Gautam Sinha: Now, smell the coffee at Nappa Dori
A little over six years ago, Gautam Sinha started his own branded collection of leather products called Nappa Dori, which translates to “leather and thread”. Sinha, a graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (Nift), Delhi, started out with a collection of colourful trunks with leather trims as well as a very well-received line of printed leather laptop sleeves and messenger bags. Today, Nappa Dori has six stores in India and two international stores, one each in Doha and Maldives. It also sells its products through distribution partnerships in Paris, London, the US, Japan and Singapore. Scandinavia, Europe and, closer home, Goa are next on Sinha’s wish list as sales destinations. The company recently opened its biggest store in Colaba, Mumbai, just behind the Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
Sinha spoke to Lounge on the sidelines of the LyFe Symposium in Delhi, a consortium that nurtures small, distinctive luxury brands from emerging markets. Spanning two days, the conference saw dynamic exchanges between select stakeholders from the luxury and lifestyle sectors in Europe, South-East Asia and India. Sinha speaks about the launch of Café Dori in the Mumbai store, Nappa Dori’s global expansion plans, and the launch of their first footwear collection. Edited excerpts from an interview:
What is the most interesting development currently under way at Nappa Dori?
Café Dori. It is my baby. I’m a coffee addict. It’s a test run at this stage in Mumbai. But I’m very keen on taking it forward. It is the way we see our brand growing. It’s a user experience we are trying to create with take-away coffee and dessert, a way of making the customer stay longer, enjoy the space, because it’s a design space and the ambience of the store conveys that. We have also started selling magazines in the store, all indie design magazines—from Kinfolk and Monocle to Cereal. So it is all part of enhancing the user experience. And I think it’s very important when you’re not trying to just sell a brand but an experience to the consumer.
Which product category sells the most at your stores?
Our laptop bags are best-sellers. Bags in general are also best-sellers. Our trunks have created this unique identity for us. People recognize Nappa Dori through a trunk, which is great.
Which new product categories are you planning to launch?
We introduced stationery last year, which did really well. We are now looking at luggage and footwear. We did a collection of shoes about two-and-a-half years back. It was a test run but it did really well. There was a collection of Ikat-lined footwear, only for women. It is just that shoes are a high capital-intensive category. Having said that, it is work in progress, and we should have something ready in a year or so.
Tell us about your international expansion strategy.
It is definitely on the radar. We are currently in Doha, at the international airport. We just opened our first store in the Maldives at a property called Huvafen Fushi, one of the best luxury hotels there. From a strategy standpoint, we want to be at airports definitely given that the DNA of Nappa Dori is core to the concept of travel. One of our biggest recent deals has been with Qatar Airlines in Doha. We are their official partner for amenity kits for business- and first-class passengers. I find this a good way to create awareness about the brand without spending too much money in terms of promotions. We are the first Indian brand to strike a two-year deal for over a million kits.
How has the customer profile at Nappa Dori changed over the years?
The Indian audience and clientele have increased a lot, because earlier I was catering just to the expats who were travelling. And while that number hasn’t gone down, the number of buyers from India has gone up.
Has your vision for the brand also changed alongside?
My vision hasn’t changed but the customer experience I want to share keeps evolving; it is not just about selling a bag any more. It is about creating destinations where people can enjoy certain things.