When competition is healthy, it leads to expansion of the markets.
Wondering what I am talking about. Almost 14 years after starting the Ratnam pens, K V Ratnam inspired Mr. G Subbarao to start making pens and thus was born Guider Pens in Rajahmundry. Currently, managed by his son Mr. Lakshamana Rao, Guider Pen works is situated well within the city busy area.
My visit to Rajahmundry had 3 agendas. One Meeting my maternal uncles two to visit Ratnam Pens and Guider Pens. I really doubt if Mr. Lamkshmana Rao would remember me because the trip has done somewhere in 2011-2012. Lakshmana Rao was kind enough to make some pens on the spot for my pleasure and experience. Right from picking up the right ebonite rod, he let me move about freely in the display area and the manufacturing unit albeit with precaution. I don’t remember if I tried my hand at the lathe machine, but trust me the experience I had at these two historic places in Rajahmundry is etched deeply within me. Here too I had picked quite a few ebonites and acrylic fountain pens. I vaguely remember forcing Mr. Lakshamanan to make clipless caps for his dip pens. At Makoba we showcased them as desk pens and were able to sell most of these within few weeks.
Ratnam and Guider were the start of the Indian handmade fountain pen industry. They were the early torch bearers who still make the various eye dropper fountain pens.
Though a little bit of expertise is required in using an eyedropper model fountain pen. But trust me an ink leak stain from one of these pens leaves an impression in your subconscious mind. An impression that will last for your lifetime and sometimes life-changing. Makoba Pen store started in 2009 predominantly as a stationery store. In our early days selling a 2000 or a 5000 rupee pen was an achievement. And my trip to Rajahmundry, completely changed my perspective of Indian fountain pens. Yes, I agree the earlier models were bulky and leaked and need good guidance in filling ink and using it. They are still fitted with fine nibs. Probably that’s their legacy. But being relevant to the current world trends, the Indian fountain pen had to go a long way to compete with international brands.
After the trip, I got back to selling the famous Ratnam pens and Guider pens and learnt the nuisance of the trade. Most of the pens sold off quickly as finding a Ratnam or a Guider pen in an organised pen store was a rare opportunity. But as fate had decided, my learning curve of Indian Fountain pen was like a roller coaster ride. Selling them was fun and easy as there was lots of history behind the brands. Little did i know that just after a week of selling them, a pen connoisseur hurriedly walks in to the store and bham keeps the pen on the table, and draws my attention to the blue ink patch on his shirt. Lucky for him his jacket covered it. Luck for me it was a washable ink. But whats interesting is the presence of another pen connoisseur who had just made a purchase of the final Guider pen. He came to my rescue. He not only pacified the client and showed him the reason behind the leak and jokingly told him welcome to the club but he also taught me a valuable lesson on how to handle Indian handmade fountain pens.
As a business man, I thought this is the end of dealing in Handmade Indian pens. Who would want to invite trouble or cause trouble to other pen connoisseurs. But trust me, there’s always been an itch. Why Indian fountain pens cannot be like fountain pens from Sheaffer or Cross or Waterman. Very user friendly and convenient. This itch was finally settled in 2018 when we made a fresh start with Indian fountain pens. To know more about the next step of the journey, stay tuned in and read my next blog.
Untill then have a fantastic day and a day filled with fountain pens.