Thinking vibrant and quirky? No one does it better than Chumbak. One of the first design-led lifestyle brands in the country, Chumbak is the brain-child of Shubhra Chadda. She is the perfect inspiration for all the wantrepreneur mommies out there. In fact, she believes that all women are multi-taskers and that they should use this as a skill in entrepreneurship.
A brand that started from home, has today turned into 20+ large-scale stores across 11 cities. The company was valued at around 28 million after the funding it received (80 crores) in 2017 by Gaja Capital.
So what made Shubhra start this journey? In an interview, she speaks about how her husband and she love travelling. They would collect fridge magnets from all around the globe. As she was admiring her collection one morning, she couldn’t help but realize the dearth of India-based souvenirs in the market. Buzzing with ideas, she went to her country manager at NetApp, to put down her papers. However, that didn’t go well and she returned back to her desk.
It was only after she conceived her first baby and was on a leave, that her husband suggested that it was the right time for her to go after her dream. She had no background in retail or design, however, she believed in the idea passionately. After a whole year of being a stay-at-home mom in 2009, she started Chumbak.
She says “it was a lot of work, I knew nothing”. Shubhra advises all novices out there to ‘get their hands dirty, the best way of learning is to be involved in all parts of the business yourself initially’. Yes, she has literally done everything to make Chumbak what it is today.
From carrying 100 plus product filled cartons to the 7th floor of their building, to product ideation, to negotiating with manufacturers for low volume orders. She took an entire year of learning and product designing before even considering retail.
When she put out the designs to 10-12 initial stores, they were all extremely excited by the fresh approach. Shubhra, in an interview, said that the initial response was so overwhelmingly positive, that it clearly suggested that there was a real need of products like these and that the customers had been longing for it. Alongside, it was scary too as she was not prepared for the high expectations it brought in.
Her husband Vivek Prabhakar joined her full time in 2011. They believed in Chumbak to the extent that they sold off their only asset – the house they stayed in, and put that money into the business. Being reasonably risk averse, this should have been quite a huge deal for Shubhra but she and her husband took the call in a matter of ten minutes. It was just their gut that bent all the rules when it came to Chumbak!
What started as a souvenir brand today ranges across a hundred categories including women’s wear and accessories. Shubhra learns from the market and caters to exactly that. They soon learnt that it is the young, witty Indians who are most excited about Chumbak’s products and repositioned themselves as a brand for them.
Chumbak was one of the first Indian companies to use social media as a viable option for sales. While her husband focuses on marketing and sales, Shubhra manages product designing.
Shubhra says that her mentor has been her mother who would converse with her about leading a healthy and positive life. She places importance on having a supportive family that can help women go places.
She says “I wasn’t a born entrepreneur. However, as a child, I dreamt of being surrounded by beautiful things in a shop and starting something of my own.”
And she has done just that and so beautifully!