It has never been a better time to start a new business in India. The regulations are becoming friendlier, consumers have the capacity to discover and purchase like never before, there is a growing ecosystem of B2B services to support your business, and there are plenty of funding opportunities.
Below you will find our list of 5 small business ideas that you can start with a very small investment and limited skillset.
1. Subscription boxes
Susbcription boxes are a recent trend that started in the west, and is slowly starting to pick up in India with services like Sriberr.
The basic idea is that customers buy a monthly subscription to a box of goodies based on a special interest. For example, My Envy Box sends you a box full of trial-sized luxury cosmetics every month.
You can read more about subscription boxes and see examples implemented abroad in this article.
Who should start this? – Anyone with a passion for surprising and delighting people. It helps to be visually creative when designing the boxes.
Why start this business? – Subscription business models have been trending over the last 5 years. If implemented properly, you can acquire customers once and then get a stable recurring revenue stream from them. You don’t have to keep selling new products and updates to the same customers, and can instead focus on acquiring new customers to drive your growth.
How to start this business? – Generate some ideas for subscription boxes catering to a niche market, and pitch them to people with an interest in that market. Some subscription boxes already available in India are Geek Crate, Fab Bag, Sugar Box and The Big Book Box.
Once you have some data on which idea is likely to succeed and where to find those customers, you can start putting together your box. You can look for local suppliers of gift boxes on Indiamart.
While it’s nice to have a website to promote and manage this business, you can start small with a Facebook page, acquire customers through Facebook ads or offline channels, and manage customers through WhatsApp Business. You can use Vistaprint for printing posters – they have great design templates that you can edit online itself. Or you could use Canva to design your marketing materials yourself, and get them printed locally.
For shipments, Shiprocket has an app to compare across multiple couriers and find the best deal. For hyperlocal same-day deliveries, you could try WeFast or Dunzo. While starting out your shipping costs will be high, but shipping providers offer lower prices if you do regular business with them.
How much money do you need? – You will need to invest a small amount upfront to create prototype boxes to test the market, and to promote your Facebook page. The cost to acquire your first customer should be within ₹10,000.
What subscription box am I looking for? – Weekly supplies of healthy tea-time snacks!
2. Toy library
Toy libraries provide children a new toy experience every few weeks, saving parents money while also keeping kids from getting bored, and teaching them to value the toys for the limited time they have them.
Who should start this? – People who are passionate about creating fun and educational experiences for the kids, and bringing more value to the parents.
Why start this business? – There are a few players in the Indian market – Khilonewala, My Khilona, Rentoys and thinkBox. Renting toys is yet to become a popular practice, but the toy market is growing and there will be opportunities where parents don’t have easy access to educational or high-end toys.
How to start this business? – Your target customer will be the parents of the kids. You can look for leads at nurseries, schools, kids classes, etc. – it shouldn’t be too hard to find parents of young kids! You can channel your leads into a Facebook page, where you can offer a subscription to your library, and frame rules around how it works (see example toy library rules here).
Since local shipping costs maybe too high for this type of business, it probably makes more sense to keep the intial focus hyperlocal so that you get your customers to come to you during a weekly meetup, or you can hire a delivery boy from Runnr to do weekly runs and drop off toys.
How much money do you need? – You should be able to acquire a decent collection of toys within ₹10,000.
What toys would I like to try out? – Drones and RC cars. Who says toys are just for kids!
3. Meal planning
Meal planning services solve the problem of figuring out what to cook, usually for dinner and for people who work. It adds a lot of convenience for those looking to lose weight, bulk up, save time, or who have special dietary needs.
Who should start this? – Those who are passionate about food, or who have prior experience following a special diet and achieving results. You can always learn about nutrition from free online courses such as this one on sports nutrition.
Why start this business? – Meal planning services have been around for a while, but they are not very popular in India yet. There are nutritionists in India who offer diet consulting, but meal planning services can go beyond advice by making the advice actionable – by creating shopping lists, and delivering the groceries.
