Hidesign, a brand that has become synonymous with high-quality leather accessories such as bags, belts, and wallets, is celebrating 40 years of craftsmanship and innovation this year.
What started off as a hobby for Founder Dilip Kapur in 1978 is now a dynamic enterprise, with a gross revenue of Rs 170 crore. With an international footprint and a strong e-commerce presence, Hidesign has redefined the notion of Made in India luxury with its premium accessories that embody high quality, ecological values and local craftsmanship.
LVMH invested in the brand in 2012 and the brand is growing at 30 percent annually, and since its inception, has successfully launched 76 standalone stores in India, with a commendable presence at 14 International and Domestic Airport stores in India.
In 2014, Vikas Kapur joined the legacy of his father’s business as Hidesign’s CEO, and officially launched its US-based website (hidesignamerica.com).
Hidesign is distributed via 30 exclusive stores around the world and shares shelf space at some of the world’s leading department stores. The brand is set to take the Middle East by storm, with new Hidesign boutiques planned in locations such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait this year.
In an exclusive interview, Dilip Kapur spills the beans on how he started Hidesign, how the brand has shaped up and the future:
Tell us about the retail journey of Hidesign.
Hidesign began as a reaction to all the synthetic looking, plastic coated shiny leathers. The raw, natural look of Hidesign made it a rebel brand, that was soon a favourite amongst the influencer and the fashion forward set. At first, we only sold internationally in San Francisco, London and Melbourne, from there we moved to South Africa, Russia, Malaysia and many other countries. We finally came to India in 1999. Now India is our biggest market.
The brand will celebrate 40 years of existence this year. How have you seen the market for bags evolving in these 40 years?
In the last 40 years, the Indian market has experienced a sea of change. From the era of local unbranded leather bags and cheap synthetic and fake goods to liberalization, larger number of working women, to the entry of a wide range of global brands; the look and feel of retail has become international. Alongside we’ve seen the growth of e-commerce and social media. The way people shop has changed.
Elaborate on the retail mapping of the brand. What is the average store size of Hidesign?
We have about 74 stores plus 14 airport stores, which includes major international and domestic airports like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Cochin. We are present in the best malls of the country and in almost all private airports. This year, Hidesign will be entering around 12 airports that are now privatized for retail.
Exclusive Hidesign stores stock, handbags, briefcases, travel bags and small leather goods, wallets, belts, in addition to sunglasses, shoes and jackets. Average size of Hidesign stores is between 550-700 square feet. Our shop-in-shops tend to be approx. 150-200 square feet.
The brand also has presence in international countries. Please tell us where and how many stores. Any plans to expand the presence in international waters and which are the new countries where you are planning to expand?
Hidesign is present in over 25 countries including major markets like US, UK, UAE, Australia and South Africa. Internationally, Hidesign is present through independent stores, department store chains and e-commerce partners such as Amazon. Corporate sales are a fast-growing channel for Hidesign.
We are exploring new regions such as Sarajevo, Indonesia and solidifying our presence in Kenya, Portugal and Spain.
What are the in-store tech innovations that you have introduced to enhance the customer experience?
With the average Hidesign customer being young, the main space for us to reach out to them has been digital. All our stores are fitted with screens that play videos of the brand and its new collections. Hidesign as a brand is full of stories because we make our own products and communication through videos helps us communicate the brand message to our customers.
We have also introduced Hidesign wallets with RFID chips that will protect one from any cyber theft.
Tell us about the visual merchandising at the store.
Hidesign stores play a major role in creating the brand experience, as our customers get the first look and feel of the products via these stores. Our stores are what connect our customers to us, they tell the story of our products and about everything we are as a brand. The clean lines, bright white backgrounds and gleam of solid brass helps to highlight the leather bags and makes the store look modern and upmarket.
The display windows introduce the new collections and offers and invite you into the store. While the focal displays and theme-based collections such as The Icons, HidesignxKalki, California, Atelier, create multiple stop points in the store and help keep the customer in store for longer.
How are you tapping transit retail? How much does transit retail contribute to your overall revenue?
We are already present in 12 airport stores and this year, we plan to double that number. We believe that airport is a very important platform for our brand as our ideal Hidesign customer is well-travelled and successful. We do significantly well at the airports.
Who is your TG?
The Hidesign customer is young mainly between the age group of 25-35 well educated and working professionals, who are well travelled and care for their appearances.
Tell us about the location strategy of the brand. What do you prefer- high-streets or malls and why?
We increasingly prefer malls; the days of high street stores are over. There are various issues such as parking, hygiene that these high-street stores face. In malls, we have the right kind of ambience perfectly suited for our target customers.
What are the products that your offer? Which is the fastest moving product at Hidesign? Any plans to expand the product range?
Hidesign is a lifestyle brand; we offer ladies bags, men’s bags, wallets, belts, shoes, sunglasses, luggage and jackets. Our ladies bags and men’s bags are our top sellers. While we have only introduced sunglasses in the past 3 years, it is a very fast-growing category.
What steps are you taking to please Millennials who prefer fast fashion?
We are not a fast fashion brand, quite the opposite, yet our main customer base is young men and women between the age of 25-35. Hidesign is the perfect fit for the young professional who wants to make a mark at work and wants to be taken seriously. Collaborations such as HidesignxDisney, HidesignxKalki help increase Hidesign’s appeal to new target groups. For some reason, millennials and Gen Z have embraced Hidesign, on social media where we have more than a million followers and online influencers love us.
Share with us the expansion plans of Hidesign. Which are the locations where we can expect the standalone stores of the brand coming up?
This year, all our efforts are going towards building a dozen airport stores in India. Internationally we are expanding in many new markets such as Sarajevo and Indonesia, while building up Hidesign in USA, Spain and Portugal.
Other than new markets and airports, in terms of categories we will continue to build footwear and accessories like sunglasses. We need to get better at it before we think of something more.
Tier I and metro cities or Tier II and beyond – which is the major market for the brand and why?
Our greater success as a brand has been at the airports and top tier malls in big cities. We reach many cities in India and do well in more far-flung areas through Hidesign e-commerce. For a brand with a strong identity and international outlook our best customers are often found in major cities.
Throw some light on the same-store sales growth of Hidesign. Share with us the revenue targets of the brand.
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.
We grew a little slower last year than expected both due to demonetization and GST. We grew about 15-16 percent. This year we hope to grow above 20 percent.