Mumbai Capital

Why Dilip Chhabria can’t afford to customise his own cars

Dilip Chhabria with the Avanti. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Dilip Chhabria, the founder and CMD of DC Design which is near-synonymous with customising automobiles in India, says a well-designed car advertises itself. He talks to Yuthika Bhargava about the Avanti, India’s first indigenously developed sports car, new plans and more.

How is the response to Avanti?

Avanti is a home-grown manufacturing set-up led by a design company, much like what Steve Jobs did. We are trying to follow in his footsteps. It will definitely do well. It has created a niche. There are 60 Avantis on the road already, 59 of which are in India and one in London. We have also received an order for 300 Avantis from Europe. We are looking at ramping up production of Avanti to four cars a day in the next two months, from one a day now.

Any plans to make more models?

Of course. We have an adjacent model of the car, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) and a micro car that we designed and showcased two years back. That’s in the works. The SUV is quite advanced and is in the later stages.

When are these expected?

Hopefully by late 2017 or early 2018 (for the SUV). The small car will be in the manufacturing space around 2019.

Is DC Design planning another production facility?

Yes, we will be opening one in the Middle East. The plan is to make it functional before next year, though our investors are pushing us to do it in nine months. I think we should be operational before December 2016. It will service the Middle East, Africa and some parts of England.

Which is your favourite project?

It is always the last one because you are still in that time zone; you are seized of it. It’s like having an affair… the latest girl you are going out with is your favourite till she is history. The last big project was the vanity van for Shah Rukh Khan. It is still in my mind space, till the next one, which will be out this month-end. We do about 60 projects in a month.

Automobile designing is not a traditional career…

Yes, people would think I was crazy. In 1993, when I started this company, I had to build capital. There was no way I could go to my parents or banks to start an automotive design company; nobody would have understood what I was doing. I built capital through automotive accessory manufacturing for 10 years and then decided to risk it all.

When you do a good car, which is a dynamic object, it moves from place A to place B… It arouses a curiosity if it is good or different. That gives you the marketing strength; you don’t have to advertise. Back then, there was no Internet; the car did the talking.

Were you apprehensive while getting into car manufacturing?

I have apprehensions even today. Why did I do it… I was stupid… I am always wondering whether posterity will view me as a visionary or a fool because it’s a risk we are taking much beyond our size. But you have heard of adages like, ‘a man’s reach must exceed his grasp.’

The most difficult project?

None that I remember because we relish challenges, take them in our stride and learn from them. The most difficult are current ones because you haven't done them before.

Any Indian car that you would love to to design?

All of them.

Which is the best designed car on Indian roads?

The Swift. They got it right.

What car do you drive?

I don’t drive. I am driven. When you achieve a certain size, there goes the original passion for driving, you are on the phone all the time, travelling. For the record, we have a good stable of cars. I have a BMW i8 and X6M, an Aston Martin Vanquish, and will soon be buying the Mercedes AMG GT. On a daily basis, I use the Audi 8.

Do you customise your own cars too?

No, I can’t afford to do this for myself. That’s an honest answer. Our price points have risen beyond what I can afford.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 8:48:07 PM |

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