The Vivacious Retailer, passionate to “MakeHappy”

Shubhra Chadda, Co-Founder – Chumbak

Shubhra comes from a defence background and all through her childhood she lived in different parts of the country. Her family then settled in Bangalore (India) around the time she was in high school and have been residing in Bangalore ever since. It was after the birth of her daughter that she decided that she wanted to start her own business and that’s when the idea of Chumbak struck her.

The design led lifestyle brand, Chumbak is one of India’s fastest growing retail brands. Founded in 2010, Chumbak was born out of the love for creating fun, original and contemporary products for today’s youth.  With an exciting range of over 2000 products in 3 categories including Accessories, Apparel and Home Décor, the brand currently retails through 15 Flagship stores and its brand web-store at www.chumbak.com

Shubhra graduated from travel and tourism from Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru in 2000 but, due to limited opportunities then, went on to work in finance and later, marketing with KPMG and Nortel respectively. She loves spending time with her daughter and dog Hugo. She also practices Yoga on a daily basis, loves to travel and explore new cuisines and is an avid reader.

Here are some more insights from the journey of the passionate retailer – Shubhra, shared with team ABT.

What is Unique about Chumbak?
Design is at the core of what we do and with a product portfolio ranging from Accessories to Apparel to Home – the simple thought was to create high quality products that defined our customers in all their love for colour and design. This obsession with creating something truly special for our customers has been the driving force behind Chumbak.

Tell us about the Journey & Evolution of Chumbak
Back in 2012, the one piece of feedback from consumers that stood out was that they couldn’t find all of Chumbak product under one roof. While we still retailed through ‘Mom and Pop’ stores and MBOs, we started rolling out Popup Stores or Kiosks across the country starting mid 2013. We opened close to 40 kiosks across high traffic malls in the country.

In Q3 of 2014, we opened our first ever Flagship Store in Bangalore. From an average of 150 sq.ft. kiosks, we went to 2500 sq.ft. in area. We introduced Home Décor, a brand new category which started our journey to where we are today, from an Accessories brand to a Design Led Lifestyle Brand. By the end of 2015, we had a total of 15 Flagship Stores across India, retailing Apparel, Accessories and Home Décor.

There was a lack of India themed products in the market in 2010. From the ever present auto rickshaws to snake charmers to mustached men, we did it all. This is the design language that helped Chumbak break through the clutter. In 2013, we sat down and started work on the next phase of our design language. We started the journey from India Themed design to India Inspired Design.

In 2014, with the launch of Home as a category, we launched our new Design Language: India Inspired Design. This was no longer in your face India. It was a more refined visual language. We evolved to introduce a brand new, higher priced product line. Consumers loved the look and we didn’t look back. The new visual language helped elevate the brand as well.

While we started to add products from Home to Apparel and open more Flagship Stores, we felt that we needed to work on our design language. The latest avatar of our look is international and mature, yet keeping the core of Chumbak’s iconic colors and design alive.

What has been your biggest challenge as a women entrepreneur?
Being a part of the Indian startup ecosystem is extremely challenging as you cannot be laid back and must continuously prove the relevance of your brand, not only to your customers but to all the essential stakeholders. Thankfully, I have not faced any gender specific challenges being a woman entrepreneur; instead have continuously received support and encouragement from everyone I have encountered through this journey. Challenges come in various forms, some small and some very large, but I believe what’s key is the attitude and approach with which you overcome these challenges. Investors have always only had questions about our growth plans and brand story, which is all the convincing they have needed.

What is that one milestone in your life that makes you happy and proud?
My daughter and Chumbak are the 2 milestones that make me the happiest and most proud.

Who is your greatest inspiration & why?
My mom has been a constant source of inspiration. I admire her strength, courage and the way she has chosen to live her life.

What is your leadership style?
I don’t believe in a traditional hierarchical system. Leading by example helps to set the tone, attitude and culture of a smart work ethic and passion in the company. I believe in being connected and involved in every aspect of the business, even if it means getting my hands dirty and putting my team on top priority.

If you were to do one thing differently, what would that be?
I would love to go back to college and study design.

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years?
Our mission for Chumbak is to make it India’s go to, design-led lifestyle destination that will have a global omni-channel presence; to continuously deliver a product offering that gives customers a happy feeling, leaving them with a sense of joy and community that they wouldn’t encounter and experience elsewhere.