Subrata Dutta, the Asia-pacific president of Samsonite Asia Limited shares his tips and thoughts on travel with Kathlyn D’souza
What are the travelling trends that you’ve noticed or been expecting?
What I’ve realised is that previously, one would travel for two to three weeks in a very planned manner. Today, travel includes getting away for a few days. So, the kind of bag that you will need is much ‘smarter,’ in a sense, not like a computer, but rather innovative. It needs to be able to pack things in a very systematic way. For example, we have launched our backpacks with a shock absorber suspension system—tractum suspension straps. The idea is that it takes away the weight from the shoulder the way a car’s suspension takes away the weight when going over humps. It is proven to be able to bring down the actual weight on your shoulders by up to 3kg. Small, but smart innovations!
How does Samsonite stand out from the rest?
Innovation. Over the last 110 years of existence, the brand has always been innovative. Anything you see in a luggage bag today was most likely invented by Samsonite.
What’s your favourite luggage?
Curio, by American Tourister (AT). It’s a bag which has an awesome design, and it has even won several awards. It’s a very practically-designed bag in terms of weight and volume. Plus, it looks very cool. When I carry it, people look at it from a distance and appreciate it. I use it occasionally, because my other task is to test out new things while travelling! It’s part of my duty; before anything launches I have to test it!
Speaking of, what do you do when you test bags produced by your company?
I have to give it the ‘shock treatment’; throw it around, drag it up the stairs, pull it behind me and go around rocking and dropping it on the staircase. Because ultimately, if it survives, then it is a good product. I’m always checking in my bag not because I want to check them in, it’s because I need to see how it survives.
The brand recently worked with Cristiano Ronaldo, tell us about that.
He represented AT, and both of them complement each other well. That’s how it started. He’s a true combination of style and no-nonsense when it comes to playing football; AT is the same when it comes to serving customers’ needs. They’re both pretty exciting characters in their own way. When we first sought out to make him our brand ambassador, a lot of questions were raised about whether it should be him, because it might not appeal to the female audience. However, we were surprised that he appealed to the female as much as the male audience!
What are five things you must have when travelling?
I need two books. One serious book, and one for light reading. I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to read either book though. Next, some food stuff, because I don’t know when I’ll have a long
period of travelling and waiting. Therefore, I carry some chocolates. I also make sure that I carry my passport and purse, even if I’m just going to the office. I’m a very impulsive traveller. There have been instances when I left home in the morning, went to another country and came back in the evening. I’ll also make sure I write down, in the local language, the address of the hotel, so I won’t have trouble making my way back.
Why should people invest in great luggage?
Travel is not about reaching a place. It’s about enjoying the journey. You need to travel without any headaches, worrying if your personal belongings will reach safely, etc. It’s very important to carry a bag which won’t let you down. Take for example, American Tourister bags—the bag per se will never let you down. It is designed by engineers and artists, not a common combination. If you produce a very engineering-based product, it could be a boring bag; I’m an engineer by training and I can be extremely boring! There must be an artistic component, which is what appeals to most consumers.
How do you beat jetlag?
I never have jet lag, actually! But I do have two tips to share. Whenever you get on the flight, set your time to match the destination. I fool my mind into thinking that I’m already there. Second is, no alcohol. You’ll already be dehydrated while travelling, so alcohol is a no-no.
What has been your most recent memorable trip?
I live in Hong Kong and I don’t go back to India often. But when I did a few months back, I went into a village area. There were a lot of folk artistes who sang and played a lot of musical instruments. I loved every moment of being there and spending time with them. One interesting thing happened when I asked someone there about what he does. He told me he sings. The thing is, he’s actually a farmer, but when you ask him about what he does, he says he sings, because he loves doing it. He says what he does for enjoyment. This is such a hugely philosophical thing! I mean, if you ask me about what I do, I’d say I work for Samsonite and I sell bags. I won’t tell you that I write, or read, or sing. But this man was very clear about singing— not growing paddy or wheat. And he said it with so much delight.
Worst travel experience?
I won’t name the airline, but I was going for my daughter’s graduation from Mumbai to Chicago and then Purdue after. This was during winter. I planned to go in my best suit for the graduation, but the airline lost my bag and I never got it back.
What are your packing tips?
Get everything ironed properly, and then pack. It’s never a good idea to not pack properly, although it saves a lot of time if you just throw stuff in. Next, pack as if you love the things you are packing, use a lot of care, plus gentleness. Keep thinking about how everything is like a jigsaw puzzle. Not everything is flat, so pack to fit different shapes in. While packing, keep at it as if it’s the last cubic centimeter that you have. Use every single nook and corner. It’s better to have space at the top, than at the bottom.
Which destinations would you recommend parents take their children to for holiday?
I won’t name a country, but with children it’s always good to go learn the culture of a place. It makes sense for Europeans to come to Asia for a holiday and vice versa. It also makes a lot of sense for those in a developed country to go to a less developed one—that’s when the mind understands the diversity of the world.