We wanted to create souvenirs that represent slice of India, says Chumbak's Vivek Prabhakar

Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.

Eye-catching, quirky, fun, irreverent – these are the oft-voiced words and phrases that are used to describe the offerings at Chumbak, the company that makes Indian motifs on laptop sleeves, mobile covers, magnets, bags, and a host of other gaily printed objects that gives off a happy, peppy image of India. Chumbak is the handiwork of 35-year-old Vivek Prabhakar, CEO and Founder and his 33-year-old wife, Shubhra Chadda, who aspired for a better Indian representation in collectibles for travellers and wanted to put a smile on the wearer or collector of the product. Quitting well paid corporate jobs, the then launched Chumbak in 2011.

 We wanted to create souvenirs that represent slice of India, says Chumbaks Vivek Prabhakar

Vivek Prabhakar, Founder and Chief Executive, Chumbak

Excerpts from the interview:

How did the idea of Chumbak come about?

We love travelling and collect fridge magnets from across the world. However, we saw a gap in the Indian context. We did not have magnets or souvenirs that represented a slice of life in India. We decided to fill the gap in the themed range of souvenirs as we strongly believed that there is a large market for such products. We quit our jobs and researched about the product and the market segment. It took us a year to manufacture 12 product categories before our launch on 5 March 2010. We named the firm Chumbak as it means magnet in Hindi and then decided to extend it as a brand name.

 How much was the initial investment?

The initial investment was Rs 45 lakhs which was raised by selling our 3 BHK home in 2010. We were and are passionate about Chumbak and that drives us. Making money from the venture was never part of our dreams. We told ourselves that if the idea did not click, we could always work at corporate jobs.

What was the first item that Chumbak sold?

The first product was a magnet with Bollywood pictures on it. It remains one of our popular items. We were thrilled to see our products. We love what we do that it does not seem like a job or work to us.

Who designs the products? 

Shubhra heads an internal team of illustrators, graphic designers and animators who do the designs. We are very stringent on the quality of designers and work with the very best only. We now have 48 categories with over 400- 500 products. Chumbak is available both online and offline. You can buy a fridge magnet for as little as Rs 225 and pay as much as Rs 38,995 for a double seater sofa. We have a vast product range and anyone who wants a touch of colour and happiness with an Indian appeal in their lives is our consumer.

You have received multiple rounds of funding.

The funding has helped us in starting Chumbak stores. We launched small format pop up stores in malls followed by large format exclusive stores. Renting real estate is a costly proportion and funding was an enabler. Today the offline stores contribute 85 percent to our sales.

What is your regret? What do you consider your triumph?

We earned around Rs 12,000 from our first batch of products. We did not celebrate that as much as we were thrilled to see our ideas come to life. I think it is important to celebrate your small wins. Then, there was only Shubhra and me and we got down to work immediately.

Our victory is Chumbak. We put everything on line to start Chumbak and it is loved far and wide. When a few Japanese saw our products at the Delhi international airport and approached us for setting up a store in Japan, we did not pay much attention to that. They placed an order for two products in each category and a few months later came to us for more. We quoted a large margin as we did not take the offer seriously and were surprised when they agreed! We now sell from 70 stores in Japan and the Middle East.

What would you advise people wanting to startup?

• Do not let money interpret or influence your decisions
• Do not raise money early. We decided to raise money only after we were profitable. For two years we did not take any salary as we were driven by our products
• Hire fast and fire faster. The candidate/employee may have the best credentials but if he/she does not fit culturally with your firm, call it a day with him
• Don’t let complacency set in

What did you hope to achieve with the company and how far have you got there? 

We believe Chumbak is a mass brand and we think we will achieve scale. We hope to be achieve a target of Rs 400 crore in sales in a few years from now. We have 150 stores in India and are planning to come out with large format stores of 2000 to 2,500 sq ft where we will showcase our home decor. This year we are scaling up with 25 stores in India and large format stores in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi and Jaipur. We plan to go global.

How many Chumbak items do you use?

I see our products all over our house and at the workplace. I use almost all of them be it phone covers, laptop sleeves, etc.

What are your hobbies?

I love to spend time with our seven- year-old daughter Samara. I spend my time online online reading about colour, designs, architecture etc and also a lot of news websites. I am happy that I have a good balance of life and a career.

Updated Date: Jun 22, 2015 11:07:28 IST

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