M. Pratap Kumar, a chemistry graduate and the unsuspecting heir to the celebrated Gem & Company—popular since time immemorial for the GAMA pen, is the third-generation owner of the hand-made fountain pen business. The highly sought-after company was founded by his grandfather M. C. Cunnan, and his associate, Venkatarangam pre-Independence, amidst the bustling crowds of commerce in George Town.

“I hadn’t really set foot into the shop much when I was younger, except for when the whole family was brought together for Ayudha Pooja every year,” recalls Pratap Kumar with a sense of irony.

It was in the year 1985, Pratap Kumar, a fresh graduate from Madras University decided to diversify by trying his hand at a couple of businesses (completely unrelated to pens) before his father, who was running Gem & Co. at that time, called him over to the shop one day. “I was a salaried employee for a very long time. I still remember I was getting, Rs.240 per month.” During this period, he was taught the trick of the trade, not just as a salesman but also as a craftsman. “We have a workshop as well, and back in the day, we used to get about a…

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