He quit his sales executive job to pursue his passion to create something new in men’s clothing. Twenty-three years after starting from a 200 sq ft box, Chennai based Vijay Kapoor works at his elegant desk in Peters road, Gopalapuram. In this exclusive to DC, Kapoor has plenty to share: Stories, inspirations, advice, philosophies. Here are some profound answers to simple questions from the man behind the Derby brand.
Q You started on your own via trial and error. What was the experience like?
When you start on your own and begin not knowing what you do, you are starting with a clean state. You don’t go in with a burden, and you don’t have success looming over your head. When your parents are successful —like what Abhishek Bachchan had to start with —it can be a huge burden. It’s never easy. But I’ve been blessed to start on my own and to experiment and do things. Having been in business for 23 years, I still feel that I’m only at the start line and have a lot more to achieve.
Q So, every day is like a new beginning?
A new start to each day but I also strongly believe in the vision of the Derby jeans community, which is to create 1,000 successful 1st generation entrepreneurs through franchising the community globally, thereby putting India on the world’s fashion map. Now what we’re trying to achieve is what no Indian brand has ever done.
Thanks to people like Narayana Murthy of Infosys and Tata through TCS, our information technology has brought a lot of dignity - we’re known for our IT. But when it comes to fashion, no one will ever say India is a fashionable country, we hardly think about it. If you look at any of the brands that thrive in India, they’re all international brands. Very few Indian brands actually crossed the national level — they tend to travel not further than Dubai. So we’ve taken up the vision of creating 1,000 successful 1st generation entrepreneurs.
Q But don’t you think that’ll be a huge challenge?
Champions need challenges. A Sachin Tendulkar thrill of hitting a century comes only against an Australian or South African team. That’s why after 23 years, I still feel at the start line and have yet to scratch the surface on the possibilities ahead. Today, India is poised in such a beautiful manner — 55% of the Indian population is under the age group of 25 —highly educated talented youngsters. You can either look at the population as a curse or as your biggest asset, and I look at it as an asset.
Q Population is often a curse too here…
There will always be tears in the world, there’s area of concern, and there’s area of empowerment - ‘what can I do about it?’ Can I at least empower 1,000 people? When I say that 55% of the population is under 25, all of them are coming out of schools and colleges and asking one question: ‘Where is the job?’ Whose responsibility is it to provide the jobs? It’s the responsibility of the entrepreneur. Through the Derby jeans community and through speeches I give in colleges, I want to change the mindset on success. It is beyond money — it means happiness, health, relationships, spiritual satisfaction and so on. I want youngsters to change from being job seekers to job providers.
Q But how do you get a society that is very contacts-driven to open up to complete strangers and trust in their ability to deliver?
If I know you and love you, that’s one thing. But if I love you without knowing you at all, that’s called faith. We need to love our fellow humans; we need to love our creations. I love what Vivekananda said — he’s not an atheist who doesn’t believe in god, he’s an atheist who doesn’t believe in himself. Meaning, your faith in the creator means nothing if don’t have faith in the creations.
Q In the last 5 years, what was one of your best investments? (Can be money, time, energy...)
This is how the whole design of life is: Lowest is money, on top of money comes time, and on top of time comes energy. If you have a good idea, there are people who can fund you.
I live my life on certain philosophies and it keeps me grounded. I always tell myself: “Vijay, you need to subordinate your likes and dislikes to the purpose of your life.” Because the alternative to that is to subordinate my purpose of my life to my likes and dislikes. For that to happen, I sit and meditate for 30-45 mins, introspecting on my life.
Q If you were given not more than 5 hours a week to spend on your profession, what else would you be doing with the rest of your time?
I love to travel — I travel for 2 months a year and I love seeing new culture, people and places. I’d prefer to take a backpack and a rail pass — I’m not interested in 5 star hotels. I’d go to Europe and get down in Rome, then move on to Paris. I’d go from one city to another and would avoid tourist traps. I’d stay in youth hospitals in the bunker beds and meet the youngsters, feel their energy and understand how they live life. That’s what I would do if I had the time.
Q If you were given a board in the middle of a crowded city, what would you have it say?
“I love you and free hugs!”
Q If you are feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do to get back on track?
It’s very lonely at the top and when you’re on top, you can’t go around speaking of your uncertainties. Your weakness becomes a rumour or a gossip point for the rest of the organisation. I would channelise that nervous energy by just sitting in silence for 15 minutes and let the emotions and hyperactive thoughts settle down. After that, a calmness descends, and you start feeling grateful for what you have.
Q What are some of the bad recommendations you hear in your industry?
I’m not a part of any fraternity or club. A lot of gossip takes place in gatherings such as these and that’s something I don’t have the energy or time for.
Q What have you gifted the most to others?
I’m a product of my teacher —my guru Mahatria and his pathway of ‘infinitheism.’ I’ve gifted his maxim called as ‘infinithoughts’ to a lot of people. If something helps me, I always feel the urge to share it immediately with others as it could help them too.