European luxury company LVMH (owners of Louis Vitton) holds a 20% stake in Puducherry, India based Hidesign, whose sales were $22 million in the year-ended in 2010. The handbag market grows at 15% annually in India. Not surprisingly there is new competition expected: Luggage maker VIP Industries has announced that is considering introducing a line of women’s handbags. VIP has 60 percent of India’s luggage market. Number 2 player, Samsonite India’s Chief Operating Officer Subrata Dutta says he plans to introduce a mid-priced line called “Red” which will include handbags for women and for men.
Hidesign manufactures luxury leather goods such as bags, shoes, jackets, wallets, belts, toiletry bags and computer bags, as well as thigh hugging trousers. Besides India, its market includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam. Elegant and eco-friendly are some of the qualifiers of Hidesign’s line of products.
President and founder, Dilip Kapur, set up the company in 1978 as a two-person artisan workshop in the terrace of his home at Auroville, Pondicherry. The company’s current factory designed by Ray Meeker was established in 1990 in Puducherry, (the new name of the former French colony of Pondicherry) in south India. The 8-acre plot on which it is located presents a rustic setting dotted with trees, ponds, and waterfalls. The factory now employs 1,200 workers, mostly women.
Hidesign products are individually handcrafted and not corrected to hide blemishes. Some products use leather that is tanned with natural vegetable pigments in the company’s own tanneries. Buckles and fittings are made from solid brass – each is sand cast and hand polished. A multi-cultural design team including former Armani designer Alberto Ciaschini work to keep designs fresh and current.
With India sales now accounting for 50% of revenues in 2009, Hidesign partnered with Future Group, India’s largest retailer (and owner of the Pantaloons chain), and introduced a new line of bags called Holii with bright colors, fancy trimmings, and somewhat lower pricing, as an “affordable luxury” that would attract young Indian professionals.
American companies in consumer industries would do well to look at Kapur’s success and approach.