“Be obsessed with your consumers, not your competition,” is the mantra that guides Subrata Dutta’s leadership approach. As the president of Samsonite Asia Pacific since 2016 and formerly the managing director of Samsonite India and Middle East, he has contributed to the renowned luggage brand’s consistent effort to future-proof itself through international expansion, innovation and collaborations with brands such as Alexander McQueen, Thom Browne, Bape and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Last year, Samsonite worked with British telecommunications bigwig, Vodafone, to update its luggage tracking solution, Track&Go, which received a lot of attention when it first launched in 2015. Though for Dutta, who was recently in town for the opening of Samsonite’s new concept store at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands,“innovation need not always be about big, fancy bells and whistles.” Smaller innovations can make a world of a difference too, he adds, such as having a smart wrap in Samsonite’s bags that prevents clothing from getting caught in the zipper or using shock-absorbing shoulder straps for backpacks that reduces the tension on the shoulders, making the load feel lighter.
In most cases, if not all, these innovations are driven by the actual Samsonite customer’s needs and wants. “It’s only when we close our mind to our consumer’s expectations or chase solutions that are not relevant to them that we have a problem,” says Dutta. Lately, the expectation is for a luggage that is a travel companion, “not a mere piece of baggage to be passed to a porter to handle.” This idea that a bag plays a part in enhancing your travel experience is particularly true for Dutta, who shares more with us about his jet-setting life.
What was the last trip you really enjoyed?
Subrata Dutta (SD) I went to Florence and Siena, and spent time in the vineyards of Tuscany. I loved taking in the rich history of our surroundings while tasting fine Italian wines and enjoying the company of all the friendly folks there. I would love to return, even if just for the hospitality.
One of your favourite countries to visit?
SD Australia, which I often visit for work until recently, I went for my first holiday there and visited Byron Bay, Melbourne and Sydney. I love the country for its energy and its people’s enthusiasm.
What do you love most about travelling?
SD Meeting new people, knowing and understanding the culture. Each place has its own social and cultural nuances and that interests me a lot.
What has been your most memorable travel experience?
SD It was in the ’90s when I just got married, and my wife and I were living in Mumbai. One evening after work, we took a short trip via ferry to Manori Island, an island near Mumbai, but didn’t have a smart phone or Google Maps so we roamed around aimlessly looking for a lodge to spend the night. It was late in the night before we finally found one, which was located amid the most fascinating of surroundings.
And the worst?
SD I was travelling to Indiana, USA, for my daughter’s graduation from Purdue University, when the airline I took lost my baggage. The plan to attend the commencement ceremony wearing my favourite suit was tossed out the window just like that.
Which Samsonite luggage would you likely bring, and what would be 3 things you must have with you?
SD Samsonite Lite-Shock, without a doubt. It’s the strongest and lightest suitcase available today, and is also spacious. In it, I’ll always have two books—a light read and a serious read, some chocolates to lift my mood and a pair of running shoes.
Your favourite travel companion?
SD My Tumi Bravo backpack.
Any tips for overcoming jet lag?
SD Set the time on your watch to the time at your destination, and eat and sleep according to that clock. Make your mind and body believe that you are already in your destination time zone; this will help you with adjusting much more easily when you arrive.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
SD Alaska, for the Northern lights. I also plan to take my son to the International Date Line on his birthday so that we can cross it and make his day last longer. This is his idea, and I intend to gift him this for his next birthday.