Chumbak’s unconventional forays

From beauty to home décor, the brand is on an expansion spree

To reach a wider, more price-sensitive audience, Chumbak launched a budget sub-brand called Teal about six months ago.
To reach a wider, more price-sensitive audience, Chumbak launched a budget sub-brand called Teal about six months ago.

Chumbak, the 11-year-old company that started with a collection of souvenirs and collectibles inspired by India, has evolved into a lifestyle brand over the years. It now claims to sell over 2,000 products, from magnets and bags to benches and smartwatches. Recently, Chumbak expanded into categories such as furniture, home linen, and beauty products. Can the retailer stand out in product categories that have other utilitarian values beyond clever design?

Décor and more

A focus area for the company is home products. CEO Vasant Nangia says that 60% of the company’s revenue comes from this category, which includes sub-categories like furniture and furnishing, kitchen and dining, and home décor. “We have observed a big spurt in interest in products such as bed linen, planters, wall décor, etc,” Nangia says.

This prompted the company to foray into the niche category of accent furniture that includes products like wing chairs, footstools covered in fabric, and benches. “The home furnishing and home décor category has been a laggard in moving online. This is a market that is ripe for growth and is big enough for several brands to coexist,” he adds. These products will be available on furniture marketplaces, in addition to Chumbak’s own offline and online stores.

With its foray into the beauty category, the brand now sells lipsticks, nail paints, fragrances, make-up products, etc, with an eye on consumers in the 18–25 age group. The products are designed to be convenient to carry around in vanity pouches or handbags.

As it expands its product range, the company is increasing its focus on online and omnichannel sales. In the wake of the pandemic, the brand had to shut some of its stores — Chumbak, at present, has around 53 stores in the country, down from 70 in 2019.

Nangia expects 60-70% of the company’s business to come from online sales. “Online reaches 20,000 postal codes in the country; that simply cannot be achieved through a retail presence. We always planned to grow our online business; the pandemic accelerated this shift,” he adds.

Magnetic pull?

Since the time Chumbak entered the market, several lifestyle and home décor brands have cropped up in the D2C space. While Chumbak has the advantage of having built its brand over a decade, more affordable brands with low or no investment in an offline presence are selling via Instagram.

To reach a wider, more price-sensitive audience, Chumbak launched a budget sub-brand called Teal about six months ago. “This is primarily designed to appeal to the discount-minded consumer, and is available on marketplaces like Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon,” says Nangia.

A drastic shift towards categories where the brand does not have an edge in terms of product expertise could dilute the equity it has built over a decade, analysts say. “This move to expand the canvas of the brand could have been prompted by the limited nature of the gifting and souvenir category,” says Saurabh Uboweja, founder, BOD Consulting.

Nangia says that Chumbak is choosing products where it can make a difference through its ‘unique’ design language and philosophy. However, Uboweja says, the challenge for the brand will be “to retain its identity and purpose as it risks resembling other marketplaces now”. It is worth noting that beauty retailer Nykaa made a play for the home décor segment in June this year.

Anchit Chauhan, cluster director, TBWA, India, says that consumers are likely to sample Chumbak’s beauty products and home décor pieces. “The brand has an ‘urban cool, but proud of my desi roots’ positioning. Consumers will buy furniture or home décor pieces from Chumbak to add quirkiness to their homes, but not fill up their homes with its products,” he notes.

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