William Penn acquires the American cult brand Sheaffer
Bengaluru-based William Penn, India’s leading brand of premium writing instruments and lifestyle accessories, has acquired Sheaffer, the 110-year-old iconic American company known for its luxury fountain pens.
This is the second major acquisition by the Made in India company, which previously bought Lapis Bard, a premium English leather bag brand, and entered the business accessories segment. The company has expanded its product range by introducing handmade leather bags, elegant wallets, elegant cufflinks, watch chests and pen cases.
As well as being historic, it is one of the largest acquisitions in the premium writing instrument industry priced at approximately Rs 450 crore which will see William Penn take over Sheaffer’s manufacturing, marketing and retail operations in 75 countries including the US, United Kingdom, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Japan and India, among others. The acquisition of AT Cross Company includes the brand’s complete product portfolio and licenses, including premium pens, journals and gift sets. William Penn plans to double Sheaffer’s current 15 percent market share over the next three years.
In 2002, Nikhil Ranjan, an engineering graduate from Mysuru (who worked at IBM), founded William Penn to bring the world’s fine writing instruments to India. They opened the first store in Koramangala, Bengaluru to bring together renowned international brands such as Montblanc, Caran D’ache, Parker, Cross, Sheaffer, Pelikan, Faber Castell Design, Moleskine and Sailor under one roof to bring the Indian customer a feel convey the best brands. Not forgetting Fisher’s Space Pen, which writes in weightlessness under water, upside down and in extreme temperatures. William Penn sells high-quality fountain pens from Ranga Pens, a cult brand from Tamil Nadu. However, it is wary of collaborating with other domestic companies due to the lack of a scalable manufacturing model.
Interestingly, the company was named after the Pennsylvania founder of the same name. William Penn was a staunch advocate of religious tolerance and a prolific writer with connections to American and European history. And the company hoped to bring the legendary writing instrument brands of the West to India. As the founder puts it, it is also the name of the most famous writer, William Shakespeare.
In addition to 25 stores across India, William Penn’s premium products are also available online on its e-comm platform and leading luxury portals.
In 2011, the company launched its signature experience of allowing customers to try every pen in store. The following year, it hosted a workshop by Sailor’s legendary feather master, Nobuyoshi Nagahara, and an exclusive limited-edition exhibition.
In 2016, Pennline, an in-house brand focused on developing innovative writing products, was launched. Innovative products like wireless power bank organizers and Quikrite, a productivity-enhancing journaling system, made it into stores. The company evolved from a premium fine stationery store into a multi-brand, multi-category retailer. In 2019, it focused on internal product personalization services, curating the product catalog based on the consumer’s purchase history and providing customized products with logo, engram and name sticker.
Like most companies, William Penn survived the pandemic by improving its digital presence, and a unique initiative – Words that Matter (inviting people to write in the words that matter to them) – was launched to celebrate May 20 th anniversary of the company (on January 11, 2022).
Nikhil Ranjan sees the current acquisition as a remarkable opportunity to further build on the tastes and preferences of Indian customers while developing new Sheaffer models and lines.
“This is a proud moment for us. We are excited to begin this new phase of growth with an iconic American brand. I remember the days when I founded William Penn. Our vision was to offer our customers a world-class experience in a category previously unavailable in India. Working with an impressive global player like Sheaffer was a distant dream at the time. Years of hard work, passion and dedication to excellence have helped us achieve many milestones in our journey over the past twenty years. Today it fills me with great pride to be able to say that we are one of the most important global players in the writing instrument sector.”
“The American brand has a 15 percent market share in the premium writing instrument segment (pens over $10) in India. We hope to double that market share and plan to make India the #1 market for Sheaffer over the next 3 years. As a global player, we look forward to changing the rules of the game,” added Ranjan.