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At 40, no going hell for leather, says Hidesign’s Kapur

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on September 07, 2018 Published on August 15, 2018

Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign — present in 24 countries

Design, quality, workmanship more important in brand journey

Forty years in a brand’s life would be a good time to look back, take stock and reflect on the milestones achieved. Only in Dilip Kapur’s case, he didn’t start off thinking he’s got a great brand on hand that he would want to make well-known globally. It just happened and before he knew it, his discerning customers recognised the brand for what it was.

“I only knew Hidesign was a brand when for the first time someone asked me about building a ‘brand’. But, in 1989, he realised it was no longer a hobby when he moved out of working from houses into a custom-designed factory in Puducherry, recalls Kapur of his 40-year journey with Hidesign.

Hidesign is present in 24 countries (USA, UK, Australia, Kenya, UAE, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand and Sri Lanka among others) and has just begun operations in Indonesia and Kenya. The Hidesign group’s total turnover is hitting over ₹200 crore while the leather goods part of the business is around ₹160 crore (the rest comes from brand Holii, two hotels and a multi-brand store) “ 75-80 per cent of our customer base comprises Indians and we have 84 stores in India; we are getting another 16 stores up soon,” he says.

Obsession with design

Growth of the brand is not what drove Kapur, but an obsession with design, the quality of Hidesign’s vegetable tanned leather, workmanship the traditional way with brass. Growth was secondary.

All through the 1980s, Kapur recalls, demand was way ahead of production. The big growth spurts for the brand came when department chains in the UK’s high street began stocking Hidesign around the mid-1980s.

“And, when India boomed in early 2003-2005, women discovered our work-friendly, internationally-styled bags,” he added. This was also the time Kapur began focusing on the Indian markets, rather than on overseas markets and opened exclusive stores which showcased the brand’s range.

The ladies’ bags business far outstrips the market for men’s bags. While in terms of value it’s almost equal but in volumes it would be 60:40 with women the larger share. In the men’s category, the battle is with the ubiquitous backpack, especially the new age nylon ones.

A leather bag compared to that would be expensive, but as Kapur points out, a nylon backpack is mass, and when a man wants to look distinct then it is always leather that sets one apart. However, the styling now for men’s leather bags is more casual: more messenger bags, city bags and leather backpacks.

Personal style

Sanjay Sarma of Design Worldwide, a strategic design company, said, “Dilip was one of the first successful start-ups in the fashion and lifestyle space in India. I like the fact that he invested a lot of his personal style and character into his products. He was quite ahead of his times — a man with a world view, who put a lot of passion behind his craft.

Hidesign has had a clutch of potential suitors lining up to invest in the company and Kapur saidhe would wants a strategic partner, “someone who grows the brand into an international one. The equity part would then be much easier.”

Published on August 15, 2018
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