The World of Pens

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Nikhil Ranjan, CEO, William Penn
Nikhil Ranjan, CEO, William Penn

Back in 2001-02, there did not exist a store for premium stationery and fine writing instruments in Bangalore. A good pen was always part of your shopping list when you travelled abroad and it was also most a given fact that stationery; like chocolates, were gifts from loved ones when they travelled to India. When Nikhil Ranjan began William Penn, his first business venture, in the year 2002, he wanted to make sure this was like nothing Bangalore had ever seen!

Nikhil would constantly innovate on the products and “experience for the customer” fronts, and hence noticed that there were a huge number of customers who were always looking out for a good writing instrument and hence decided to address this by having a first-of-its-kind “PEN FAIR” in 2002. This event was spread over a period of 4 days and was a phenomenal success. There were over 6000 people who visited William Penn as they were fascinated by the world of pens! This got Nikhil thinking further and he created history of sorts in India by opening the first “Pen Store” in the country in the Forum Mall in Bangalore.

After the success of this store, there was no looking back and William Penn became the only company where writing instruments were the heart and soul of the store! Every pen, every brand, is treated as special here, and the sheer variety of writing instruments gets people from across the country to buy their special writing instrument at William Penn. In a little more than a decade, they have spread across India with 25 outlets and we still going strong.

Biz Stories India talks to Nikhil Ranjan, Managing Director, William Penn

How do you see the growth of the luxury market by 20-25 percent over the next 3 years?

Indians are no longer the simple, khadi-wearing crowd. We are well-travelled, educated and have developed a taste for the finer things in life. More Indians are growing brand conscious and brand-aware. This trend will continue to increase in the next few years. Alongside this, more players are entering the market in all fields. Automotives, clothes, accessories, fine dining… you name it.

The one cause for concern, however, are the government policies surrounding the luxury sector and what hinders further growth is higher import duty and taxes.

While the Indian consumer is still price sensitive, consumers are willing to spend more if they are buying into premium and luxury brands. The desire to use expensive pens and stationery products is on the upswing despite the advent of tablets and hand-held devices changing the way people communicate.

Pens being a major gift item, how was the business this festive season?

Diwali is the best sales season for us. Writing instruments were and continue to be an ideal gifting option for both personal and corporate use. Diwali sales this year has been good for us.

What are the marketing techniques used by your Pen Store for promotion? 

We use a combination of ATL and BTL marketing activities. We have special offers and promotions planned at our stores every festive season. To engage our customers we have promotions and activities for Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, etc. We participate in trade events to create visibility for corporate sales. Focus on digital marketing to promote our e-commerce store and presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter creates visibility and helps us engage with our target group.

What are your future plans in terms of business finances and general business?

Luxury pens are a growing business in India and William Penn has the distinct advantage of being the only retailer of brands like Caran d’Ache, Lapis Bard, Visconti, Sailor and Fisher Space pen.

We are looking to expand into new cities. We opened a store in Kochi, Kerala, earlier this year. We are on opening a new store in Kolkata this month and we will look to expand to a few more cities in 2014.

How are the fundings met?

Internal accruals and debt through banks

What are the challenges faced by you at present in terms of market conditions, logistics, competition, or any other?

The changing market conditions and currency fluctuations impact our business.

Who are your immediate competitors in the market and how does William Penn stand out from them

William Penn was and continues to be the only multi-brand fine writing instruments retailer in India. We are also one of the biggest multi-brand retail chains for premium and luxury fine writing instruments with 25 outlets and an online store www.williampenn.net

Do u have any plans to go online with an online pen store?

William Penn has had an online presence since 2004 and became a fully operational
e-Commerce site in 2007. www.williampenn.net is the only website in India to focuses on exquisite writing instruments. The website offers a unique shopping experience with customized elements like engraving, varied payment modes and a means to reach customer care easily (through visible call to actions). The website is responsive i.e., it opens up in all devices – laptops, mobiles and tablets.

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