Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/01/gandhi_pen/
Montblanc punts £14k Mahatma Gandhi pen
Coming soon: the Mother Teresa diamond pencil sharpener
Luxury pen maker Montblanc has caused a bit of a stir in India by releasing a commemorative Mahatma Gandhi fountain pen priced at a modest £14,400.
The luxury writing implement celebrates the independence leader's "ideas of radical egalitarianism and simple living" with an 18-carat solid gold, rhodium-plated nib and "a saffron-coloured mandarin garnet" on the clip.
Dilip R Doshi, Montblanc’s distributor in India, told the Financial Times: “We are creating a thing of simplicity and beauty that will last for centuries.”
Unsurprisingly, Amit Modi, secretary of the 102-year-old Sabarmati Ashram founded by Gandhi, suggested that if Mahatma had been presented with with this writing honour "he would have thrown it away". He added: "I cannot imagine why anybody has done this. We cannot recognise this.”
Suhel Seth, a brand expert at Delhi marketing outfit Counselage, agreed. He told the FT: “Look at the illogical marketing. Montblanc is an elite product, a luxury product. Gandhi stood for everything that was non-elitist. Here is a pen that uses the idiom of a man who believed in third-class travel to promote a first-world product to luxurious desk tops."
He warned: “I think it’s such a misread of the Indian psyche. When you tinker around with that symbol of credibility, respect and honour, you risk a backlash that no brand needs or deserves.”
To add to the controversy, it's been revealed that Montblanc paid Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar a cool £91,500 to fund the building of a shelter for rescued child labourers.
He defended: “I know there is a contradiction between the man they are commemorating and the product they are commemorating him with, but you can’t expect a company like Montblanc to come out with a cheap thing." ®