Dilip Chhabria eats, sleeps and breathes design. DC Design is a company he set up in 1993, when he was 40. Today, as a result of operating a monopoly in the business of car design, he boasts of a clientele that features top businessmen and Bollywood stars. “No amount of money is enough to invest in one’s business,” says the 62-year-old at his office in suburban Mumbai. In every sense, he defends that point of view. “In 2006, the DC brand was valued at ₹100 crore. Today, it is worth ₹800 crore,” says Chhabria. A query about investments in other asset classes such as equities and real estate is met with a degree of cynicism. “I do not think it is a great idea to back another company and I think that is a very dim view of the business. Why would I think that another company is better than mine,” he asks.
Chhabria has houses in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, although these are completely for personal consumption. “My daughter stays here (Mumbai), while my son lives in our Delhi house. My wife and I have been in Pune since 2005,” he explains. In his own mind, real estate is a very illiquid investment, offering little by way of return. “Today, the best return you can hope by way of rentals from a property is no more than 2%. Housing may not be as speculative as investing in stocks, but it still is illiquid,” he insists. Over the last decade, Chhabria has invested ₹150 crore in his own company and he does not expect his asset allocation strategy to change in the time to come. “The more money I invest in the brand, the more successful I am in creating an entry barrier. My own estimation is that it improves margins by at least 20%,” he says. That does sound like a very convincing reason to invest in one’s own business.