Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign is a hippie at heart who grew up in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. A natural aversion to all things painted, patented and synthetic saw him create Hidesign in 1978. From its artisan roots of just one cobbler and Rs 25,000 to a Rs 150 cr company with 3500 people, 84 exclusive stores and a distribution network in 23 countries, Hidesign has stayed focused on innovation, natural tanning processes and craftsmanship. Kapur also owns two boutique hotels, both in Pondicherry.
I caught up with the maverick founder of the hi-end ‘affordable luxury’ brand on his recent visit to Mumbai.
I was born in Delhi but raised in Aurobindo Ashram where I studied till the age of 15 in the ashram school. I loved the liberal unregimented atmosphere there.
You continued your studies in the Unites States…
How were you introduced to leather?
After working in America for nine months I returned to India to work in a leather goods company. This is where I fell in love with leather and the smell of it.
I started designing bags as hobby. The first three were gifted to my mom, sister and aunt. But my first sale was to a friend who bought a bag I designed for Rs 300. It was a princely sum at that time and I was shocked that someone could actually pay that much money for what I had created! Later I started Hidesign with a cobbler and Rs 25,000 capital.
What you love most about your job?
What job? If I had a job and a boss, I would be a lousy employee. What I love most is that I don’t consider it as a job.
Great. But is there something you could do without?
All the extra clever people that you can never figure out if they have any commitment and passion.
I started at the bottom of the totem pole as a dishwasher cum waiter for breakfast. It has left me with a sense that one should do anything, regardless of how ‘dirty’ or ‘low class’ one might think of it. I still try to ingrain the same habits in Hidesign. It’s very important for a person to be free of the taboos of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Jobs don’t teach you a particular skill necessarily –they teach you how to relate to your life, and they can spark something you never imagined! I think I had 150 US dollar + food and a great apartment.
You have achieved so much. What motivates you?
Something new, something creative, something beautiful.
Who’s that someone you look up to? What have you learnt from that person?
Steve jobs and Nelson Mandela.
From Jobs: How a hippie freak can become a great leader.
From Mandela: largeness of heart.
When not craving beautiful bags, where would one spot you?
Going my dogs.
How do you keep abreast of what’s happening in your field?
Travel and looking at every woman, only to see what hot bag she’s carrying.
What’s your morning ritual?
I exercise of 40 minutes followed by a 10 minute meditation.
What are you reading currently?
What’s your favourite movie?
The English patient, The Apu trilogy and so many more.
When was the last time you took a vacation? Where and how was it? The last one was at Beach no.7, Havelock, Andaman’s. The loved the sheer laziness of it. The most memorable one was in the Amazon, Brazil.
If not a businessman?
A miserable professor.
What do you admire most in people?
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Same place, a little older, a little slower, a little more at peace.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Re-organise so that I only do a creative work.
Lastly what’s that one thing we don’t know about you?
Sure I am going to tell you that!
By Nivedita Jayaram Pawar