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Rebel with a cause

We met the owner of Hidesign, Dilip Kapur, for a chat to discover what turned an anti-war, anti-capitalist student who grew up in the protected environment of the Aurobindo Ashram, into a successful entrepreneur.

Dhiman Chattopadhyay | Print Edition: September 7, 2008

Dilip Kapur
Dilip Kapur has always been a rebel. For a man who became an active member of the anti-Vietnam War movement while a student in the US and who was a self-proclaimed "capitalism hater", Kapur today is a successful entrepreneur who still sees himself as a "serious rebel". But as he says, he has always been a bit of a fun guy as well.doing things on the spur of the moment. Today, as owner of Hidesign, the designer leather accessories firm, Kapur is happy with life but his motto of helping the world become a greener place hasn?ft changed. "Growing up in the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, I didn?ft know much about the world. I was 14 when I realised I wanted to see the world," says Kapur as he fiddles with his light meal of a salad and a glass of juice.

Life changed for young Kapur when he joined Princeton and then Denver university in the late '60s and early '70s and became a supporter of the anti-war movement and the Hippie culture that was raging across the US. "My hair was long, almost halfway down my back and I was into it all.drugs, rock music and campaigns against war.as I did my Ph.D on social relations at work," he recalls. So, how did an international relations student who hated capitalism become a businessman? "Making leather goods was a hobby and a very rich man who had a firm, ironically called Poor Richards, gave me a job to help him make leather bags. When I quit to come back to India, he was so sad that he shut his business and became a film actor!" Kapur says, breaking into impromptu laughter yet again.

Back in Pondicherry in 1977 and as one of the pioneers of the Auroville township, Kapur got together five cobblers and started Hidesign. Today, Hidesign is one of the most respected leather accessories brands across four continents and users include heads of states, Hollywood stars and even royalty. Kapur has many other passions, as well. "Travelling is in my genes. I have hitchhiked halfway across the world to Afghanistan, Sudan, Columbia and many other places," he says. At 60, he is still a fitness buff, as he swims, lifts weights and runs on a treadmill every day. "Funny as it sounds, I have always been a fitness buff, even though till a few years ago, my evening snack would consist of two joints. Hash did wonders for my mood.

But now I am older and wiser," he jokes. Has his second wife Jacqueline (a German) been a calming influence? "Could be," he laughs, adding: "My mom didn?ft really like my first wife (who was American) or my Indian girlfriend." At heart, though, Kapur continues to be a "young man". So, he chills out with a glass of red wine and his iPod every evening and can be spotted at parties in his Armani or Versace suits. So, does he still believe, as he did in his early Auroville days, that he can change the world with like-minded people? "Ah well! We were stupid then. We really believed we could. But I still feel all of us can make a difference if we try," he signs off, as we order a glass of red wine to discuss topics that are, well, unprintable.

Inside Track

Born: April 20, 1948
Family: Wife Jacqueline and children Akash, Vikas, Milan and Ayesha
Educated: Ashram School, Pondicherry; Phillips Academy, Andover; Princeton University and University of Denver
First Job: Designing bags for Poor Richards
First Salary: $18,000 p.a.
Favourite Film: The English Patient
Favourite Book: Most Russian classics
Favourite Destination: Afghanistan
Would Love To Visit: Patagonia
Mantra In Life: Be original

Dilip’s day out

6 A.M.
Wake up and head for the home gym.
7.45 A.M.
Breakfast with daughter and wife.
8.30 A.M.
Off to work.
1 P.M.
Lunch with the design team in office.
7 P.M.
Leave work. Drive back home.
8 P.M.
Chat with mother, then chill out with a glass of wine.
8.30 P.M.
Chat with daughter and wife.8.45 P.M.
Dinner with family.
10.30 P.M.
Head to bed, read for an hour and then sleep.

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