Ishaan Dodhiwala talks with You & I
Let’s start with your baby. What is The Indian about?
It’s a social enterprise that I started with my close friend Keshav Reddy. Essentially, it’s a clothing and accessories brand featuring a product line that draws inspiration from India’s history and culture. The brand also has a giving initiative. Our motto is ‘One for you, one for me’, and that speaks volumes. For every product that’s bought from us, we donate a similar one to underprivileged kids. Keshav and I started this brand to spread the pride of being Indian, at the same time being able to give something back to the community.
How is the company structured?
For the first year and a half, we ran the company with a very small team to keep costs low. This meant I had to oversee quite a bit of work – from designing and procuring, to managing supply chain and handling sales through the website. Since then, we have received some additional investment which has allowed us a more professional setup, including a dedicated team to run operations. Our office is based in Mumbai, and the team takes care of most of the company’s issues. This leaves me with the work of just checking in on what’s happening on a weekly basis, which I easily manage from Hyderabad.
We hear you’re also into motorsports.
I have been interested in racing and cars since I was a kid. My father has been involved with different forms of motorsports for the last 30 years, including numerous trophies and wins. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been around cars and engines, so it was natural for me to take my place behind the wheel at some point. I started off as most kids do – with karting, which I did at the national level for a few years starting at ten years old. I didn’t pursue it further, as school and college started taking up more of my time. Last year was my first year back after starting The Indian, and I could afford to take some time off for racing once again. I was selected for the Volkswagen Polo R Cup, and was one of 12 new drivers last year.
How tough is it?
Motorsports in India is growing quickly, but it’s still in a nascent stage. Formula 1 coming to India did a great job of promoting the culture, and attracting more youngsters to the sport. But since there is no F1 in India anymore, the situation has taken a small step backwards. On the bright side, companies like Volkswagen Motorsports India and JK Tyre are doing a great job of providing people with a platform through which to compete in championships on par with other series at the international level, and for a fraction of what it costs overseas. But this ‘fraction’ is still quite expensive, and that is where it gets tough for people to get into racing. They may be highly talented, but if there is no financial backing it won’t get them too far. I have Apollo Life as a sponsor, and they have supported me throughout, making it easy for me to focus on racing. If there were more such companies and brands to sponsor kids in racing, the situation would be much better.
What else do you enjoy?
Apart from work and racing, I enjoy going to the gym and playing football. I also like getting out at night on the weekends to meet my friends. I’m a big foodie and I like trying out new restaurants and cuisines, and I enjoy cooking as well. In fact, I try to get into the kitchen whenever I find a chance. The rest of my free time at home, I end up spending on my racing simulator or watching movies.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to get an MBA in the next couple of years. Until then I will keep working and racing. I would also like to start another venture before I study further, and I would like to win a championship in motorsport. I’d say that’s how the next three or four years of my life look.