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Think automobile design and your mind might wander to great designers such as Sergio Pininfarina and Ferdinand Porsche, or companies like BMW, Lamborghini and Ferrari – all from the Western Hemisphere. Dilip Chhabria, however, has defied the notion that an aesthetically intelligent design can only come from the West.

Born in Mumbai, Chhabria came from a society where to be successful you had to be a doctor, a lawyer or a businessman. He, however, dared to be different and chose to study transportation design at the Art Center of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1993, he founded DC Design, aiming to offer design services to corporations and individuals.

Today, his company employs 400 designers, engineers and craftsmen and has produced over 700 concept cars for customers that include Porsche, Rolls Royce, Renault, Ford, Toyota and, closer to home, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland. Prototypes designed by Chhabria’s company have also been showcased at the Geneva and Paris Auto shows.

Chhabria’s designs have also found a place in the world of the super glamorous. He created the first prototype of the Aston Martin Vanquish which was used in the James Bond movie, Die Another Day. He has also provided some of the biggest names in Bollywood with customised automotive solutions such Shah Rukh Khan’s Volvo 14M RV (2009) and Salman Khan’s Tata RV (2011).

Earlier this year, DC Design unveiled India’s first supercar, the Avanti. Featuring a lightweight, all aluminium chassis it has a sleek and sexy design that could give the Enzo Ferrari a run for its money. The car prompted the folks at Top Gear to ask, “Who the hell is DC?”

For Chhabria, the dream of designing cars doesn’t end with him; partnering with the DY Patil Group, he founded the DYP-DC Center for Automotive Research, where young, aspiring automobile designers get hands-on experience in what it takes to design a car. In his words, “Designer’s are trained, not born.”

– Haroon Rasheed

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 23, 2012.