10 Small business ideas for Indian men & women

Best Management Consulting BooksThough we obsess about corporate jobs with high salary packages, a large percentage of men and women in India get their income from small business ideas that they’ve tapped into to launch their small-scale home businesses. Some of them are gender specific, while a large number aren’t.

Have you read ‘Business Doctors: Management Consulting Gone Wild‘?

If not, pick up a copy after reading this post. It’s a story about management consultants trying to turnaround an underworld organization.

It’s a fun, spicy read that introduces management ideas without making them sound like a boring MBA class.

While the story is bizarre and fictional, you’ll realise that the basic principles of operations and management strategy can be applied to any business.

Whether it’s this fact that inspires the entrepreneur in you or any other reason, it’s a good time to explore some of those business ideas that don’t need a lot of money to start.

When you are thinking of how to start a new business, whether small scale or big, the immediate pre-requisites that pop into the mind are – capital (startup money) and space (e.g. office, shop). If you already had those, you would’ve been busy minting money now and not reading this article. So, let’s explore what you can do when you don’t have a lot of money or spare space to launch your new business.

Later in the article, we also share a few free resources that we’ve created for you to test & build the skills needed to run your own business.

For starters, here’s a list of the best low cost small business ideas for men and women in big cities and small towns of India.
 

10 Good low-cost small business ideas for men & women in India

 

Small Business Idea 1: HR services

Big companies do it. Small ones do it too. No, we aren’t talking about employee exploitation. One step before that. Recruitment.

Some have relationships with big recruitment firms. But many reach out to the employment pool in India through a network of independent headhunters. The supply side (employees looking for new jobs) is crazy. Start off on the demand side instead.

If you can establish contacts with a few small companies in your neighbourhood that don’t have a dedicated recruitment team, you’d have something that you can present to professionals in your network. The best part is that your network will only grow.

In fact, your client company will do its little bit by making life tough for the same professionals you placed, so both will come back to you with requests for new opportunities. It’s a self-sustaining process!
 

Idea 2: Kids related small business

Just because your clients are half your size doesn’t mean they can’t give you twice the amount of grief and pain. Ask their parents, who’d be more than happy to part with their prized possessions for a few hours in return for some peace and quiet.

Most crèches in smaller localities are started in homes. Several parents may prefer a smaller, more intimate setting to leave their kids while they are aware at work.

Apart from regular babysitting, you could provide (MBA buzzword alert!) ‘value added services’ ranging from providing nutritious food, support with their homework or teaching them new skills depending on the kids’ skills and their parent’s paying capacity (craft, dancing, painting, political analysis frameworks).
 

Idea 3: Senior Citizen Services

All the media publications might be talking about how the average Indian is in the mid-twenties. But the fact remains that we have a lot of senior citizens who could use a little help.

Unlike in the west, old age homes still carry a stigma in India which forces many senior citizens to live independently.

Due to security risks and the health constraints many have limited access to basic services related to general day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping, bill paying, bank tasks, buying medicines, maintaining their household appliances and equipment.

They might appreciate some support if you can reach out and offer some ideas. They have to find you trust-worthy and reliable. Then through word of mouth you could reach out to others. Apart from being a small business, you’d gain some good karma too.
 

Idea 4: Interior designing and decoration

Whether it’s a shared studio apartment or a lavish 5 bedroom house overlooking the sea, everyone wants their little nest to look good. Not many have the time or aesthetic eye to dress it up though. This is where you could come in.

Starting with your own home, if you can show friends and relatives that you can help them give a makeover to their homes with your interior designing and decoration skills, you’ve got a small business idea going.

Your networking skills and contacts count more in this business than professional qualifications.
 

Idea 5: Financial Planner

In India, while big majority spends their life earning money, very few are astute enough to have a plan to not just safeguard their wealth, but grow it as well.

At various stages of their lives, they’d have different priorities. In the earlier years, wealth accumulation and growth takes precedence.

In the sunset years, it’s more about security and protection of their wealth. The financial tools available in the market can get too confusing. Tax planning is another scary area for many professionals and businessmen.

If you have a quant-focused brain with an understanding of financial instruments, you can help them create a financial portFolio (consisting of FD, equity, insurance, tax products) that matches their personal goals.
 

Idea 6: Education & Training business

This is a huge market in India. But it’s fragmented. The bigger companies come with cost and resource overheads that make them too expensive for students and professionals with a tight budget.

If you are good with technical skills in the area of software, competitive exams, grooming, language or any other area that you can think of, consider becoming a trainer.

But you’d need a classroom for that, right?

Not really. You could start off by holding the class in one of your student’s house (and give her a discount as an incentive). As the numbers grow, you’d have saved enough to lease out some commericial space to conduct your classes.
 

Idea 7: Brokerage Business

India with all it’s size and bureaucracy has provided a fertile ground for middle-men. For all the evils associated with this breed, they’ve still played a role in market making i.e. connecting buyers to sellers.

Technology is being used in a big way to automate things and position itself as the middle-man. But not everyone is on the internet. Old-school practices are still prevalent in India.

