Meet the forerunners of lifestyle in India

Three men from different walks of like reveal what it takes to be at the top of the game

Mr. Vivek Sahni,

CEO & Co-Founder,

Kama Ayurveda

Kama Ayurveda is a brand that celebrates and honours the Ayurvedic science of life. Stemming from the basic principle of plant-based healing that finds its roots in the 6,000 year old holistic medical knowledge of the human body, Mr. Vivek Sahni founded this luxury Ayurvedic line to create organic and pure products for the masses.

The brand was launched in 2002 and it focuses on creating pure Ayurvedic products according to authentic prescriptions has been the unique purpose of the brand. Kama has always strived to be pure, real, true to its ancient knowledge and extremely consistent with its excellent quality products. Today Kama Ayurveda stands for authentic Ayurvedic beauty and wellness products, the brand is available across 20 standalone retail stores across India and has over 120 products in skin, hair and body.

Vivek Sahni is an alumuns of Delhi University where he studied Economics folloed by an Associate Degree in Communications Design from Parsons School of Design in New York. After moving back to India, he started his eponymous design company Vivek Sahni Design in 1993 which specialised in communications, product and environmental design.  He co-founded Kama Ayurveda in 2002 and is responsible for the brand's tremendous success both in India as well as International markets. Vivek is passionate about design and the environment and is using design in its infinite forms from technology, to supply chain, to product, package and store design to create a new kind of company. We get you the details straight from the man himself.

FC: Kama has cracked the code of selling traditional Indian beauty products to an international client... how did this happen?

VS: Kama Ayurveda started selling internationally in the year 2003 itself, just a year after its launch. A wonderful French lady saw the products when she came to India, fell in love with them and took them to Paris. At the time, our focus was not to create products for tailored for an international client but to represent the efficacy of Ayurveda through the authentic traditional formulations. Once we discovered the interest and need for the products in the home country is when we decided to adjust our sails towards India.

FC: Kama has grown from a boutique Indian brand to a commercial success, is it marketing genius or a good product that makes a brand?

VS: The success of Kama Ayurveda lies in the product itself. And what better medium of advertising than word-of-mouth. The growth of the brand has solely been because of the consumers who continue to trust the product and vouch for its formulation till date. 

FC:  Does Kama endorse or use animal testing for its products?

VS: Absolutely not, Kama Ayurveda as a brand stands against animal testing. In fact, we very recently got certified as a cruelty free organisation by PETA India.

FC:  What is the way forward and your future expansion plans?

VS: Kama Ayurveda recently welcomed another addition through a store at Indore Airport. We are also hoping to mark in cities like Varanasi and Bhubaneswar before the end of this year and open more stores in cities like Chennai.

Mr. Dilip Kapur

Founder and President, Hidesign

Hidesign has established itself as an iconic leather brand across the globe.  It is based on a strong heritage of craftsmanship and innovation. What started as a hobby at first is today a business worth well over Rs. 100 crore with a distribution network in 23 countries.  This home grown  Indian premium brand is available in countries like US, Europe and UK , and as of 2017 also in Kenya.  

Delhi boy Dilip Kapur moved to Pondicherry at the age of six. His eclectic but utilitarian taste might be because of the fact that he grew up in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and went to school at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Following this a degree from Princeton University in International Affairs and a PH.D at University of Denver, School of International Studies in International Affairs were credited to his name.   It was while pursuing his PH.D that Mr. Kapur discovered his passion towards for the art of crafting leather.  He had a job in a leather company and those nine months were the turning point in his life. On his return to India in 1977 he went to live in Auroville and started Hidesign. At the time it was a two-man artisan shop, a hobby; but since then he has taken the brand to a leading position in the accessories and leather goods segment.  

While Mr. Kapur still teaches students at Auroville on International affairs, he makes the time to take walks in the forests with his dogs, ride his Enfield and travel whenever he can.  The brand recently launched a chic capsule collection of bags, scarves, and sunglasses in association with José Levy — Artist, Creative Director of Nomad. The luxurious Pondicherry Paris collection by Hidesign illustrates José’s love for travel, simplicity and the sheer luxury of the best materials, which speaks of refinement. Born in Paris, José Levy has collaborated with artists such as Tim Walker, Jack Pierson, Jay Jay Johanson to name a few. His creations are the fruit of a multi-faceted talent that stands at the crossroads of fashion, design, art and architecture.   Hidesign is known for its simplicity of design, best quality luxury materials and specially designed fine calf leather ‘Milano’ — a soft and lightweight, gold plated fittings, and 100 percent cotton linings specially woven with a satin weave. FC spoke to Mr. Kapur to get an insider’s take on the brand.

FC: Do you think Hidesign can be seen rubbing shoulders with international luxury brands soon enough?

DK: That takes time a long time, those brands like the Italian and French fashion houses were built over hundreds of years. Only Americans think they can build brand giants in 50 years, but it takes time. One cannot forget your identity, where you come from and where you belong, it takes time to weave that into a story and create something of it which the world will embrace. There is a lot of interconnectedness in the global market now, and one cannot build a great luxury brand by lying. The only way to grow a brand is to be who you are; we are an Indian brand and we have to embrace our identity to be able to conquer the world.

FC: What are the qualities one can associate with and what is important to Hidesign?

