Today, accessories define you more than your apparel: Hidesign reveals its success mantra

I took two risks-a new country and dealing directly with consumers, says the founder of Hidesign.

Sulekha Nair February 02, 2015 12:36:59 IST
Today, accessories define you more than your apparel: Hidesign reveals its success mantra

Decades before PM Modi's 'Make in India' slogan, Dilip Kapur, President- Hidesign, a Princeton graduate, armed with a PhD in international affairs from the University of Denver returned to Auroville in Pondicherry in 1978 and decided to have a go at his hobby of leather crafting. He did not expect to create a distinct brand in the accessories market with Hidesign.

"Making bags was only a hobby," he says.

Started with just one worker from a small cottage in Pondicherry, Hidesign is now a Rs 150 crore business with 74 exclusive stores and 114 multi-brand outlets in 23 cities and sold across 20 countries. It also sells its own range of sunglasses, and will soon launch footwear for men and women.

"Hidesign is a success story. It hasbeen around since the 80s, the brand is well known, has a distinctive style, good retail presence and market share. It is one of the best things to have emerged out of India and has global traction. In the accessories market, it will continue to occupy leadership position because of its style, prices and the segment that it targets," says Ankur Bisen, Senior Vice President, Retail and Consumer products, Technopak Advisors.

Kapur speaks with Firstbiz on thebrand, the business and life off the work treadmill. Excerpts from the interview:

What are the key risks that you have taken that you consider milestones now?
The key risk was to set up our first department store in the UK. We used to sell earlier in small alternative shops in San Francisco andLondon. Another was the opening of our first retail store in India while dealing through distributors internationally. I took two risks-a new country and dealing directly with consumers.

What was your goal when you began your entrepreneurial journey?

Making bags was only a hobby. I would have never thought we would become a large business organization. It is our creative impulse that made us reach where we are.

Who would you consider your mentor on your journey? How important is it to have one?

I had several mentors when I first started. I loved the creative energy of a German woman who was managing 300-400 girls who were doing embroidery. My mentors now are far more businesslike and teach me how to think of the areas of my weakness or future growth. These mentors would be Yves Carcelle, ex-president of Louis Vuitton who taught me how brands are built, to people like BS Nagesh from Shoppers Stop and Kishore Biyani who taught me how business organizations function in India. You always need someone to inspire and teach you. So, mentors are very important.

What do you consider your strengths?
The willingness to take risks and ignore the standard business guidelines such as profit and loss accounts.

What changes have you noticed in the accessories industry in India?

I have noticed a trend where increasing importance is given to accessories to define a person as compared to apparel. Look at any fashion magazine internationally or even in India, all the front page ads are about accessories-handbags, sunglasses and shoes. The world is moving quickly in a direction so as to enable a brand to directly communicate with consumers, both through e-commerce and exclusive stores which tell the whole story of the brand. We love this change and look forward to be in contact with every single consumer of Hidesign all over the world.

What is your strategy to fight competition?
To have a distinct identity, be different and unique, and to constantly innovate.

What should an entrepreneur do to succeed in business?
We have always believed in being unique and innovative for a small entrepreneur like us to succeed to break through the clutter.

What is your vision for Hidesign?

Hidesign will continue to be the leader in India and will establish itself as a credible and distinct brand in the international market. We want to be a leader internationally in the ecologically conscious and sophisticated consumer market.

How do you unwind from work?
I read, take long walks with my dogs, go swimming and every few months travel somewhere far away.

Which book are you reading now?
Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera. My son Akash Kapur gave it to me. I love the depiction of life in a strife, with tensions after the civil war in Jaffna.

What is your business mantra?
Keep to your own path and don't follow others.

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