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.
A Rebellious Affair
CEO LIFESTYLE 32 MAY 2014
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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