Chumbak co-founder Shubhra Chadda tells you how to go about funding your no-so-conventional startup

Chumbak co-founder Shubhra Chadda tells you how to go about
funding your no-so-conventional startupBubble or no bubble, every startup founder will agree investors are harder to come by these days.

Some say it points to slack investor interest, others say investors should be judicious about their moolah anyway.

Anyway what matters is to get the damn money to fund your startup idea. Few people manage it, and they did. I mean Chumbak, a retail brand known for selling quirky stuff. Back in 2012, Chumbak raised some $2 million in funding from early stage investor Seedfund.

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Chumbak co-founder Shubhra Chadda offers you solid advice to go about your funding spree, and explains what’s worked for them.

What has been the investor sentiment towards you?
Ours is very much a proven model. We finished several successful rounds of funding.

It’s not a scary proposition for investors anymore.
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Do you suggest unconventional startups go for funding a bit late?
There is no right answer to that.

Given what the investor sentiments are like now, it definitely helps if you can demonstrate that it works, and has been well accepted.

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We were in existence for over 2 years as a brand before we thought of funding. We were already profitable, and the brand was known.

All those things did help in giving confidence to investors. I’ll be lying if I said it doesn’t matter.

Does the data or the design help while pitching to investors?
You have to have the data on your fingertips. It’s your best friend.
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Some, not all investors understand the importance of design. Data helps explain what’s different about you, and why anybody would come to you.

It’s also important to find the right investors. We were very lucky to find people who understood the DNA of Chumbak, and helped it evolve as a stronger brand.

Most e-commerce players shy away from the retail store model. How has that experience panned out for you?
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The model has never mattered much. We were selling from other offline stores from day one.

The question isn’t offline and online. We’ll offer the Chumbak customer the best experience wherever they’re shopping.

Today, offline and online constitute 70% and 30% respectively of your sales. Why do you think offline works better for you?
What better way to tell your story for a single brand like us than through an offline store?
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It’s where people experience Chumbak in all its glory. It alleviates the brand, and is a great marketing engine as well.

How did you expand to Japan?
That was three years back. We tied up with a chain of stores. They approached us saying they’d love to have Chumbak. Japan is a design-conscious nation, and it was extremely flattering for us.

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After 6 years, the strategy has really changed. We want to be very careful before we step foot on a new market. ​We have not quite categorized our India business yet, while we are doing great in terms of expansion, there is still a huge opportunity to be tapped before us.

Why expand to the US?
The US is an evolved market with one of the biggest Indian diaspora.

You’d want to be where your potential customers are. For us, it’s definitely the US.
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How do you ensure offline stores don’t hamper your growth opportunities?
The idea that the channel affects margins is wrong.

We do an ROI analysis, calculating cost-to-revenue ratios, and so on. There are costs on both fronts. For offline there’s rentals and electricity. For online there’s marketing and logistics. You need to be focused on being at the best location.

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We’ve refrained from growing too fast. It’s important to get it done carefully and sensibly, not just for the sake of it.

Small brands complain they don’t get enough visibility. How do you ensure visibility as a brand?
We depend on wonderful media channels like yours *laughs*.

From very early on, the brand has resonated very well just by word of mouth. That in itself is a wonderful channel from a marketing perspective. We do most of our marketing online.
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We’re extremely active on social media. There’s Facebook, Instagram and also our blogs. We’re constantly communicating with our audience, and that helps.