Striking The Balance

by Shubhra Chadda

In Conversation with Shubhra Chadda, Co-Founder at Chumbak

 

Shubhra Chadda is the co-founder at Chumbak and heads Design and Product. She started the company with her husband, Vivek Prabhakar, to create a brand that reflected India at its best through products that were driven by great design and were meant to become the first choice for gifting for everyone travelling to India.

Shubhra herself was a communications and marketing professional who worked across tech giants like Nortel and was part of the founding team in India with NetApp. Through her working years, she always made time to travel and that’s when the seed for Chumbak was first planted.

In creating the idea for Chumbak as a destination for contemporary souvenirs in India, she laid the groundwork for the successful brand it is today.

For anybody who knows Shubhra personally, it is no secret that she still loves to travel, and Yoga is an integral part of her day.

Shubhra and Vivek spend precious moments with their daughter and their very popular dog Hugo, and make sure to take time off as a unit to create memories together.

We caught up with Shubhra about her life and work, as well as Chumbak’s global aspirations.

  • When did you realise you wanted to move over from a 9-5 secure environment to the rocky entrepreneurial boat? What gave you the conviction to pursue this?

Being an entrepreneur was always the dream but the urge to create something that was lacking in the market at the time became tenfold once Samara (their daughter) was born. I realized at that period of my life that I was strong enough and then some, and that I could sail the entrepreneurial ship.

  • How did the idea of Chumbak come about? Walk us through the aha moment. 

Chumbak was founded in 2010 as an idea for creating a range of fun souvenirs for India and Indians. It was a simple thought; “Let’s give the world something cool to take back from their travels to India”. We also loved great design and that was always above everything. What started with souvenirs stocked in multi brand outlets soon transformed itself into a business spanning stores across the country in both our large format, full experience stores and pop up stores across popular malls and high streets.

  • In your opinion, does the Indian entrepreneurial landscape lack a support system? What do you think are the biggest challenges to watch out for when jumping in, keeping in mind the current economic environment? 

The entrepreneurial landscape is booming, especially in Bangalore, but there is still some room for a better support system that will cushion the fall of the dreamers and help them bounce back. The biggest challenges that will plague the mind of an entrepreneur are – Why are you working on this project? And what need will it serve? If you can answer these two questions with confidence, then you got one wing and you’re on your way to get the set.

The heat of the Sun that might melt your wings is the financial aspect; you have to decide - When is a good time to start? How financially stable do you need to be? The stakes get higher and higher as the EMIs and loans loom above. There is no accurate answer but what might help your decision is to run your numbers, work out your business plan and manage your funds; we’re idea generators until we run out of fuel.

  •  What were some of the initial hiccups you faced when setting up Chumbak? What should aspiring entrepreneurs be aware of when they decide to take the plunge? 

I was absolutely new to retail so learning everything from scratch and handling every aspect of the business was a given; and this gave me the mother lode of crash courses. Do not be afraid to take that plunge and get your hands dirty in the inner-workings of your company and stay positive as the alarms blare around you.

  •  If you could give 28-year old Shubhra Chadda a word of advice to set her up for success, what would it be? 

Have faith and carry on; good things are going to happen.

  • With Chumbak’s global aspirations and growth plans, how are the next 3 years looking for you at work? 

The aim is to be globally recognized; we need to refine Chumbak without losing our unique flavor, to the point that it is global in its appeal.

  • Finally, given that you are true believer of finding the perfect work-life balance, what travel plans have you lined up for 2019? 

Being spontaneous with trips is a pet peeve of mine, but I’ve scheduled a trip to the Phi Phi Islands to celebrate a friend’s birthday and in May we have planned our annual trip to Japan to look forward to.

  

What the Chumbak team has created is a brand with over 40 stores across the country, and a strong web presence on Chumbak.com. Chumbak has an engaged and loyal user base of over 5 lakh customers a year, and a design language that has transcended the initial India themed story to a global idea of what happens when color, a strong design ethos and a little madness comes together. Along with its nearly 300 employees today, Chumbak has created a brand with products for your home, your wardrobe and your everyday. In essence, Chumbak has created the first design inspired mass product brand out of India which calls out to everyone, young in age and heart across the country.

The next time you are at the Chumbak store in Bangalore, say hello to Shubhra. We hear she loves a good glass of wine and lovely conversation!