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Hidesign

  1. 1. CEO LIFESTYLE 30 MAY 2014 AAs most of us know, the 1960s witnessed a cultural revolution so massive that it changed the landscape of the western world for good. The Beatles attained demi-god status, tee-shirts and jeans replaced slick clothing, the peace signs and afros dominated – in short, Bohemian became the new normal. Amidst the hundreds of thousands of ‘baby boomers’ sporting bell bottoms and protesting against the United States’ intervention in the Vietnam war was young Dilip Kapur, with hair down to his waist. He had no idea then that he would become the owner of an internationally sought-after luxury leather goods brand which in his own words best represents “what came out of the counter culture in America”. Having spent his childhood in the serene township of Auroville next to Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu, Kapur is a thorough nature-lover and believes in the virtue of being eco-friendly. His leather products are vegetable tanned and the factory in Pondicherry, specially designed by Ray Meeker, is an expanse of green with ponds and trees where meticulous efforts go into waste processing and keeping the region plastic-free. He has always been honest about the Indian origin of the brand, even during the days when around 90 percent of the sales was international, a trait he again attributes to his upbringing. “When you grow up in Auroville, it is difficult to bullshit people,” says Kapur. After his initial years in Auroville the teenager headed to America to explore a little bit more of the world. The owner of the 100-crore plus business remembers his first job as a dishwasher in the country. “I was lucky enough to be made a waiter as well,” he smiles. “The tips were useful.” A Princeton graduate with a Ph.D from the University of Denver, Kapur was a fellowship student throughout his stay in America. During the last few days of his Ph.D though, he ran out of aid which led to a stint at a leather company, his first acquaintance with the material. Leaving the counter culture scene in America behind, he returned to his hometown and was part of the Auroville initiative. However, the impact the Cultural Revolution had on young Kapur was quite evident by way of the leather crafting he did as a hobby. As opposed to the predominant culture then, his bags were soft and floppy. “They looked raw and handcrafted, nothing like what a polished man would carry but that is how we (the counter culture) dressed,” says the man who is a great fan of The Beatles and Greatful Dead. Several people from around the world who came to Auroville took a liking to his bags. One thing led to another and Hidesign got catapulted into the alternative fashion scene abroad. He vividly remembers walking through those areas in San Francisco where Gay movements were gathering momentum and finding his bags to be a favourite amongst the people there. “It felt great,” he says. His company has expanded rapidly with several iconic moments along its timeline including receiving the ‘Accessory of the Year’ award from Princess Diana for the ‘Boxy Bag’, investment by none other than the French fashion giant Louis Vuitton and a recent foray into the luxury segment. The brand now strives to strike a balance between leading and being led but the design philosophy has remained the same. “Anything that is mass produced or not unique can never be luxury,” he says. Needless to say, Kapur’s other preferences in life concur with this very philosophy and are of a finer taste. He is a travel enthusiast and goes vacationing with his entire family at least twice a year. Andaman used to be a favourite until it became “a huge tourist place”. The family likes to explore destinations that are culturally intriguing and interesting, with Sicily and Nagarhole recently featuring on that list. Deeply influenced by travel, Kapur especially points out Japan and Tanzania as two places that got him thinking. While the former struck a chord with the businessman Kapur, the latter with its wilderness galore appealed to the person Kapur. He likes to travel alone too and admits that it often leads to deep introspection. “I love going to places with beaches or where the food and wine is great,” he says. A complete wine aficionado, it is the only form of alcohol that he consumes and avoids anything mass produced and processed, be it food or drinks. Instead, he prefers restaurants where the food has a personal touch. On Sundays, however, it is pancakes at the Kapur household. Dilip Kapur, the man behind luxury leather goods brand Hidesign, with presence in over 23 countries now, is a self proclaimed rebel. Rekha Shanmugham tells you why the 60-something man with a breezy attitude and an accent suggestive of his American past is not just yet another successful entrepreneur. TITAN TALK A Rebellious Affair
  2. 2. CEO LIFESTYLE 31 MAY 2014
  3. 3. CEO LIFESTYLE 32 MAY 2014 TITAN TALK Speaking of family, Kapur lives with his second wife Jacqueline, a German whom he met during her sojourn in Auroville. He has three sons, Akash, author of the critically acclaimed book ‘India Becoming’, Vikas, who is actively involved in Hidesign and Milan. The youngest of his children is the award- winning actor Ayesha Kapur who caught the fancy of Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and was subsequently cast as the young girl in his extremely popular movie Black. She has her own line of accessories ‘Ayesha accessories’ selling from multiple stores spread across all the major cities in India. “I always wanted a daughter,” smiles Kapur. “It took me a long time to get one.” The family, busy as it may be, loves spending time together, and family includes Kapur’s three dogs, who he loves to walk around Auroville. He also likes to ride horses and considers them the best way to commute inside forests. Reading books is another hobby he tries to make time for, as often as possible. In fact, his major expenditure apart from travel is on books. “I am perhaps a lousy consumer by virtue of growing up in the Ashram,” he says. “The amount I spend on travel, however, should be equivalent to the cost of luxury cars.” Despite being the owner of one of India’s home grown luxury leather brands, Dilip Kapur is a simple man at heart. “There is often an internal conflict,” he says, “on whether or not my entire focus should be on Auroville. The businessman in me has clearly won so far. I need to see what the future has in store.” Until then, the future is in the store, one might say.

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