Hidesign bags are made of the best vegetable tanned leathers, coupled with solid brass metal hardware – a complete ‘Make in India’ initiative.
In an exclusive conversation with Images Retail, CEO Hidesign US, Vikas Kapur, highlights how he is going to spearhead the business and create a success story in the country.
After establishing a milestone in the Indian lifestyle market, what are your expectations from the American market?
We are targeting a growing customer base that wants to support smaller brands that produce products with care and attention. Our online store (www.hidesignamerica.com) is just a small fraction of the overall USA business plan. It’s a way for us to interact directly with the US customer and educate the customer a little bit more about the brand. The ideal next step would be to make an entry into the department stores and continued growth at high-end independent stores.
What sort of response has the brand generated from the American market?
We are targeting men as we are currently selling through an e-commerce portal. We have been also targeting business travelers as our travel bags are doing very well. The product we are selling is made of full vegetable tanned leathers, our hardware is solid brass, and our design sensibility is closely linked to Hidesign’s original designs.
It’s difficult to get noticed in a large and developed market unless there is something that makes you special and different. We believe that we can occupy this interesting niche space, and in a market like the USA, even a niche space is a lot of business.
Highlight your growth plans for Hidesign America?
Ideally, we would now like to enter into department stores and high-end independent stores in the USA. We have a presence in the department stores in the UK, Australia, South Africa but not in the US. These are highly competitive spaces and they are generally looking for very well-established brands. We are not necessarily eyeing any particular region here, although we are planning to target the larger cities in the USA, as the product fits that customer base more.
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 three 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 adding 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.
Tell us about your current footprint in America?
We do believe that our men’s product is better suited to large cities on the East Coast of the US with significant corporate cultures such as New York and Boston. Texas is also a huge market, and there is still a great appreciation for high quality leather.
Have you done any product innovation for the America launch?
To us, it’s the story of the vegetable tanned ecological leathers and the solid brass hardware on the men’s product that helps us set the product apart.
How do you distinguish the Indian market from the American 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.
The target customer in the US is an upmarket working man or woman who is also not afraid to buy something different.
Who is your target audience and why would they buy a brand that is not established in the United States?
We are looking for that stylish and wealthy customer who shops at high-end independent stores and is willing to take a risk on a relatively unknown brand because the product just looks so much better than the products of the established brands.
What percentage of your Indian product portfolio is introduced into the American market?
The product offering in the US and India is very different. It’s more classic, less design and less detail-oriented in the US. We use just a few very high quality leathers in the US. We are targeting a niche audience that really loves leather and craftsmanship. In India, we are targeting a much wider customer base.
Who do you see as your competition in the American market?
As we are trying to build a niche in the American market, we focus on doing things differently and specially giving special attention to quality with full vegetable tanned leathers and solid brass hardware. But there are large mainstream brands like Fossil, and then many small and mid-sized brands which pose as a competition.
Have you introduced an individual Hidesign e-commerce portal or mobile app for the international sales? If not, any plans to do so?
Currently we are focusing on expansion to stores, but our main retail portal is www.hidesignamerica.com.