DK: Craftsmanship is very important and that is what we pride ourselves in.  We are very young and we therefore value each of our clients and focus on what they need.  The second is a clear identity to be environment conscious, we only use vegetable tanning and play on our strengths. We do not believe in killing animals for their skin, we use the leather which is a byproduct of other industries. Leather which is a byproduct of consumption of various other industries shouldn’t be wasted and this is what we use. 

FC:  How has Hidesign managed to lead the corporate gifting segment?

DK: We’ve always been a great option for corporate gifting especially around Diwali and Christmas. This time we made a special collection for gifting with art on the boxes connected directly to beautiful designs. Some of the leather goods even have art on it, art is luxury and this saw them both coming together for a very emotional and psychological collection not just functional.  The Pondicherry Paris collection is special to us. Not only is José a fabulous designer he’s a superb artist and his reputation precedes him. The special range is for the traveler we loved how it brings cultures together

FC:  What are your expansion plans for the future and where would you like to take the brand?

DK: We are focusing on expansion in export market and in the international market; especially looking into areas which qualify as emerging markets which give us a great opportunity for innovation. There are also great opportunities in Eastern Europe and we have recently opened our flagship store in Bosnia, on the main high-street. Indonesia is another big market and we are now present at the Galleries Lafayette in Indonesia, I think we understand the Indonesian customer as they are similar to the Indian customer with large aspiration amongst women to become executives and professional and that’s why they like the bags we product. Hidesign is a great brand for professional and entrepreneurs. WE are also present at the largest chain of Japan’s multi-brand store.

Mr. Samir Modi

Founder & Managing Director, Colorbar

With a unique approach towards business and brand building, Mr Samir Modi ,  founder and managing director of Colorbar—India’s leading colour cosmetics and make-up brand, is known to be driven by passion and instinct.

Modi does not believe in towing the conventional line. He is fondly referred to as “Mr. Mom,” for all the expert advice that he doles out on make-up in the business of skin care. Amongst his contemporaries he is recognised as the rebel who is whimsical about his business choices. In the last 14 years Mr. Modi has turned from entrepreneur to industrialist as Colorbar is the fastest growing cosmetic brand in the country.

With 75 company-owned stores and more than 1,000 plus multi-brand outlets across the country, Colorbar today is the third largest player in the Indian beauty cosmetics market. We spoke to Mr. Modi, a Harvard Business School alumnus, to find out what it takes to build a brand.

FC: For those who find navigating through beauty products cumbersome, how does Colorbar make the experience easier?

SM: In today’s world where everything is moving towards digital online space and the options are so vast in terms of brands and colours,  most women don’t know what colour to buy, what will suit the skin; ‘I’m looking for a pink but I can’t find the right pink’.  ‘I want to match my lipstick and my nail polish to my dress, but how do I do it?’

We help the customer with all this through the AI (Artificial Intelligence) search that we offer online shoppers through our new website based on their choice of shade, and also provide recommended products as per their preferences.

Our new AI enabled website will help the customer navigate through these queries and come to her choice and products which suit her individually. The experience on our website is personal and engaging to allow a women to create her own universe of colours.

FC: What is Colorbar’s expansion plan and festive offering for the season?

SM: The biggest initiative driving us right now is to demystify makeup. To make  available to you the right foundation without experimentation, so you can look drop dead gorgeous in 5 minutes. Also simultaneously the brand is going through a revamp with a completely new look in terms of logo, colour packing and retail stores and all other consumer touch points.

In terms of products we have an interesting collection line up as the men’s range and sports range. We are also launching a men’s range by the end of the year—it’s basically skin care ranging from toners for the beard and a very interesting product that reduces your waist size.

For this festive season, we have launched a variety of products in time for the celebrations—The I-Glide Eye Pencils, The Kiss Proof Lip Stains, Flawless Full Cover Concealer and The Nude’It Collection including our first face mask. These are bright festive pop colours lending suitable Indian looks.

FC:  The Indian market has taken well to the brand, what has clicked in Colorbar's favour?

SM: When I started with this journey I decided that I will make the product on par with the big boys. And the big boys for me are—Mac, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Tom Ford, Bobby Brown, Chanel, etc. I thought I’ll only make my products in those facilities that make them and I’ll only buy those products that they make but I will keep my prices down. So then people said how can you afford it?  I said probably I can’t. Today MAC's gross margin is 90 percent, mine is not. But I’m still the 3rd largest brand in the country. So quality is what people believe in. Slowly we started attracting people, more stores started opening, quantities increased.

Today I’m glad that more and more women I know are using our makeup.  I still don’t think 100 percent of  the women are using 100 percent Colorbar products, but that’s the goal. 

First we were using plastic packaging, then we changed to grey packaging, then to silver and then we went to box packaging. So it has been a journey of change but for me, pedigree is most important.

We are in about a 1000 plus stores and shop-in-shops and have 80 stand-alone stores which are growing. We are aiming for 250 stand-alone stores by 2020. We're expanding and readily available.

FC:  When it comes to beauty a lot of people are switching to procedures rather than sticking to good old make-up... do you believe that its the right option in the long run?

SM: The right kind of make-up helps you enhance what you love about your looks, making it a powerful tool for expressing yourself to the world. As is the case with makeup, opting for procedures is a completely personal choice. We see procedures as a more permanent change while make-up gives an opportunity to enhance your features in its natural glory as well as flexibility to experiment with your moods and looks.

—FC Bureau