Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Online discoveries

I love discovering. A quaint store, an underrated food joint, local markets, a tree-lined lane (increasingly, a rarity in Bombay), second-hand books, quirky merchandise, a cool bargain, picture postcards (finding a nice one in Mumbai is an achievement) and just about anything. It's my curiosity that eggs me on to do these things.

A local market in Goa
While nothing beats an actual shopping trip and stumbling upon the unusual, of late I've been checking out a lot of e-commerce portals. A LOT. And it's interesting, too, to see how the Indian online shopping scene has exploded. 
Flipkart made it fashionable, I guess. And then you had everyone from SnapDeal, Fashion&You, 99Labels and a host of others selling everything and anything. I used to wait eagerly for their newsletters to see what deal(s) I could score, especially watches from fancy brands. I wasn't completely on board though. For most of the time, I was happy being a window shopper of the online variety. Till one Christmas. I ordered a dozen or so books from Flipkart to gift to children of my relatives and friends. Even though I had shopped online before that, it was my 'aha' moment. I could do this. Without worrying. And most importantly, even enjoy it as much as offline shopping. :P

But soon, I also realised there's life beyond Flipkart and the others. And not just heavyweights like Junglee, Jabong, Myntra, etc (how do they come up with such names?).

I'm hardly addicted to social networking sites these days. I am active on them but they don't keep me hooked for too long anymore. Apart from a silly game, Candy Crush, all my online activity seems to centre around any website that sells something of interest. And with Christmas around the corner, my annual Twitter Secret Santa participation was imminent. My Santee's wishlist had a generic mix of things s/he wanted (not gonna reveal the gender yet). And while looking for those, hit upon some sites - old and new. I'm sharing a few in this post. Maybe you'll find something of interest or score a bargain in the process.

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CHUMBAK
This colourful company changed the perception of the India souvenir. For the better. 'Chumbak' means 'magnet' and that's how their product line really began... from a fridge magnet. At least now we can proudly say we have funky fridge magnets for those tourists who want a piece of India to take back home.

Chumbak products are not easily available in Mumbai (or at least I haven't found them easily), so your best bet is to go online and shop directly from the website.
Some of my current favourites are Storage Tins, Magnets, Gift Hampers and Bobble Heads.

"FREE shipping on order value Rs.595 and above". So that could be a factor.


Also, it's a good idea to check the "sale" section on any of these sites. Like here.At the time of writing this, there's this sweet combo of coffee mugs for mom and dad for Rs. 395. And a canvas laptop bag with an autorickshaw print on it at Rs. 495, marked down from Rs. 1550. Awesome, right? 

One thing I'm sad about is that they have discontinued selling (at least online) their square-shaped postcards. I thought they were wonderful.

A selection of Chumbak postcards
I asked them about it and the response was "They were not moving." :( I am not surprised, but it's still disappointing.


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HYSTERIA
I stumbled onto this store on my last trip to Bengaluru in April. It's a haven for original merchandise with a music, film or TV theme. Like bobble heads of your favourite TV characters. The incorrigible Barney Stinson, an annoyingly cute Sheldon Cooper (as also his other fellow characters from The Big Bang Theory) and even some of your favourite superheroes make up a small collection worth checking out. Considering these are genuine pieces, the pricing looks quite reasonable. The website is a welcome relief if you live outside of the Garden City.

Sore points with the online experience? 
(1) The website doesn't load the images properly. Most of the descriptions are hidden. Cluttered feel. CSS/HTML gone haywire perhaps? 
And (2), the other issue I have (and I did make a phone call to confirm this) is they have a shipping cost for each product. So if I'm picking up a set of badges (Rs. 50 shipping) AND the Barney bobblehead (Rs. 100 shipping), they will charge me Rs. 150 for shipping to the same address. Absurd, right? I was informed they are working on that. I hope that's rectified soon.
 
Thankfully, the one time I transacted online, it was a smooth process. Waiting to see how and by when my order gets delivered.

