Kanwrite – carving a niche for itself in the global fountain pen space
Kanwrite, Kanpur Writers, Sandeep Awasthi, are all household names in the world of fountain pens in general and nibs in particular. As a matter of fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that Sandeep Awasthi and Kanwrite’s contribution in bringing India into the reckoning, as a quality manufacturer will always be written in gold. Here, he talks to Jyotshna Agiwal of Pen Lovers Kolkata in a no-holds-barred interview. Excerpts:
Penlovers Kolkata: Kanwrite has turned 35 this year. How has the journey been so far?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: We started with manufacturing Fountain Pen nibs for various Indian brands in 1986 and then moved on to manufacture Fountain Pens from 1992 for Indian reputed brands. After 2000, we realised that the new and improved quality versions of Fountain pen and nibs that we wanted to develop did not have well established brands in India, who could take interest in them. Those were the days when no social media marketing was possible, and the only option before us was to approach the international market and foreign brands to offer our new developments.
Penlovers Kolkata: How has the fountain pen industry evolved during all these years?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: We had seen the 70’s, when only fountain pens were available for writing and no ball pen was available in India; then the 80’s and 90’s, when the times were very good for the fountain pen industry. But soon after, we had faced a recessionary period and many Indian brands closed one by one. We too faced a very tough time and had to work extremely hard to survive the lean period.
Penlovers Kolkata: When you started, competing with foreign brands alone was too much. How did you sustain in a market that was slowly, but heavily captured by cheap use-and-throw pens? Were there any other major challenges along the way?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: Once upon a time, we were in a market situation where only cheaper products sustained, as in higher segment, people would buy only foreign brands, while in the lower segment one had to face the competition of use and throw pens. So, we had decided to search for foreign brands who would be interested in our quality products, which were very competitively priced according to their cost structure, whereby, we would also earn a decent margin to grow and survive. Luckily, we found a few overseas brands with similar expectations and we passed that difficult phase achieving high numbers and improving our quality tremendously in comparison to existing Indian standards. We also focused on our R & D, on developing a lot of new variations of nibs. We were the first to develop Flex and Ultra Flex nibs in steel, 14 kt Gold then the Titanium variants.
Penlovers Kolkata: In this digital age, especially after the pandemic, people have picked up different hobbies to battle stress and anxiety. One of them is the use of fountain pens. Do you see this as a legitimate pursuit?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: Yes, I agree with you and while people may not believe, but the medical doctors, suffering from poor writing skills, are now our most valued customers. They are increasingly using our fountain pens to proudly write out their valuable prescriptions to their patients!
I have seen one research report which points out that use of fountain pen not only gives the user an escape from day-to-day tardiness, but also helps to improve one’s thought process.
One more point I want to highlight here is that paradoxically it is this digital age which has empowered us to launch our own Kanwrite brand nationally and internationally, about which we would not even have dreamed earlier.
Penlovers Kolkata: Almost everything that was in trend in the 1980s is making a comeback. Bootcut jeans, belt bags, radio… Do you think that fountain pens and inks are in line next for today’s youngsters?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: I don’t think that the volumes may ever again be like that of the 70’s or even the 90’s, but with drastically improved quality levels and new variations of nibs and ink filling systems, the improved versions of value-for-money Indian fountain pens will give many foreign brands of European, US and Japanese origin a serious run for their money.
Penlovers Kolkata: How has Kanwrite tweaked its marketing strategies to reach out to a larger audience in a limited fountain pen fraternity?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: We have followed various marketing plans like focusing on nib variations, ink filling systems, trying out new material for pens and exploring the different markets. We have focussed on the target customer audience and the strategy that is working the best for us is to encourage our pen users to become our brand ambassador in the various markets and in the social media. Our open ear policy towards our users, our critiques and their suggestions, as well as their sometimes apparently weird expectations, backed by a total commitment to resolve them immediately (or at best within a reasonable time frame) are reaping good results.
Penlovers Kolkata: As one of the oldest nib manufacturers in the country, how do you describe the legacy of Kanwrite?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: We are not the oldest one, but certainly one that is old enough and still running strong. We are healthy, improving and improvising continuously, to make new products at par, or even better than the global standards and may proudly say that we are quite successful in doing so by slowly but certainly changing the international buyer’s as well as local perception about Indian Fountain Pen and nib quality levels.
Penlovers Kolkata: Anything that you would like to add?
Sandeep Awasthi, Kanwrite: Only one point to stress, that we (our Indian brands) need more vocal support from our Indian FP fraternity, as is the trend in European, US and Japanese FP domains even while welcoming good products from abroad.
For More information: https://kanpurwriters.com/