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Shweta Ganesh| Posted On: 08-Oct.-2012

From London to New York, Australia to USA and finally, the latest landing is India. To leave India, the dingy and willowy streets in order to set up something more challenging requires a strong belief system, hard work and good fortune. You don’t have to necessarily close your eyes and day dream, believes Hiten Manseta, Owner and Creative Director, Tusk. The international leather goods label which has been making ripples all over New York has made its way to India at Ensemble, Tina & Tarun Tahiliani’s store. The top grain luxury leather brand has created a buzz and that too quite a fashionable one world over. Here’s an exclusive with Hiten Manseta, the man who made Tusk what it stands for today. He opens up about the story of the brand, the luxury market and the changing face of India.

1. Tell us about your journey from Mumbai to NY highlighting the growth of Tusk.
My Masters brought me to the US. After finishing up my MBA, I joined my cousin and dabbled in business. Together we exported goods from India and soon my cousin was the first Indan in the apparel business. Earlier, I used to look into the production and marketing aspects of the business which helped develop a great learning experience. In an effort to ‘try’ something out, I started with manufacturing leather accessories as the demand for it was on a rise. In those days, quality products were never considered to be made in India and we helped to change that.

The name was aptly chosen as it didn’t signify a person, designer or anything specific. The broader, the better was the concept and ‘Tusk’ paid complete justice to the brand.

2. How challenging was it for you to start of retailing leather bags with strong Indian designs to an international market?
The whole idea was to bring-in the product to the international market. In the beginning, the leather was sourced from India and later we moved to Italy. The ‘no duty’ tag from Italy on leather imports made our growing business less cluttered and taxable. Tusk retains Indian designs and it’s rich heritage but is made for the design sensibilities for the west, who are so taken by leather. It was not so much of a challenge; it was more of a perception change that we had to cater to. The place where we came from (India) had to be taken seriously as there weren’t so many Indian companies set up in the international market then.

3. How has the brand awareness for Tusk come about considering there are very few stand alone stores? Though there is global awareness in places like London, Japan, China, Australia, USA and India, it's more so because of pop-up stores. Why the decision to not have stand-alone stores?

Tusk started off as a wholesale company and we have always believed that the quality of the products will stand for itself. The celeb culture was not big those days and a celebrity was rarely considered as a prop to market a brand’s goods. Retailing brings about its own set of challenges. Brand awareness aids the longevity of the brand. Tusk is not a big brand but I’m often surprised as to how many people know about us! Carrying a Tusk handbag is a total package and it’s not some showy product placed in a museum. Tusk caters to functionality, wear-ability and trend.


4. What do you expect from the most recent association with Ensemble?
Our association with Ensemble is a very fortunate one! We were looking to be a part of a growing brand that nurtures quality, promise and a sense of worth. We know the profile of our customers and wanted something that would help us retain and grow the brand image. Ensemble has been stocking some great designer labels which are both functional and entirely wearable. So, together with Ensemble we’re looking at building awareness using a platform with creative synergies.

5. What are the trends that you foresee in leather accessories for both men & women?
We, as a brand are following our own trend. The expectations of our customers are met with, each season. I’m not pitting the brand with a Prada, Chanel or LV because we’re different from them. Our designs, colours, shapes and sizes aren’t seasonal. We go less by trends and more by the market or user’s needs. Citrus and plum are two hot colours for women. Men in China are experimental while those in Europe are classy and those in US want mere functionality. So, depending on the market needs we build our accessories.

6. Indians have finally become aware of the importance of accessories. What are your expectations from Indian consumers?
It’s the same situation! It’s a challenge because we haven’t had quality wear in a while and also for lifestyle reasons. The simple, vanilla-flavoured lifestyle is gradually changing and people are coming around. Globalization, travel and exposure to various forces have contributed to evolution and led people to give importance to wearing accessories. Tusk is not here to change the world! We just want to offer great quality and trendy design wear to all our users.

7. What are the expansion plans for the brand 'Tusk'?
     For Tusk, US is still a major market. Seeing the growth of Asia and the international role it has been playing over the past few years, that also seems like the place to tap into. We’re looking at setting up few more standalone stores. However, currently we’re still evaluating the debatable real estate versus the internet and if it can ever wholly replace brick and mortar!

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