Exclusive: Hidesign, India's premium leather brand is going for the ulitmate kill in the US, says Vikas Kapur
It’s been one year since Dilip Kapur’s
But, as luck would have it, a chance internship with
And, thus was born the CEO of
In a chat with Business Insider, Vikas Kapur talks about the challenges and the opportunities on the American shores after a year of the brand’s operations and his hopes of seeing Hidesign transform into a lifestyle brand in the next five years
1. What made you take the jump from being a law associate to joining the family business?
It was a combination of several factors, a desire to return to India and also dissatisfaction with practicing corporate law. Most people don’t really enjoy practicing corporate law. I was fortunate to have available to me a transition out of corporate law, in the form of Hidesign. However, during this period of decision-making, the best part was the fact that my father never pushed me. That’s one of the reasons I think this worked out. I am a part of Hidesign because I want to be. Infact, he was quite nervous when I was joining the firm. He didn’t want our personal equation to be impacted because of this professional decision.
2. What was the idea behind taking the leap to the international market?
Hidesign has always had a strong international presence. In the last several years our domestic market has really overtaken the international market, and we felt we needed to put greater resources back into our international markets. We were not established in the US the way we are in the UK or Australia, and it’s a large market, so it seemed to make sense.
3. What was the initial business strategy to carve a niche space for Hidesign America?
It’s difficult to get noticed in a large and developed market unless there is something that makes you special and different. To us, it’s the story of the vegetable tanned ecological leathers and the solid brass hardware on the men’s product.
4. What do you think were the advantages and challenges of launching Hidesign in the international market?
The advantages are that we offer a very high quality product at a reasonable price, especially with the strength of the US Dollar. The India marketing and graphic design team is also quite experienced in creating attractive marketing and visual material, which the US business has been able to leverage. The greatest challenge is that we are relatively unknown in many of these markets, and we must introduce ourselves and win the confidence and trust of the industry, which includes everyone from the small and large retail buyers to the trade show organizers. And we are doing this in large markets on a lean budget.
5. How is the international market looking so far for Hidesign?
The international market as a whole looks promising. We opened with a new distributor in the UAE. The UAE distribution company is led by a person of Indian origin who loves the brand, and is very intelligent and energetic. Meera Harish, formerly from the Tata Group, has also joined Hidesign to help us open up new markets and develop our existing markets. We expect to partner with distributors in at least 3 new markets in 2016. We completed one year of business in the US, and I am optimistic. This second year will be important as we understand the market better and we will be looking to add a lot of smaller retailers to our customer lists. A large number of small customers can add up, especially in a country the size of the US.
6. Where do you see Hidesign in five years?
I expect that it will be much more of a lifestyle brand with multiple categories, but still rooted in its bag making expertise. We will strengthen and grow the business that comes from our recent brand extensions such as shoes, pens, sunglasses and stationery. Shoes will likely become a significant share of the total business. The management of the company will gradually change to professional management, however, still with some involvement from the family. As we grow in India, we will have more resources to invest internationally. This will allow us to develop the brand in certain key international markets.
7. What are the three essential bag styles you think every man should have?
A messenger, a zip top work bag or briefcase and a leather duffel.
8. What do you think is the greatest lesson your father has taught you?
More than anything, he taught me the value of persistence, which helps me not just in managing the business, but also in life.