'I am happiest behind the wheel'

Eliana Koulas, vice president of Bentley India, on her love for cars, fashion and the city she has adopted.
Jimmy Jacob        Print Edition: February 15, 2015
Eliana Koulas, vice president, Bentley India; director, Luxus Retail
Eliana Koulas is the vice president of Bentley India, and director of Luxus Retail (Styling: Saurav Bhanot; Photo: Shekhar Ghosh)

Eliana Koulas, vice president of Bentley India, on her love for cars, fashion and the city she has adopted.

SUCCESS CAN TAKE YOU PLACES

It's been nine years since Eliana Koulas first arrived in India, and today, she is one of the most prominent figures in the Indian luxury industry. Eliana claims to have understood the pulse of the nation, something that has held her in good stead through the various roles she played in her career. Whether it was in her previous avatar as the brand director for Versace India or her present role as the director of Luxus Retail, the 34-year-old has tried to meld international tastes with Indian sentimentality, ensuring that the brands under her wing find a place in the Indian consciousness. BT More catches up with Eliana to get her views on automobiles, fashion and the concept of luxury.

INDIA, AN EXPAT'S POV

Though I was born in Athens, Greece, I shifted to Australia while I was still quite young. When I arrived in India nine years ago, it struck me as a bowl of contradictions with a culture that's very different from other countries. As I came here with a very open mindset, without any benchmarks or expectations, I was able to embrace the country for what it was. My family stays in Australia, and I try to visit them at least once a year.

INDIA'S LUXURY STORY

The Indian luxury industry has evolved. Things have come a long way from a time when people were content with the two-three options they had; now they would rather have 10 to 20 brands in a cluster to choose from. But still, there are occasional gaps in the market that need to be filled, and it was for this very purpose that Luxus Retail was founded. Take, for instance, La Martina, an international brand closely related to polo. This is a sport that originated from India, but nobody had brought a luxury polo brand into the country until last year. It was a gap that had to be filled.

THE CAR AFFAIR

From the first Renault I owned, I have always been in love with cars. If you ask me which one's my favourite, I would say it's the Bentley Continental GT. Though I have a chauffeur, there are many occasions when I take to the wheel myself. I have gone on long drives across the country, once past Manali and all the way to a place near Ladakh. I have covered most of the northern belt by road, from Uttaranchal to Rajasthan. When driving in Delhi, I depend a lot on Google Maps. The app wasn't very clued into Delhi's geography earlier, but now it's much better.

DRIVING ON THIN ICE

I have driven on various F1 tracks across the world (with a professional racing car driver, of course), but the most memorable racing adventure was the Bentley 'Power on Ice' event at the Arctic Circle, Finland. That was quite a phenomenal experience, considering that it was more about manoeuvring than speed; we were taught how to drift, do the Scandinavian flick, and basically drive in very dangerous conditions. On the last day of the event, we got an opportunity to drive with four-time world champion racer Juha Kankkunen. That was amazing.

LEISURE TIME

When I get some time off from work, I like to box. As I am usually travelling on work anyway, I prefer to rest on free days (listening to house music and some industrial rock). But if you ask me to name my favourite holiday destination, I would say it's the Greek Islands. I am definitely a beach girl!

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