When Chumbak’s founders, Shubhra Chadda and her husband Vivek Prabhakar, decided to take the plunge – leave their cushy jobs and sell their house to start a retail business – little did they know that eight years later, their quirky odds and ends business would become a brand to reckon with.
Launched in 2010, Chumbak has come a long way from its first office-cum-storeroom at the seventh floor of a rented apartment in Bengaluru. The brand started by selling collectibles and accessories. In the absence of stores, they leaned on new-age retail formats including kiosks and pop-up stores, at airports and theatres. They even dabbled in the odd niche design store.
Today, Chumbak has grown into a full-fledged lifestyle brand, which sells everything – from apparel to personal care and even home decor.
In an exclusive interview with IMAGES Retail Bureau, Vivek Prabhakar, CEO and Co-Founder, talks about the new-age kitsch brand, the factors leading to the brand’s rapid growth, why they branched out into categories, and expansion plans for FY 2018-19.
Excerpts from the chat…
Tell us about Chumbak. What is your USP, what makes you different from other brands selling the same kind of products?
Chumbak was founded in 2010 as an idea for creating a range of fun souvenirs for India and Indian consumers. The idea was a simple and straightforward thought of giving something trendy and stylish to the local audience and also to offer something uniquely Indian to tourists travelling to India. It started with our love for unusual, Indian designs though little did we know what was to follow.
What started as souvenirs stocked in multi-brand outlets soon transformed itself into a business spanning 22 stores across the country. The products became so popular that suddenly, we were not only present in large format stores and operating pop-ups and kiosks but were in a position to open and operate full-scale experience stores across popular malls as well as high streets in India.
Today, Chumbak is a ‘design-led lifestyle’ brand for products across apparel, home and accessories. We retail over 100 categories through 22 stores, pan India. We also retail through our web store, which has evolved into a highly interactive and fast-growing online business with a heavy focus on building a powerful brand and providing memorable buying experiencesthrough engaging content.
The USP of Chumbak is our product assortment which has been entirely created on our fun and colorful design philosophy. From creating products for your Home and Wardrobe, we have something for everybody and for every occasion and need.
What is your location strategy? Do you prefer to open new stores in malls or high streets?
We go wherever our customers go. Right from malls to high streets, the idea is to ensure that we have the right brand adjacencies and at the same time are in a location in the mall or the high street where our TG is extensively moving around. There is no specific preference as it also depends on the cities that we move into.
Tell us about any in-store innovative experiences that Chumbak has introduced for its customers?
From looking at in-store engagement with our customers through activations such as ‘Wheels of Fortune’ to store opening experiences that include fortune cookies being given out on opening, the idea of engagement at the store is to ensure our customers find enough reasons to return to the store and find random surprises that will make them happy and satisfied.
How do you as a brand work towards shortening the supply chain in as far as the customer goes?
We ensure that across all our core categories, we have a very quick turnaround in ensuring that our best sellers are never out of stock. We also closely monitor new categories or designs that are becoming best sellers and work with our suppliers to ensure they are always on the shelves.
Tell us about your pricing strategy as per category in India?
I wouldn’t call us a bridge-to-luxury brand as our price points across the board that start from Rs 195 for knick-knacks and go up to Rs 5,000 to 10,000 in categories like furniture. With apparel, we begin with categories like tops which start at Rs 695 and go up to Rs 1,495 and all our categories are fairly competitive price-wise. The idea is to create categories and price points that appeal to the entire audience of women between the ages of 18-35.
How do you face competition from other rivalbrands that have introduced smart casuals at very low prices?
Our USP will always be our designs and our colours which will be available across silhouettes and price points that allow our customers a unique statement. This allows us to compete effectively. We see very strong repeats in the brand and customer loyalty helps drive the story around the brand.
What is your Omnichannel strategy?
We have recently implemented our ERP across the brand that now allows us to build our Omnichannel presence to connect our stores and Chumbak.com. This reduces ‘loss of sale’ at our stores due to inventory issues and helps push our online store more aggressively across our network of stores.
What are you doing to woo Millennials?
Our entire brand is built around Millennials. Our first approach is to build a buzz around the brand and social media plays a major role in that. We create events and customer engagement activities across the brand on our social media platforms. Chumbak has been one of the few brands in the country to make its Instagram page shop-able. We conduct events that live up to the mindset of the Millennials as our entire communication strategy is focused on to the interests of our audience more than just trying to sell them our products.
Recently, Chumbak opened its first outlet in Kolkata (East India) at the South City Mall. What are your expansion plans in the other zones across the country?
Our focus will be Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai as we continue to grow deeper in these cities. Our next leg of expansion which will happen parallelly in cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad as well as other Tier I cities. We are looking to close FY2019 at close to 50 stores.
What are the challenges – as per you– that the Indian Fashion Retail industry is facing today?
Some of the bigger challenges are of finding a foothold in a market driven by pricing due to the power exerted by the large marketplace partners which are forcing the hand of large international brands to also follow suit. Understanding the consumer from a region and segmentation perspective becomes very important as carpet bombing them cannot be the norm anymore.
The balance between online and offline for every brand is becoming key as brands look to drive brand engagement through the online store and higher buying engagement in terms of average spends at stores that are pushing all major fashion brands in the country to ensure they are present across both channels.