Outstanding Women

Queen of Quirk

Shubhra Chadda’s chic design and intuitive business sense is behind the magnetic pull of her India-themed lifestyle brand and souvenir store, Chumbak   

Photograph by RA Chandroo

There is something about the way she talks that draws one to her story. Her narratives are punctuated by innocent giggles and the faint ring of an anklet charm. She narrates with a twinkle in her eyes and the tone keeps going up by a few notches. The setting is complete for a storytelling session with a hot mug of coffee, a quiet corner and the house labrador, Hugo, snug at our feet. Shubhra Chadda goes on to describe how she set up the India-themed retail lifestyle chain and its design studio along with her husband, Vivek Prabhakar. While the story of Chumbak (which means ‘magnet’ in Hindi) began seven years ago, the inspiration for setting up a souvenir store was brewing right from the time Chadda was a little girl.

Being an Air Force pilot’s daughter meant that Chadda travelled around the country to lesser known places like Adampur, Kalaikunda and Bhuj. However, she was admitted to a boarding school in Delhi to broaden her horizons. Even then, Chadda was always on the lookout to satiate her traveller’s lust. So, for her graduation, instead of opting for a commerce degree, she chose one that included travel and tourism at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru. That’s when Chadda experienced the joy of discovering new locales, with a backpack for company.

Down memory lane
One of her first such trips was to Kerala for a project on Ayurveda along with her sister. “I was just 18 and my sister was 20. It was for two weeks, but it was a magical trip. I don’t think I’ve had such a great holiday ever,” recounts Chadda. Such was the urge to travel and explore, that Chadda was seriously considering employment in the sector. “I even contemplated being a travel show host, but I am a very shy person. I found it very intimidating,” she confides. Chadda simply lined up at the end of her course for a placement round held by KPMG to make it to the top 15 candidates who were selected.

She attributes some of her work ethic to the professional environment she encountered at the accounting firm. “From the very beginning, you are given the opportunity to take on big projects. At the age of 20, you are interacting with CEOs and CFOs of top companies, it d

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