Dare to dream! A line that best suits Natasha Bohra, a chirpy 24-year-old writer turned entrepreneur, who has recently set her first interior design store in Mumbai – Chromakey Designs – post being a regular exhibitor at various exhibitions where she silently built her loyal and royal clientele. Let’s see what made her enter the world of retail and lessons she has learnt over time considering she had zero experience and expertise in running a store
Always dreaming of becoming a part of the designing industry and owning a brand that specialises in designs is Natasha Bohra, a young entrepreneur. Though she was graduated in advertising, it has got nothing to do with her career. “I did my Bachelor’s in Mass Media and specialised in advertising in the final year. But ever since I graduated, I have never worked in advertising. In fact I don’t have a formal education in what I am currently doing,” she reveals.
Financial challenges that she initially had to face did not allow her to pursue any vocational training in interior designing, but she took another route to give wings to her dreams. “In my early 20s – an age when most youngsters are still deciding on what careers they should opt for – I decided to be a part of an interior design magazine. So I joined Society Interiors as a feature writer,” she informs. Whether it is writing, designing or running a business, Bohra did not get any formal training and learnt all these during her job itself. “This has also been the reason why I have taken longer than most other people would in achieving a certain pedestal. I have self learnt my way through all of it, which has often put me in a questionable position. Sometimes, even though you know that something is wrong, the only reason you cannot say it aloud is because you lack formal training. But eventually everything worked out for the good,” she says.
Bohra has always been fortunate to have a very supportive family and friends. “I have gained a lot of knowledge about this industry from my ex-boss and mentor Babita Krishnan, who has always been a great support and I owe a lot to her. She has played an important role in helping me understand the design industry. My friends and family have also been supportive towards my decision, especially my younger brother without whose support the store would not have been up yet.”
Chromakey Designs is a brand that has been in existence for over two years now. After quitting her job with Society Interiors in early 2011, Bohra wished to start her own business. Then came Black Taxi, an exhibition that she wanted to be a part of. Under the pressure of wanting to exhibit with them, Chromakey Designs was born. It started off as a designer stationery brand with over 50 designs for diaries. “Our collection was extremely well received and that exhibition was a super duper hit for Chromakey. That’s where I got confident and decided to take it further. Post that, we exhibited across cities including Pune, Chandigarh, Gurgaon and Mumbai. We started retailing with different stores and then I understood how this particular retail model functions,” she states.
While Bohra was working on Chromakey and figuring out a way forward for the brand, she joined Design Matrix, a design magazine focussing on the designers, as deputy editor. “During my tenure with this magazine, I met a lot of designers and came across the works of some lovely artists and brands,” she adds.
Launch of Retail Store
Over a period of time, Bohra realised that although online retailing is fast catching up in India, there is still a big section of people who want to touch and feel the product before buying and not too many of the brands have a platform to showcase their work. This is where the idea of having a retail store started taking shape. “I took more interest in understanding how the brands work and function and the problems they face with stores. So while I was penning down stories for my magazine, it became an integral part of my research.”
“In 2012 , I decided to discontinue with my job and pursue my dream of having a store. In January 2013, I made the final decision of having a retail outlet. One thing led to another and finally I was able to launch my own outlet that now specialises in artifacts for interior design. To my luck, my current store was just the second property I saw and finalised it,” she shares.
Speaking about the brand name and branding activities, she comments: “I wanted to continue with the name Chromakey since it had already received a decent amount of recognition. But I have re-designed the logo, which represents a book, to make it a little more versatile and less funky as compared to the old one.”
Store Location, Design, and Logistics
Bohra wanted a location that is logistically accessible for everyone. “I opted for South Mumbai, in comparison to North Mumbai, for opening my retail outlet because this part of the city has just handful stores offering designer accessories. After shortlisting certain areas such as Colaba, Kemps Corner, Breach Candy, Walkeshwar, Worli and Churchgate, I started hunting for places in all these locations. But I knew Breach Candy was perfect as tons of people come here to shop because of stores such as Premsons and Amarsons and the shopping part of these areas hasn’t phased out. Fortunately, I got the perfect spot, which made logistic and economic sense,” she adds.
For the designing of the store, she took the help of her cousin who runs an architectural firm Studio Osmosis. “I shared my references with them and the store design is completely their baby. The façade of the store, made out of corrugated sheets, is my favourite part. Thankfully for me, Chromakey Designs is a proprietary firm and doesn’t need too many documentation,” she adds.
For a new store, it is generally a challenge to have designers and brands on board. Marketing on a day-to-day basis has been a big task for the brand. According to her, no single strategy is enough. One needs to be involved in marketing regularly to stay in customer’s mind, which definitely is a big issue primarily because of the cost involved. Manpower is a serious problem in retail day in and day out. “Since I am the sole touchpoint for Chromakey Designs and accounts, marketing and stocking, everything is done by me, it is extremely stressful for me, which is turning out to be a problem. If I am not available because of other commitments, work tends to take a back seat,” she shares.
Commenting on associating with international designers, she opines: “Working with international designers is easy only when it is limited to the Internet. Retailing international designers’ products in India involves a lot of paper work and formalities and its payment is always in advance. Chromakey Designs isn’t there yet.”
The background of writing for design magazines has proven to be quite helpful for Bohra in understanding the design industry and a lot of the designers whom she interacted with, while working for the magazines, display their designs at her store. “During my journey so far, I have learnt that not all designs I pick up for my store are liked by the customers. Over a period of time, I realised that there are some brands and designers who work well for the store, while others don’t. Also, vendors who do in-house production do it on a complete trial-and-error basis,” she states.
“People have started to know about the store and I am finally getting to understand what the customers are expecting to see; however, the store was opened just a few months back. Everyday is a new learning and a new understanding for me,” she adds.
“Be sure of what you believe, be certain of where you want to be, and be dedicated. It takes time, but it all falls into place,” is what Bohra would like to share with budding entrepreneurs.
Chromakey Designs intends to grow a lot beyond a retail store. “We wish to be a design destination not only in terms of product offerings but a platform for designers and design enthusiasts to meet and interact at various levels,” she concludes.
- Year of Inception: Brand launch in 2011 which then was primarily into designing to stationary. In 2013, the brand took a giant leap and entered the world of retail with the setting up of the store that housed knick knacks for home interiors.
- Number of stores:1
- Avg sixe of stores: 350 sq.ft
- Expansion plans: One step at a time but for sure want to expand with another store launch in a year or so.
- Products: Rare contemporary artifacts sourced from India and two international brands available too. Also, we havea range of products designs by people with a creative bent of mind. E.g. wall clocks by Sridhar Iyer.
- Price range for products: A wide range beginning from just a few hundreds.