Bright colours and pieces of art are the first things that catch your eye at the flagship Chumbak store at Indiranagar, Bengaluru. Started in March 2010, by Vivek Prabhakar and Shubhra Chadda with an idea to create fun and bright Indian souvenirs, Chumbak today has evolved into a lifestyle brand with footprints in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. It also has flagship stores in Bengaluru and Delhi and 35 pop- up stores across India.
Speaking of the initial idea that created Chumbak, Vivek, the Co-Founder, says, "We were a little bored of the usual marble Taj Mahal replicas and handicrafts that were becoming the only souvenir option. We thought travellers deserved some more options that were hip and still represented India. That's how Chumbak was born."
Beginning with a seed funding of INR 40 lakhs, taken in from their savings, in five years Chumbak has increased its product repertoire to stationeries, bags and wallets, jewellery, key chains, apparel and home furnishings. Vivek says that they realised that the biggest fans of Chumbak were young Indians who wore India on their sleeves. They realised that their customers wanted more and Chumbak went from being a souvenir brand to being representative of this new India.
Initially, the products were placed in MBO's (Modern Brand Outlets), and soon the team received feedback that the customers wanted to see all their products under one roof. This led to the birth of pop-up stores in top malls across the country. "Instantly we went from being a boutique brand to a household name in the gifting and collectibles space across the country," adds Vivek.
By this time the designs too started seeing an evolution from being early India themed products to a more quirky and modern India. This, Vivek says, allowed for a very different design expression. It paved the path for a more mature design language that was translated in their newer range of products.
In September last year, Chumbak opened its first flagship store in Indiranagar, which also saw the launch of niche products in the space of Home and Decor. "We retained the colour and design appeal of Chumbak but brought it to our customers in a whole new avatar on crockery, lamps, dining accessories, wall art and much more," says Vivek.
But no success story can be complete without challenges. The challenges began with getting all the products in one spot - the pop up kiosks. Vivek says that it wasn't easy to choose the right model, size of the stores and the kind of spaces. "This was the first time the brand was going to be represented as a standalone store," adds Vivek.
They faced a similar challenge for the flagship stores, but at a much larger scale. They had to figure out a whole new category, selling it, merchandising for it and creating marketing language for the same. Vivek says that it was a crazy time but they had loads of fun. Vivek believes, they came out of it better, stronger and with more energy.
In the last year and a half, Chumbak has grown from a 30 member team to close to 150 people across all functions. "We have seen significant additions to our tech team and the output has been great with the steady growth of the online business over the past few months since the launch of our new website," says Vivek. In the last five years, Chumbak has registered a 300 percent YOY growth including the offline and online segments.
The team believes its growth has been defined by the various retail forays. Vivek says that they see a very different growth story from their kiosk business to the growing large store footprint. The large stores and the introduction of the home range has seen a doubling of average basket sizes and this is even being emulated on their web store. Vivek adds that the challenges of a strong online and offline presence are very different in terms of understanding demand and providing for all channels.
Speaking of how the market has evolved Vivek says that initially they saw a great reception for the initial core India theme design. With time he adds, the consumers in the country were getting exposed to a whole set of design trends from across the world.
"Our customers have started recognising the design proposition we are selling. Also, we have seen a huge change in the way customers have engaged with our brand," adds Vivek. While social media was one of the key pointers of engagement for the brand, with time there has been an increased and growing level of interaction. Instagram, Vivek says, is one such medium.
In terms of future plans for the offline presence the team says they are going to grow in the coming year with more large stores opening up across the country. The online presence along with their participation on marketplaces is going to be the focus for the next year.
"We are committed to building an equally strong Chumbak web store that is high on experience and quality besides our presence on Flipkart and Amazon which includes a brand store on Amazon," says Vivek. The team also intends to continue experimenting the way design is thought and created.
As Vivek mentioned earlier the Indian consumer has evolved with time. They are more exposed to the different styles of design across the globe. This has also resulted in the growth of several players in the field like IndiaCircus and Happily Unmarried.
Video Reporter: Dola Samantha
Video Editor: Anand
Cameraman: Rukmagada Raja