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BW Businessworld

'We Have Moved From Just A Handbag Company To A Lifestyle Brand'

Dilip Kapur, president of Hidesign, opens up to BW Businessworld about his venture that has grown to over 84 exclusive stores and a distribution network in 23 countries

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Hidesign is counted among the few Indian luxury brands that have made their mark internationally. It is well known for its craftsmanship and style both locally and abroad. Driven by his passion for luxury designing, Dilip Kapur, president of Hidesign, opens up to BW Businessworld about his venture that has grown to over 84 exclusive stores and a distribution network in 23 countries.

How would you describe the three-decade journey of the brand?

While studying in the States, I had worked with a leather factory for a few months. This short stint was what made leather a lifelong passion. When I returned to India, I started making leather bags as a hobby. Hidesign was born out of the need to be distinct from the uniformity and synthetic flatness of the mass market. It was almost like giving shape to my instinctive aversion to painted leathers that lose all semblance of naturalness.

What gave me satisfaction was designing bags. I wasn't a businessman; I didn't know how to read my profit and loss account for the first ten years. I learned the business side of things through often tough experiences.

Hidesign's first markets were small alternative shops in Australia and the United States reflecting the brand's rebellion against mass production. In 1990, we started our first custom designed atelier in Pondicherry and in 1999 opened stores in India. The accessories market has evolved over the years from just functionality to being a fashion statement.

Today, the demand for accessories is not only from women, but a large section of men who no longer want to look sloppy. With the increasing demand we have diversified our product range. We have added completely leather lined footwear, natural acetate and leather sunglasses as well as a range of stationery products. We have moved from just a handbag company to becoming a lifestyle brand.

Tell us about the differential features of your latest Atelier collection?

Hidesign has always been known for its veg tanned, full grain leathers; with the average work experience in the Hidesign factory at 17 years, we also have some of the most skilled craftspeople in the world. The Hidesign Atelier Collection is a celebration of our expertise in crafting premium leathers. The collection includes a range of farmed Ostrich leather from South Africa that is recognized as one of the most expensive leathers globally. The bags have clean designs to focus on the beautiful pattern of the quills, while the fittings add more glamour to The Champagne Collection. The beauty of the farmed Deer, sourced from New Zealand is its incredible softness that is visible in the unstructured bags, with handcrafted details.

How is Hidesign taking on the competition, especially at a time when many international brands are making a beeline to India?
We understand the modern Indian woman better than any other accessory brand. More importantly, as already said, our craftsmen have an average of more than 17 years of experience, which would surely make our atelier one of the most skilled in the world.

What are your expansion plans in India and abroad?
We will continue to expand our footprint in India and abroad. In the coming years we expect to be a lifestyle brand and not just a bag brand. In India with the success of our brand extension in shoes, sunglasses and other accessories, we will continue to focus on them. Abroad we would hope to be a credible brand in at least 10-12 countries.

How would you sum up your brand strategy and international retail approach?
As indicated above, we aim to expand into a lifestyle brand and not only leather goods. Internationally we are pushing to become a serious brand in 10-12 countries at least, as we present in 23 countries already.

Tell us about Hidesign's premium hospitality properties. What was the inspiration behind this venture?
We have two luxury boutique hotels in Pondicherry - Le Dupleix and The Promenade. Le Dupleix is a luxury hotel, nestled in an 18th century French Colonial villa. Now restored and modernized, the hotel is an architectural landmark evocative of the life of the best known Governor of Pondicherry, General Marquis Joseph-Francois Dupleix.

Each room is unique in style and furniture - the penthouse suites are stunning with a combination of ultra-modern look and sweet smells of old Burma teak. The delicate balance between modernity and tradition gives Le Dupleix a sense of warmth refinement. The Promenade is located on the ocean front with most of the rooms overlooking the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

With both the hotel properties we have focused on giving a unique design that offers a blend of traditional architecture with a modern feel. We associate luxury with superior design and high craftsmanship. Serving organic foods in our hotels or offering natural and ecological leathers are our way of engaging with our consumers.

What are the challenges in this sector and how can India become a global fashion leader in the luxury category?
To become a fashion leader one needs to have a brand that speaks a unique language. France & Italy have a clear heritage of fashion and lifestyle that is reflected through their brands. We will need some time and careful nurturing of our heritage and unique lifestyle to become international leaders.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Hidesign luxury fashion retail Dilip Kapur

Ruhail Amin

As a media practitioner based in Mumbai, Ruhail Amin writes on start-ups, contemporary business challenges with special focus on advertising and digital marketing

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