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I don't know anything about this e-commerce venture. It's just another shop for different sellers. Somewhat like an Indian Etsy (of course, Shopo was once that till SnapDeal bought them - a move I don't get).

Coming back to Xarato (How do you pronounce it? "Zarrato"?)... I landed on it because a friend sent me a link to something and then I clicked on something else and was on this Facebook page for "Nobodyelse" - an independent Nagpur-based business for "Clocks, jewellery, hooks, murals, paintings etc." - and the person behind it has a jewellery line called Errors which caught my eye. I'm a sucker for earrings. What can I say? Click here to see some images.
And Xarato enticed me by saying if I signed up via my Facebook account, they'd give me a Rs. 500 discount on my first transaction (minimum spend of Rs. 1500; also the coupon code is only valid for the first day, I think). Not bad, I thought. And what's the harm in trying it out? It's not going to be a massive spend anyway. So now I'm waiting for three pairs of earrings, and because I had to round off the billing to Rs. 1500, I added some kiddie hair accessories. They will be included in my Christmas gift for the loveliest almost-3-year-old girl I know. 

The surfing on that site took me a while. The site is image-heavy (obviously!), so a slow internet connection can really kill the experience. But other than that, no issues with the transaction.

So that's that. I might be shopping at The Elephant Company soon. Waiting for my bank balance to recover a bit before I do that. ;)


Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion piece. None of the sites/brands mentioned here have anything to do with me, except for the fact that I may have snooped around their websites/stores, lusted after their products, and actually purchased some as well. I do not take responsibility if you shop at any or all of them and have an issue.

9 Replies:

Lo said...

Postcards are hard to find here as well... at least the not-boring ones.

And thanks to you I may be reconsidering online shopping.

BombayJules said...

I simply have to have one of those bobble heads from Chumbak! What great discoveries J - thanks for finding!

~j~ said...

@Lo: Online shopping is a great time saver! Of course, it can even get uncontrollable if you're a shopaholic like me. :-/

~j~ said...

@BombayJules: Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you liked those bobble heads. They are really cute!

Sharayu... said...

Postcards are so difficult to be found in Mumbai. I roamed for two hours looking through stationary stores and even Tappu-ki-Dukaan for the postcrossing project. :(

I have shopped for books on flipkart too. Just not the same experience as handpicking books at fountain booksellers or the nice bookseller near NGMA.
(I just think Chumbak is too overpriced for my measly student pocketmoney.)

Loved your post and that Goa market picture. :)

~j~ said...

@Sharayu: Thanks for stopping by. And how nice of you to comment. :)

Yes, I agree that book shopping off the roads is an experience by itself. As a student on tight budgets (and I'm talking of the late nineties), I bought loads of books from the streets or that lovely New & Secondhand Bookshop near Metro which has now sadly shut down. Books for as much as 5 rupees. I kid you not.

About postcards, I've printed a bunch of my own photos on postcards via Moo.com but they are UK-based, so paying in foreign exchange right now is a bad idea. If you're in Mumbai, go to Oxford Bookstore in Churchgate. They have some nice India postcards.

By the way, Flipkart also has some city-specific postcard books. Even though they showcase the city in an old era, they seem nice. And not too pricey. Add to wishlist and buy when the price drops. :)

Happy scouting!

Sharayu... said...

Hi,

Thank you for suggesting Oxford bookstore. I'll go tomorrow itself. :)

Oh, how I loved New and Secondhand Bookstore! I studied at Sir J.J. coll of Architecture, so I would always hang at that bookstore after college around 3pm, when not many people would be there. I bought a beloved illustrated Moby Dick edition at the cheapest price then!

Thank you for encouraging me about Flipkart too. Its so nice to exchange ideas! :)

Warm Regards,
Sharayu.

amasc said...

Chumbak was at Kala Ghoda Festival this year complete with a magnificent giant Bobby Bobblehead. It was a popular photo opportunity and their stuff did seem to be of very good quality too.

~j~ said...

@amasc: Oh yes, I had seen Chumbak's posts on Facebook and Instagram about it. I missed KGAF this time. I hear they've opened a store at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon. Need to check that out.

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