'I started Hidesign with a cobbler and Rs 25,000 as seed fund'
Jul 27 2013, 16:30 | By SME Mentor
He's a hippie at heart; he grew up in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; and developed an aversion to all things painted, patented and synthetic. This was the driving force that led Dilip Kapur to create Hidesign in 1978.
Let's rewind a little. Where did you grow up?
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...
Yes. I wanted to see the world and enrolled to study at the Phillips Academy, Andover. I had $8 in my pocket when I left. This was in 1964. After that, I went to Princeton for a PhD in Liberal Arts.
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 a hobby. I gifted the first three to my mom, my sister and my aunt. But my first sale was to a friend who bought a bag I designed for Rs 300. It was a princely sum at the time and I was shocked that someone would actually pay that much money for something I had created! Later, I started Hidesign with a cobbler and Rs 25,000 as seed capital.
What do 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 what I do as a job.
Great. But is there something you could do without?
Extra-clever people. One wonders if they have any commitment and passion.
Tell us something about your first job. What was your remuneration and what did you learn from it?
I started at the bottom of the totem pole as a dishwasher-cum-waiter. It left me with a sense that one should do anything, regardless of how 'dirty' or 'low class' one might think it is. I still try to inculcate these habits in Hidesign. It is very important for a person to be free of the taboos of what's appropriate and what is not. Jobs don't necessarily teach you a specific skill; they teach you how to relate to your life, and they can spark something you never imagined was possible. I think I was earning $150 US plus food and a great apartment back then.
A bags-to-riches story: Dilip Kapur
You have achieved so much. What is your motivation?
Something new, something creative, something beautiful.
Who is that someone you look up to? What have you learnt from that person?
Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela.
When not craving beautiful bags, what do you do?
How do you keep abreast of what's happening in your field?
By travelling and looking at every woman, only to see what hot bag she's carrying!
What is your morning ritual?
I exercise for 40 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of meditation.
What are you currently reading?
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks and Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.
What is your favourite movie?
The English Patient, The Apu Trilogy and so many more.
When was the last time you took a vacation? Where and what was it like?
The last one was at Beach No 7, Havelock in the Andamans. I loved the sheer laziness of it all. The most memorable one was in the Amazon in 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?
Reorganise it so that I could indulge in only creative work.
Lastly, what's that one thing we don't know about you?
Like I'm going to tell you that!
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