Chelpark was the go-to fountain ink brand before 2000. With the advent of other types of pens and computers, the popularity decreased
Before the turn of the millennium, knowing how to write in cursive was seen as a sign of a good thing. In school, we did a lot of writing classes/ exercises. Good handwriting got you bonus marks.
The fountain ink pen was the next logical step following the pencil. The transition from pencil to pen that came with entering fourth or fifth class was a significant milestone in any student’s academic career.
I recall getting blue ink on my hands from filling the pen and sometimes on my shirt pockets due to leaking pens. No one was allowed to use ballpoint pens at my school. A student who uses a ballpoint pen was not taking his academics very seriously! Imagine!
Chelpark was the ink of choice. It was low-priced and dependable, and it came in a rainbow of hues, including emerald green, scarlet violet, and sapphire blue.
Around 1943, Parker Pen Company decided it would no longer work with its Indian partner TTK. Parker also sought a new business partner in India.
That’s when Mr Byford, the Parkers’ key counsel, contacted the Chellarams about becoming their business partners in India. Byford’s longstanding business relationship with the Chellaram family began because the Chellarams were significant purchasers of Parker items for use in West African markets.
The Chellaram family informed Byford that they were prepared to purchase the bulk of Parker’s interests in India, but only under certain conditions. The Chellaram family was required to have no part in the company’s operational management. And Parker alone would be in charge of everything. Parker accepted the Chellaram family’s terms, and the two groups formalised their partnership to conduct activities in India.
After significant deliberation, it was concluded that to appeal to Indian consumers, “Quink” would need to adopt an Indian persona. It was at this time that the brand name Chelpark was coined – a portmanteau of “Chellaram” and “Parker”. With the assistance of an advertising campaign wherein the Parker sticker came off and a new sticker with “Chelpark” written on it was shown. This advertising campaign skyrocketed to success, giving rise to the now-famous Chelpark brand.
After the Chellaram family acquired a controlling stake, the business rebranded as Chelpark Company Limited. Which became Chelpark Company Private Limited in the year 1985. The company moved its headquarters from Madras (now called Chennai) to Bangalore.
The success of Chelpark may be attributed to the high quality of its ink and its pen nibs. The ink in Chelpark was formulated to prevent clogging and corrosion, making it compatible with high-end fountain ink pens. From the well-to-do to the average school kid, everyone was on it. The names Moti and Sona were given to the two most notable fountain pens made by Chelpark.
Spending on radio and newspaper ads was minimal for Chelpark. They focused more on in-person promotions instead. Brand awareness for Chelpark was increased through campus activities, including essay contests, product displays, and presentations to teachers,
Due to changes in policy at the Indian finance ministry, the long-standing alliance between the two corporate groups ended about 1968–1969. Parker determined that it would be unfavourable to its bottom line to maintain operations in India and so opted to liquidate all of its interests there. At that time, the company Chelpark, best known before for its fountain pen ink, expanded its offerings to include other types of office supplies.
These days, you can only find Chelpark ink and pens in the hands of collectors, fountain pen enthusiasts, and a few obscure shops tucked away in the nooks and crannies of major cities. Strangely now Quink and Waterman inks from Parker are available.
No one knows for sure when pens and inks stopped being sold, but the widespread adoption of the ballpoint pen and cheap, non-toxic gel pens couldn’t have helped. The pens vanished first and the inks soon after.