Hidesign, a brand synonymous with affordable luxury, traces its roots to the time when founder Dilip Kapur started designing and creating leather bags as a hobby after he returned to India upon completing a PhD in international affairs in the U.S. in 1977. The brand, which began with a two-strong artisan workshop in 1978, now has grown to 84 exclusive stores and a distribution network in 23 countries. In an interview with Fortune India, Dilip Kapur shares his plans and vision for Hidesign:
What major plans do you have for India?
There are two big things that are happening. In India, we are concentrating this year on airports. That is a very clear opportunity we have. We are opening 12 airport stores in next three months. Internationally, we are concentrating on developing it (Hidesign) as a brand. We don’t really want it to be a product with just distributor in between, we really want the customer to know us and be in touch with them. The Indian consumer will be around 75-80% of our customer base. We have 84 stores and in another three months, we are getting another 12.
What is the major driver of growth for your company?
As Indian economy grows, the aspirations are growing even faster. We want to be where there are aspirations. That is why we are opening at airports. We believe that for up-market products like ours, when you go to places such as Varanasi, the most aspirational or cosmopolitan customer is going to be at the airport. Similarly, we will not miss the opportunity to be in any malls where this type of customer is available in India. We will not look at high street, we are not looking at franchise and distribution in the individual multi-brand store.
How do you plan to maintain the loyalty of the millennial and stay relevant?
We want to be relevant by talking to them. The stories and values we have are very interesting to the young generation. We are very ecology conscious and we care about freedom and gender equality. Our bags and products are designed for the world which they are comfortable in. Travel and career are very important to us. The biggest change we have seen is that women in the last 10 years have become far more career-oriented than their mothers. So, that’s when sales of Hidesign women products have skyrocketed in India. Hidesign handbags are mostly bought by women aged 25-30.
How was your performance last year?
We grew a little slower last year than expected both due to demonetization and GST. We grew about 15-16%. This year we hope to grow above 20%.
Are you planning to further diversify?
We need time to digest footwear and accessories like sunglasses. We need to get better at it and do that first.
What are the challenges that you face?
The leather market in India has the same problem as that in the international. It is flooded with cheap synthetic bags from China. The biggest issue is to differentiate our product from a specific product. For some reason there is huge ignorance about it. People can’t tell whether it is leather or synthetic.
How has the market changed over the years?
I think the biggest changes have been brought about by lifestyle changes and the opening up of the Indian economy. That means the market has become much more international with a lot more international expertise; the look and feel of retail has become international. Along with this comes the digital thing. The way people shop has changed.