A SoBo man with an artistic agenda and a flair for fashion—not exactly groundbreaking news there. Born and brought up on Altamount Road, a street so à la mode that it arrays some of the city’s most exclusive designer stores while homing in on the elegant crême de la crême of SoBo, let us just say that Kushal Chudiwala has got it just right—fashionwise!
A man who knows the difference between mauve, purple, fuschia and burgundy! Thirty-one-year-old Virginia Tech alumnus Kushal Chudiwala does not walk around with a colourful boa around the neck and yet manages to gauge what women want. The creator of Toteteca, a two-year-old brand of customised handbags that can be ordered online, Chudiwala is determined to change the high quality faux leather bag arena.
Having graduated in 2004 with a prestigious job from Merrill Lynch in London waiting for him, the light-eyed man did the unthinkable: he flew to Milan, made a pit-stop in London to resign the day he was meant to join, and moved back to Mumbai. “I had realised that the bags my mother, Sangita Chudiwala, had been manufacturing at home were in fact of great quality and much appreciated in Italy and Spain,” he shares. Kushal’s instinct was spot-on and his entrepreneurial bone, perfectly placed. This was the genesis of Toteteca, a brand of customisable bags. South Mumbai has always been a high-end designer haven but Toteteca is a venture that wishes to add ‘customisable’ and ‘affordable’ to the inferences that come with the SoBo zip code.
The business of bags, including the styled concepts and sample ranges Chudiwala creates for brands such as Lifestyle, Globus and Westside, is not some newfangled concept for the man. “Most of the bags in the country, which are being sold in large departmental stores, are not consistent in terms of flavour, collection or essence given that they are bought from China; we wanted to provide these stores with a standardised solution,” he explains. With over 30,000 bags being manufactured in his Malad factory and hundreds of Toteteca bags being ordered online, mostly from abroad, Chudiwala understands the power of online presence. “Leveraging on our production capabilities, we give customers the chance to get exactly what they like, in any part of the world, within seven days of ordering,” he says.
A purple and orange bag with burgundy lining and a personalised message near a carefully-chosen zipper? Chudiwala promises to handle it. “While we might not always agree with some of the sartorial and chromatic choices of our customers, we make sure to offer them just what they want!” he laughs off. A quick glance at some of the bags he has been made to produce and we begin to understand just what customisation is all about. “It is our USP,” he shares. Kushal Chudiwala also reveals that living in the southern part of Mumbai has added to the network he has built over time, magnifying his presence in the city, while building a stronger brand recognition.
Casually crossed-legged, flailing his arms away, with a pair of casual slippers on his feet, it would have been hard to take Chudiwala seriously if it was not for the step-by-step tour of his workshop in Mittal Tower, Nariman Point.
Nice to look at and to have, but a unique handbag is a luxury not many can afford. That is just where Chudiwala steps in!