How to start this business? – Target working people who are trying to lose weight or stay fit, sports athletes, those who have kids and are health conscious, or those with special dietary needs. A good place to get leads for the health conscious would be gyms, yoga centres, or sports events.
Use Facebook pages to build your brand around a community focussed on eating healthy, and drive sales for your business. Manage your clients on WhatsApp Business. Use Canva to quickly create great-looking meal plans from their templates, some of which are free. For food photos, you can try your luck with a good smartphone camera. Or you could hire a professional food photographer such as Lens Feed, Foto Buzz or Nivedita Ghosh.
To boost your credibility, you can invest in a professionally produced video to answer common questions and add testimonials from existing clients. Visual Entity is a video production service based out of Bangalore with a high-quality portfolio.
How much money do you need? – Creating a good looking meal plan can be done for free with services like Canva. A great marketing video from Visual Entity will cost you upwards of ₹15,000, but will be well worth the initial investment.
What meal plans am I looking for? – A meal plan that is healthy, nutritious and surprises me with new dishes and cuisines.
4. Online courses
Mainstream paid online courses are starting to emerge in India with services such as UpGrad.
Online courses can be delivered in various formats, of which videos are the most popular among students. Some online coures have live sessions, where students get to interact directly with the teacher.
Who should start this? – Anyone who has an expertise in a domain, a passion to help others learn, and can present themselves and their content well.
Why start this business? – The main benefit of the online learning business model is scale. Once you set up your course, you can potentially scale it to thousands of students at a low cost.
How to start this business? – You can use an all-in-one solution like Teachable or one of its alternatives that take care of hosting your course material, managing your students, monetization and much more.
You will need recording devices and video editing software. Here is a great resource to learn how to record and edit video at home. For live tutoring, use Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom or ezTalks. For more details on recommended tools for online teaching, check out this article by Podia.
How much money do you need? – Many online learning platforms have free tiers where you can test-drive your business first. Professional recording equipment can be expensive, but you can start very low-budget with the camera and microphone on your laptop itself.
What online courses would I sign up for? – I would pay for good online courses on public speaking and learning Kannada.
5. Cloud kitchen
Food delivery business has become so popular, it is quite common to see restaurants now have dedicated areas for delivery services to pick up food, and delivery services are now encouraging cloud kitchens to meet demands.
A cloud kitchen is a commercial kitchen that accepts only online orders, and doesn’t have any dine-in facility. You can open a cloud kitchen from home.
Who should start this? – Anyone with a passion for cooking food, and a creative touch with ingredients, recipes & cuisines.
Why start this business? – Services like Swiggy, Zomato and Ubereats have become mainstream apps on most urban smartphones. It has now become very easy for any business to use these services for promotion, sales and delivery.
How to start this business? – You will need a Shops & Establishment license which is usually handed out by your city’s municipal authority. For example in Bangalore, you can visit your nearest Bangalore One to apply.
You will also need an FSSAI license to sell food which you can apply here, and GST registration. There are many services who help you with all sorts of registrations and licenses such as Indiafilings, Vakilsearch and Planet Money.
You can find more details of registering with Swiggy or Zomato in this article by LimeTray. They will take a 20-30% cut on all your orders in exchange for their services.
How much money do you need? – Licenses will cost you around ₹15,000. Food photography is an additional investment of at least ₹15,000, which can make a big difference to your sales conversions. You also need to budget for marketing, food packaging and ingredients.
What food would I order online? – Healthy home cooked meals (low fat, sugar and sodium), packed in reusable containers.
With services like PayTM and Google Pay for payments, Facebook for promotion, and WhatsApp Business for customer service, it has become very easy for anyone who has a good idea to start a business in India.
We shared 5 small business ideas to inspire and motivate you to take that first step, but any idea has the potential to become big. Do you have any good ideas of your own? Please let us know in the comments below!
Once you choose an idea, you will need to name your business. Read our article on how to choose a great domain name – the same techniques can also be applied for business names.
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