer to type it out on the nearest available device — I'm doing the same as I sit down to 'write' this. Handwritten notes and letters have disappeared in this digital age. But amidst all this a young man from Chennai, Aditya Bhansali, is trying his best to revive the art of writing and the value that pens, good pens, had in our lives. With a primary focus on India's Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, Aditya, in 2013, during his first year of college, pursuing Mechanical Engineering at Vellore Institute of Technology, founded his online store — The Pen World — which has now grown into one of the largest online pen retailers in the country.
Specialising in fountains pens, from manufacturers all across the country, The Pen World also exports a lot of its products to pen connoisseurs all over the world. But what started it all? "At VIT, my roommate was a chap from Hisar in Haryana, a town I'd never heard of. During one of our conversations, he told me how his father would travel to Delhi every month to get him fountain pens. That made me realise the lack of premium writing instruments in the smaller towns and prompted me to start the online store. Initially, we were offering cash on delivery to our customers and were able to utilise the e-commerce boom," Aditya says.
Aditya Bhansali, Founder, The Pen World
Later, Aditya decided to expand his brand to incorporate custom-made inks and other stationery like premium notebooks, which are exported to 13 countries. "In 2016, I discovered Dr Sreekumar Maruvancherry through a search on eBay. I was looking at inks manufactured in India and came across this full-time doctor and part-time pen maker," he recalls. Named Krishna Inks, The Pen World has helped brand the 50-plus variety of inks that Maruvancherry creates. "When I got in touch with him, he was virtually giving them away for free. When I purchased some inks from him and sold it, I realised the potential it had. There was a huge demand from customers. We marketed his inks, modified the packaging, got him on social media and now his inks are sold in 23 countries all over the world," Aditya gladly says.
Krishna Inks is just one such brand that The Pen World has helped bring into prominence. Over the years they have collaborated with niche Indian pen makers — Kanpur Writers from Kanpur, Constellation 88 from Mumbai and Ranga Pens from Thiruvallur. "Most of them manufactured for other brands and only started making their own pens a few years ago. Most people who have used a fountain pen in India, would have used one by Kanpur Writers, who are the largest nib makers in the country. Similarly, Ranga Pens, which had a niche customer base in over 100 countries around the world, hardly had any recognition at home," says the 26-year-old.
Dr Sreekumar Maruvancherry, Krishna Inks
Aditya, however, feels that while the art of writing has diminished, it is not lost forever. It is with this belief that he has decided to collaborate with 20 pen manufacturers from all over the world, eight of whom are from India. "While there has been a shift to the digital, writing is now seen more as an activity for the self — people use pens to journal, create art and calligraphy. There has been a decline in the demand in the students' segment but there has been an increase in the premium segment i.e. the people who collect pens or those who use it for their leisure," he says, adding, "The lockdown has provided a revival of sorts to the pens as people had more time for their hobbies. We have seen a drastic increase in sales during this period."