You could say that it all started with fridge magnets. Five years ago, Vivek Prabhakar and Shubhra Chadda wanted to set up a company that makes fun products with some epic design. “The idea was to start off with fridge magnets as our first-ever product,” says Prabhakar, the CEO and co-founder of the company. Interestingly, magnet is ‘chumbak’ in Hindi. “The name stuck and we thought we had a winner. There was no turning back from there. We knew we had our name,” he says.
The company began with a need to give India its own range of fun souvenirs that travellers visiting here could take back. “We were a little bored of the usual marble Taj Mahal replicas and handicrafts that were becoming the only option. We thought travellers deserved some more options that were hip and still represented India,” says Prabhakar. But he noticed another trend. “We quickly realised that the biggest fans of Chumbak were young Indians themselves who wore the country on their sleeves. We loved that and also realised that they wanted more,” he says. That was when they went from being a souvenir brand to a representative of this new India. That shaped the company’s design vision. “We have slowly moved from being a company that designed ‘India-themed’ products. We have started to create a whole new design language that is more than just such products,” says Prabhakar.
It’s not just magnets anymore. The company’s team of eight designers has created a range of products that includes mugs, wall art, home décor products, boxes, phone cases, jewellery, laptop sleeves, stationary, tees, bags and wallets— besides furniture, lighting, crockery and rugs. “While we are evolving constantly across categories with our design sense, there is a clear identity we have with our colours and illustration style which is brought together in all our products,” says Prabhakar, who counts Emily McDowell, Orla Kiely, Paul Frank and Marimekko as inspiration.
The company is on a mission to make sure it has a product that touches some part of your life. “The idea was always to make great design for everyday products and people recognise us for that. That’s what we believe sets us apart,” says Prabhakar. While the company is headquartered in Bengaluru, it has over 35 pop-up stores across the country. These are spread across kiosks and large format stores across malls and high streets across the country.
So do they notice any difference between customer behaviour with respect to online sales or at the store, we ask. “We actually see a lot of the same behaviour across our offline stores and dot com. Average bill values and categories being purchased are similar. Since the launch of our home range, we saw a spurt at the stores as we were introducing this category and a lot of people wanted to touch and feel the products before purchasing, but dot com is catching up now,” says the designer.
The company has come a long way from the time Prabhakar and his wife sold their flat in Bengaluru to get their startup capital of Rs 40 lakh. “We then got our first round of investment from Seedfund and our Series B (Early 2014) was jointly funded by Seedfund and Matrix Partners,” says Prabhakar. The company is now driven to improve its retail experience. “We want to ensure that through a combination of technology and great design, we make Chumbak a destination for brilliantly designed products supplemented with a retail experience that is in line with our philosophy of great design. Also expect to see a lot more among our current categories and some never-seen-before categories too. We are super excited,” he says. So are we.
Prices: Rs 225 for magnets, Rs 40,000 for sofas. For more information, log on to www.chumbak.com