Education and creativity are poised for growth in India: Partho Chakrabarti, Faber-Castell

Chakrabarti, Managing Director at Faber-Castell spoke about the company’s journey in the Indian market, their latest campaign and more

Partho Chakrabarti

Faber-Castell is one of the leading manufacturers of wood-cased pencils with a varied range of products for writing, drawing, and creative design, as well as decorative cosmetics. In a large market such as India which is also a price sensitive market, marketing a product alongside its Indian and foreign competitors which are comparatively economical is tough however the company has fairly seen its own journey creating brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Recently, the brand launched a campaign called ‘Art with Purpose’ in collaboration with NDTV on the topic ‘Cultural Diversity in India’. The campaign saw participation from 1500 schools and over 1.2 million students.  

In an interaction with exchange4media, Partho Chakrabarti, Managing Director at Faber-Castell spoke about the company's journey in the Indian market, their latest campaign and more.

Excerpts:

How has the journey been so far for Faber-Castell in the Indian market?

Although, we have been in the country for the last 20 years and most of the journey had been in the form of a joint venture. It was only about 4 years ago, that the German parent took 100% ownership of the company and its management as well. Since then, we’ve steadily focused on getting our portfolio aligned with the global organization.

Faber-Castell globally has 3 major lines of competencies: Learning, Art and Writing, and today in India we are present in all three competencies and much of the global portfolio that is available in India for the consumers. Our facility at Goa is world class, and apart from catering to the India demand, it is also a ‘Centre of competence’ and manufacturing hub for products like wax crayons, oil pastels, modelling dough, wet paints for the entire Faber-Castell world. I would say a lot of progress has happened in India ever since it came under 100% ownership of A. W Faber-Castell Germany. 

What is the idea behind Art with Purpose?  

We have two clear targeted consumers: the child and the artist. To put it another way, we as a company are heavily invested in education and creativity. The idea behind 'Art with purpose' was to unleash the creativity in the child through the medium of art for a purpose. At Faber-Castell, we believe that art is not something we do as part of the curriculum but is actually a form of expression across all ages. This national program aims at partnering with the schools and school teachers to develop creativity among children and thus preparing them for an AI influenced future where creativity and expression would be a core survival skill.

Thinking Ahead:

What would we expect from the sector and Faber-Castell in the near future?  

Education and creativity are poised for growth in India. We are equipped to take full advantage of this continual growth. So, one should clearly expect innovative offerings in these two fields in the years to come.

What has helped Faber-Castell India to be a brand that it is today? What is the market size?

Almost two decades of being in India and existing for 258 years worldwide, what still sets us apart is that Faber-Castell yet remains a truly aspirational brand in the minds of our consumers. We have defined our products in competencies rather than just categories.

The stationery industry size is about 15,000 cr largely of which belongs to paper and pens. Our own overall share is currently muted as we have just begun our journey across some of the larger categories such as pencils and pens, even though we have significant competencies in those globally. We have good share where we have focused on India, such as highlighters, colour pencils, crayons, etc as suggested by recent research studies and survey reports. We are also a significant player in the "Back To School" business in the country. 

How has technology influenced stationery products over the years?

Technology and innovation should go hand in hand to keep stationery products in vogue. New technological processes are being researched to see how sustainable materials which are environmentally friendly can be used for the products. Stationery is more than a product, it’s also the design that we sell, and therefore it was technology that helped us create the iconic Grip 2001 pencil. The water-based coating is again environmentally friendly and nontoxic to pencil chewers.

With digital reality fast replacing the physical, how do you see stationary products retaining relevance? Do you see further entrepreneurial opportunities in this space?

Research data shows that the stationery industry had been growing high single digit for the past 5 years, and is likely to pick up even more in the coming years. We expect to be outperforming industry growth as we introduce more and more of our global competencies in the Indian market.  

India has more than 260 million registered students, and the number keeps growing. All school going students depend and will continue to depend upon writing and drawing products tools.  We’ve also seen counter trends such a digital detox in recent year from which our art and writing materials have derived many users and if we go by the experiences outside India such as adult coloring etc, this counter trend will have its own momentum. And of course not to forget, a sizeable portion of the world population will continue to ‘Think in Ink.’

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