KATHMANDU: The first Pilot pen was launched in Japan in 1918 when the country was opening up to Western influence, trade agreements and signing of contracts and pen factories were lucrative. Founder Ryosuke Namiki, a mechanical engineer and a teacher at the Tokyo Merchant Marine College, used his skills in industrial engineering to create a high-quality prototype and set up the Namiki Manufacturing Company for the production of his fountain pens.
By 1938, the company became the Pilot brand and positioned itself at the cutting edge of worldwide technology in writing instruments.
Today, Pilot is respected for its research, development and successive technologies that have changed the writing instrument market. More than 3,000 employees represent it around the world with brand presence in five continents and 100 countries through 15
subsidiaries and distributors.
Pilot is renowned for a wide range of pens, including fountain pens, rollerball pens, gel pens, ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, clutch pencils, calligraphy pens and a whole host of other varieties. Fair Arts International (FAI), the sole authorised dealer of
Pilot pens in the entire South Asia, is responsible for the proud history of Pilot pen in Nepal, which rolls back over 30 years. The brand has carved a niche for itself with its wide variety in Nepal and enjoys a comfortable 40 per cent market share in the higher end
segment, which makes it popular among bureaucrats, mid-management executives, entrepreneurs and even the
corporate circle with its famous Pilot Pen V5 — arguably the highest selling writing instrument among the Nepali masses.
The brand is now interested to expand its market share and make its presence more pronounced in the lower priced mass segment, which is lucrative and competitive but dominated by cheaper priced pens from India and China. The brand has pinned its hopes on the launch of their new Super GP, which is modestly priced at Rs 15 and expects to make major inroads into the mass and student segment. To celebrate 30 glorious years of the brand in Nepal, Masahiro Horiuchi from Pilot Corporation’s international sales division was in town to launch their new products for the Nepal market.
With superior quality and economic pricing, the super GP offers rubberised grip and quality ink that ensure flawless writing. Other products that were also launched include the Dr Grip, which Pilot claims to be bacteria free as it absorbs sweat, and the distinctive Bottle to Pen (B2P) gel rolling ball pen that is made of 89 per cent recycled parts. The third product launched in Nepal was its Frixion pen that is branded with the statement ‘Write, Remove and Rewrite’ and is enriched with thermo sensitive ink that
disappears with friction. These varities will be showcased at the Fair Arts International showrooms in Dharmapath, New Road as well as distributors of the brand in Nepal.
“Our brand presence is very high because of our sole authorised dealer and distributors being very active and aggressive in Nepal. Though we are the number one with dominant presence in the higher-end segment, we’re now focusing on new segments and markets with these products,” Horiuchi said. He informs that the Super GP is an exciting product that hopefully will revitalise the market, capture greater market share and determine the course of action for the brand in Nepal. They expect to sell 40,000 to 50,000 pieces a month and if the launch of this product can capture the market, Pilot has plans for a joint venture to start production in Nepal.
While initial studies have begun and there is a possibility of setting up a production plant at Balaju, a lot will depend on the policies and negotiations with the government. The other possibility is that Pilot could set up its production plant in India to focus on this region.
Piyush Goenka, managing director of FAI, states that while Pilot is an established brand in Nepal and market leader in the higher end
segment, catering to the mass is something new and exciting. He feels that the market is ready for quality branded products at the right price. He also states that import policies play a huge role in determining the pricing in the local market with import duty and VAT making such products uncompetitive.
The brand faces a tough fight in this price sensitive segment, if it has to compete with Chinese and Indian products that most often come from the grey market. To ensure brand acceptance and presence, Goenka informs that Pilot products will be more visible and that they plan to expand their brand presence by expanding their branded showrooms. However, he is confident that quality matters and other products from Pilot, like the Super GP, will make its mark in Nepal.