ASA Pens, Chennai, where passions are turned into pens!
The name Subramaniam has many meanings, one denoting someone who is dear to the Brahmins, another loosely translated meaning “a worthy jewel”. The Subramaniam we lovers of fountain pens know, the “other half” of the husband-wife duo behind ASA pens of Chennai, is both – he is dear to us modern day “Brahmins” (as in seekers of knowledge, wielders of the fountain pens) and is certainly a jewel that is worthy. He left a cushy job to follow his passion for the pen and is acknowledged by the experts for his contribution to the world of Indian Penmanship, especially in the field of marrying modern technologies (read filling systems and imported, top-notch nibs) with the traditional Indian way, increasing efficiencies manifold, but without compromising on the aesthetics.
I have long been an ardent fan of ASA creations, as are many of you are, and am super glad to be bringing to you Subramaniam’s thoughts on a variety of issues that are close to all of us. Read on:
When did you start ASA? Why?
In 2012, I attended a workshop by my mentor Udayakumar Gopalakrishnan, it was on rediscovering your passions. I decided, on that very day, that I will do something in the area of my passions, which were mainly entrepreneurship and Fountain pens…this was the spark. One thing led to the other and I soon decided not to pursue corporate jobs and started ASA.
How big are your operations? How many people are employed? How many pens are turned in a month on an average?
I have two workshops, one in Trichy, which is actually the house of a friend and pen turner. The other one is nearly complete and is in Chennai. This will start full pledged in the second half of 2019. I also outsource to other pen makers and OEM for some designs.
At the present, we are 4 Including, my friend and master pen turner, my wife, a helper and yours truly.
All put together, we make about 300-400 pens in a month.
What makes ASA pens unique as an entity?
We were the pioneer to synergise traditional handmade pens with modern filling systems in India. Many of our design adaptations are time tested but with modern engineering filling systems. We offer best in class nib systems imported from Germany. We are unique because an ASA creation is one that represents the best of both worlds!
What is your top of the line product?
For me everything that we create is top of the line, for they all carry our name and are backed by our reputation, not to mention the fact that they are results of our painstaking Search for Excellence, are examples of our passion play.
But if you insist on naming names, they are the Galactic, Nauka, Maya and Genius.
What are you doing to keep the proud Indian legacy of pen turning alive?
We now have an all India audience, earlier it was limited. Now the boundaries are shrinking, and the world is becoming smaller with pen lovers from different corners reaching out to us. All I am doing now, is making it available all over. As my tagline says ” Facilitating fine writing across globe”!
Who are the major fountain pen makers in India?
There are many OEMs for commercial pens but when it comes to handmade pens, the options are limited. Ratnam pens were the pioneers as we all know, starting with the first Swadeshi pen. Gama, a Chennai brand is there since 1920’s. Apart from this Guider pen works, Ranga Pens, Deccan Pens, Krishna Pens, Fosfor pens, Lotus Pen are all doing a great work.
Given a chance what would you change about the industry in India?
I sometimes feel handicapped because of volumes, which constraints us and we cannot experiment the way we would have wanted to. For example, if I have to order a Clip in a new design, the minimum quantity will be in 10000, so it leaves little room to have many kinds of clips, that is why you see many manufacturers, who can be identified with the clip model alone.
What are you doing to adapt yourself to the emerging trends among fountain pen buyers? What are your plans for greater integration of your business in the digital domain?
For me I will focus at present only in the digital arena. Fountain pens will be a trend in coming decades, online is way to go.
Are fountain pens making a comeback? Is there a surge in the global demand for Indian turned pens?
Absolutely. There is demand raising and we are also witnessing the entry of many new players. Most recent being Lotus Pens.
Where do you see ASA 5 years from now? What are your plans for the future?
My vision for ASA Pens, is that, it should be in everyone’s pocket. At least every FP user should have one ASA Pen as his Every Day Carry in India. I have kept my pens very affordable, for example, we have a fully handmade, ebonite pen model called ASA Daily, which comes with best in class German Nib system and is priced below 1000 INR. Whereas similar offerings from other sellers touch twice as much.
Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
I wish to first thank you for this opportunity. Fountain Pens are Eco Friendly, especially when used with refillable systems. So, it is a must for saving Mother Earth from Plastics especially that posed by one time use and throw Ball Pens or Gel Pens. When one writes, with a Fountain Pen, people write slowly, this helps in generating thoughts and also leads to a better handwriting. Besides, a fountain pen is a sure stress buster and can be the one thing that you can hold closest to your heart, even literally!
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