Freebirds Stories
Camel - International quality, but Indian prices.

When the Swadeshi movement was at its peak during the 1920s, several brilliant young Indians jumped into the fray to produce high quality Indian alternatives as a means to boycott British goods. The Dandekar brothers were also among those young Indians who left their education & careers halfway and decided to contribute towards the national cause, but had no idea where to begin.

 

After an extensive market survey, the young Dandekar brothers found that there was absolutely zero competition to foreign goods when it came to the field of school & office stationery, as everything was imported. In 1931, the enthusiastic brothers finally started "Dandekar & Co" in a tiny garage where they produced ink-powder of international standards, and at affordable prices which became an acceptable Indian alternative to imported ink powder.

 
 

Soon, the brothers came up with an indigenous formulation for ink & fountain pens which could last longer compared to their rivals. They named it Camel brand (and the company was renamed to Camlin Pvt Ltd) , to convey the idea that just like a Camel which walks for long distances without the need to refill itself frequently (with water), their fountain pen ink would also write much longer without the need to refill itself frequently (with ink).

 
 

But the Dandekars wouldn't settle with fountain pen ink alone, as they were ambitious of providing Indian alternatives to the entire stationery segment, and thus undertook industrial tours to several nations to learn about new products, operational efficiency, cost management, etc. Equipped with such knowledge, they returned to India and started diversifying into related products which were of international quality, but Indian prices.

 
 

Over the decades, Camlin's success forced most foreign companies to pack their bags, as the proud Indian company managed to introduce everything from pens to crayons, glues to mathematical instruments, oil pastels to canvases. By the 1970s, Camlin started exporting to countries around the world, thus transforming the nation from net importer to net exporter of stationery goods, and this transformation was widely advertised in the form of nationalist campaigns which helped it gain further admiration.

 
 

A decade ago, in a bid to capture overseas markets much more aggressively (and also to pump in fresh funds for expansion), Camlin accepted significant investment from a Japanese based MNC called Kokuyo, resulting in the formation of a joint venture called Kokuyo Camlin. Under this new partnership, 2000+ types of products are being completely manufactured in India, and aggressively marketed & exported to more than 100 countries, thus making the "Made in India" tag gain admiration even among foreign students & professionals worldwide.

 
Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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