On September 5, India celebrated Teacher’s Day and many students gave gifts to their teachers, the most common being the pen- a symbol of education. Stylii was the first form of writing instrument that was created by the Sumerians and since then, it has come a long way. Now we just don’t have ink pens but also ball pens, roller ball pens, marker pens and a whole host of special-tipped pens. The major players in India include Luxor Writing Instruments, Cello, Reynolds, Add Pens, Goldmate, Today’s Writing Products, Rotomac Pens, Stic Pens, Linc Pens & Plastics, GM Pens International, and Flair Pen.
The pen market is segmented broadly into different categories like (a) young students (many of whom depend only on pencils and ball point pens), (b) frequent users (in offices, commercial and public establishments), and (c) occasional users (like housewives and literate manual workers). The market of pens in India is being dominated by the ball point pens, which accounts for 70% of the total demand for pens in India, followed by gel pens (20%), fountain pens (4%), reports estimate. The rest account for only 6% of the market. Around 85% use blue ink, while black, red and other colour inks are used by about 15%.
The general pen market
The majority of pen users in India are students from schools and colleges. The pen is an instrument that caters to everybody’s needs from rural to the urban markets. Then there is the niche clientele of the luxury pen market. Deepak Jalan, Managing Director, Linc Pens while talking to BE, said, “School students constitute the majority users of our products. The sales show a peak when a new academic session starts, when the schools reopen after vacations and also during the times of examinations. The sales tend to be lower during the holidays and vacations.” In the 1990s, fountain pens were in great demand in India because they were used to sign important documents and teach school children how to write neatly. But with technological advancements, different kinds of pen were launched in the market like ball pens, gel pens, direct fill pens, ball pen refills. But fountain pens are becoming once again popular in the market. “Ink pens are extremely easy to write with and look stylish too. When everyone uses the same kind of gel pen and I use a fountain pen that has an eccentric design, it is like making a style statement,” said Shriya, a Class 12 student from Kolkata.
The market of pens is growing globally. About 80% of the revenues of the pen industry in India come from pens with a price range of up to `15. A small percentage of pens are priced in the range of `100 to `300 and a miniscule of the market is represented by the super-premium segment in which the price tag goes as high as `100,000 or more. While the market for lower price range (up to `15) is growing at a rate of 7% to 8% annually, the market for pens above that range is growing at 8% to 10%. “The world writing instruments market is expected to be around `62,000 crores in value and with our exports being about `100 crores, there is a huge potential for growth. We expect to grow our exports by 20% annually,” added Jalan.
The luxury pen segment
The luxury pen market in India is growing very fast. With higher disposable incomes and people’s inclination towards branded items, the demand for luxury pens has increased. India has all the major global players in the luxury pen segment like Mont Blanc, Cross, Luxor and Lamy, which is one of the top 5 luxury pen brands in the world. In the United States and Europe, the demand for luxury pens is higher as these are preferred as gift items and are now- adays perceived as fashion accessories, similar to high-priced watches. India has a few high profile pen collectors like Arun Jaitely, Amitabh Bachchan, and Mohammad Azharuddin.
According to various estimates, the pre-mium and luxury pen market is between `250 and `400
crores. Many premium and luxury writing in- strument brands are looking to tap Indian buyers by investing in marketing and enhancing their visibility, said Nikhil Ranjan, CEO, William Penn – a distributor/retailer of luxury writing instruments with 26 outlets across the country and a market share of about 30%. Montegrappa an Italian luxury pen brand, and ST Dupont, a French brand, are both expanding their market in India. Atul Gupta, brand manager of Montegrappa, India said that the brand has grown by 50% in revenues in 2014-15. Reports estimate that pens priced between `1.2 lakh and `3 lakh do well in India.
In the digital age
In a world dominated by tablets and mobile phones, pens, it is assumed, are becoming a thing of the past for working professionals. That’s not true. In India, students still make it a point to use pens and while many office goers are in the habit of using the notepad or reminders on their phones, they still need to use pens. Then there have also been many technology-driven pens in the market like Active Digital Pen, Positional Digital Pen, Camera-Based Digital Pen, Accelerometer-Based Digital Pen, Trackball-Based Digital Pen. According to a report by Technavio earlier this year, pens and other writing tools generated a revenue of $16.2 billion worldwide in 2014 and are expected to reach $20.2 billion by 2019. Demand for basic writing instruments is high in Asia, Latin America, and West Asia due to their increasing population and literacy levels.
There has been a rise of several pens that can be used to write on digital devices. Cross pens chief marketing officer, Magnus Jonsson said that, “Consumers are changing the surfaces on which they want to write, such as glass vs. paper. We need to adapt in terms of the products we launch.” Jonsson added that the growth is “strong” in emerging markets including Brazil, Russia, India, and China, where educational levels are continuing to rise. About 15% of Cross’ business today comes from stylus pens that can be used to write on digital devices.