Alex Semanin and Kate Dmitrieva, are making beautiful music together – music on fountain pens! Their creations – some call it a riot of colours, some a ode to the written word, some another name of creative excellence – are already a rage among the connoisseurs and pen pundits alike . Created exclusively bu hand, offerings from their company Benu Pens, are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. Here they talk exclusively with Inked Happiness, excerpts:
Q1. Why did you choose a pen as the canvas for highlighting your inner creativity?
Being a Chief designer and a Production director for a number of production companies, the BENU’s co-founder and the creator of our pens, Alex Semanin has acquired a comprehensive experience with decorative arts, jeweller, watches, and pens. However, they were fountain pens that Alex enjoyed creating the most, partly because he always preferred using them himself and partly because there were a special joy and pride in creating something where aesthetics and comfort of use are equally appreciated.
Q2. What prompted you to call yourselves Benu – the ancient Egyptian deity connected with the Sun, Creation and Rebirth?
Benu – the ancient Egyptian deity linked with the sun, creation, and rebirth. Periodically renewing itself like the sun, Benu is a symbol of constant changes, recurrence, renovations. The name reflects our feelings about the history of writing instruments. Changing throughout centuries, in today’s digital world handwriting has become more of an art, than a communication tool. Pens are much less needed nowadays, as we have computers, tablets, and smartphones. Yet interest in stylish writing instruments among trendsetters remains high. Moreover, an expensive and stylish pen becomes not only a tool but also an important accessory. A beautiful pen is a status symbol that reflects the personal taste of its owner. The art of writing is reinvented and redefined again.
Q3. In the world of fine writing implements, which niche is Benu seeking to curve out for itself? Why?
Right from the start, our aim was clear: to make writing instruments and desk accessories for those who prefer bright colors and new designs that are playful, stylish and fun. So if we are to describe the niche we are striving to fill it would be artful, creative handmade writing instruments with an average price tag (70 – 150 USD) that is affordable for many pen lovers.
Q4. How has the journey been so far, since your inception? Where do you see yourself in the near future?
Since January 2016 when we launched our first collection the journey was not particularly easy nevertheless enjoyable. There are many different producers of the fountain pens both global and domestic in the market and it is quite difficult for a new brand to be noticed. Especially considering that, we did not have any investors or financial supporters to lean on and had quite modest resources to support promotions and product development. On a bright side, we discovered that word of mouth could be a very powerful marketing tool. Within only a year, our pens sparked the interest of many pen lovers all over the world. People started buying our pens and showing them to friends, posting their photos on social media and recommending to others. So our company has started growing and continues to grow only because of the support and loyalty of our clients for which we are eternally grateful.
As for the future, we are planning to expand our collections furthermore by introducing new designs, shapes and colour combinations. We are also planning to enrich our product line with other writing desk accessories. And of course we will always be striving to find new ways to surprise and amaze our clients with our new creations, be that unusual shapes, new creative features or eye-catching bold concept design.
Q5. From your vantage point, how does the fountain pen industry look like? Many claim that its death knell has already been sounded, while there are others who see a revival – what is your take?
For the past two decades, the fountain pens industry has shown a steady year-on-year growth. It is a remarkable achievement considering that tablets, smartphones, and computers have become the dominant means for written communication, both business and personal. The reason is quite simple – fountain pens are no longer mere working tools. They are objects of artisan ship that provide joy not only from using them but also from owning, gift-giving, collecting.
Q6. What is the USP of a Benu pen? How do you propose to take on well-entrenched global players in the segment?
BENU pens have an original, instantly recognisable design, a handmade product of superb quality and very comfortable, hand-friendly shapes. Our prices are affordable and our customer service always meets our customers’ expectations. Nevertheless, we believe that this is not what makes our brand stand out in the fountain pen market. The key is that we value customer’s experience and emotions from using our products above anything else. Our purpose is not only to deliver beautiful pens but also to guarantee that the client will have joy, amusement, excitement and other strong positive emotions by using them. Playful colours, unusual shapes, surprising colour combinations – this is what makes our products truly unique.
Q7. Any specific plans for India?
India is a wonderful market, with a great potential. It turns out that many fountain pen lovers in India greatly appreciate our design. But because of high shipping costs and customs duties, it is difficult for many to buy our pens directly from our online store. So the main course for us would be to cooperate with respected retail partners that will make our pens available in the local market. We have recently started working with Aditya Bhansali of The Pen World company, so our pens will become available at the store in the very near future.
Q8. How sustainable are your pens?
Very. All our pens have Schmidt stainless steel nibs that have an unblemished reputation for reliability. The pens’ bodies made of high-quality acrylic resin that is highly durable and scratch resistant. Of course, we always recommend avoiding strong shocks and contacts with abrasive surfaces, but it is true about any quality pen – if one misuse it, it can break. Fountain pens, like the love that makes one create or carry them, are supposed to be handled with care!
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Editor’s Note: Aditya Bhansali of the Pen World, the fastest growing pen portal in India has confirmed that Benu pens will be available with them from early September, 2018!