From real estate to marriage, many would feel more comfortable talking to a human being about their requirements than select them via drop-down lists. With your knowledge about your locality, if you know who’s selling a house (a car, a computer) or looking for a spouse, you can connect both parties in return for a neat commission.
 

Idea 8: Health consultant / Nutritionist

What’s more important than money? I understand your sentiments if you say – more money. But I was thinking of another (philosophically correct) answer – Health!

If you’ve been cursing your doctor for charging obscene amounts for even the most trivial health problems, it’s time to give them a taste of their own medicine (the trained eye would stop here for a fleeting moment to appreciate the medical analogy).

Go one step higher in their supply chain to teach people how to take care of their health and avoid trips to hospitals and clinics.

You don’t need an MBBS / MD degree to help people. You would however need to have some training and certification (whether it’s yoga, nutrition, alternative therapies) to elevate yourself from being a practitioner to a teacher.

Read more about Nutritionist jobs and dietitian careers in India.
 

Idea 9: Event Management

The aam aadmi parties a lot. Often it spills over onto the streets and causing embarrasment. If you’ve been a party animal too (Trivia: BSP’s party animal is the elephant), why not convert that into a business?

From birthday parties to bachelor parties, the range of events you manage could expand over time. But events aren’t just about parties. You could organise events (like offsites and outbound programs, award ceremonies) for corporate.

The Olympic Games is an event too, of gigantic proportions and complexities that our insignificant minds would struggle to fathom.

Start small, by organising the birthday party of your neighbour’s irritating son (forgetting that the lil’ devil scratched your car). Then move on to bigger gigs.

Your project management skills will come in handy here. If you have other talents like excellent communication skills, you could host it as well.

Read this related post – Anchoring jobs and event hosting careers
 

Small Business Idea 10: Start an online business

In the list of good low-cost small business ideas, we’ve saved the best (at least from our perspective) for the last. This is where we have a liteel track record too, so gives us a little more credibility when we propose this small business idea with a greater flexibility to scale up very quickly if needed.

Forget your locality and neighbourhood. Forget about geographical boundaries. Start an online business.

Of course, some services will offer greater flexibility and scope to manage the transition from the real world to the virtual world. The basics of running a business don’t change, but the potential for growth is ginormous.

You still gotta have a service or product to sell, and a platform (website, instead of an office/shop) to sell. But having an online business reduces (and in fact eliminates) many of the costs associated with running a real world business. There are risks as well.

This one is closer to our heart, so we’ll have a bigger post on how to start an online business.
 
So there you have it. Evaluate each of these ideas mentioned above to see if it meets your personal and career goals.
 

How to find out if you are capable of running a business

A log of over-enthusiastic folks get carried away with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur. They launch a business and invest their hard-earned (or worse, borrowed) money into it.

Guess what happens to a majority of such businesses. They crash and burn.

Often, the blame cannot be put on the idea (which sounded fabulous when you first heard of it and probably still is). But it can point to a deeper issue. Maybe you weren’t meant to be an entrepreneur at all.

How do you really know if you have what it takes to run your own business?

Though there’s no fool-proof way to find out (apart from actually launching a real business), we created this free online tool called BizMAP to test your entrepreneurship skills in a no-risk environment.

It puts you in the founder’s seat of a virtual business and forces you to think and act like the CEO. See if you can grow the business, or if it flops. Click on the button below to check it out.

Business Management Game

If you fail miserably in your early attempts at cracking the business strategy game, maybe it’s because you have no theoretical grounding in business. Let’s try to fix that issue as well.

Here’s a free online MBA course that you can read up in your spare time to come up to speed.

After you’ve completed reading the major subjects in our mini-MBA course, try the online business management game again with better strategies.

You don’t need an MBA in entrepreneurship to start give wings to these business ideas. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn why many bschool grads may never launch a startup.

However, it can make a difference if you get a little more knowledge about business concepts.

When you are ready to start your own real business, it’ll also help if you learn how to how to create a Business Plan. Just to add structure to your planning phase.
 
Are there any low-cost small business ideas you are thinking about? What hurdles are you facing? If you are already running one, how did you get started? Would be great to hear your story in the comments below.

And yeah, do let me know your thoughts on the book(‘Business Doctors‘) after you finish reading the book and whether it gave you new perspectives to look at your own (legal) business ideas.

Read this related post:
Best jobs for women in India


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin
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31 Comments

  1. Arijeet says:

    hi sir,
    I have completed my B.E in Computer Engg, from Mumbai University and have given some MBA entrances .
    I am planning to do MBA in Finance or business mangt , so is it ok for a Computer Engg. to do MBA ?
    Is there a demand for an Engineer with MBA qualifiaction in the Industry..??

    And if u suggest , which MBA specialization should I do..?? :-)

    • Vinod Dorle says:

      Yes…! would like to suggest you to please go for getting job in your related field (Enng Field) and then do the MBA through distance education programe this will help you.

    • seema says:

      Hi ,
      Rather than doing MBA i would suggest you to do your post graduation in the same field…ie Mtech

    • Virendra Naagar says:

      Dear Hemant

      hi i am virendra kumar want to start business of garments like T-shirt,Shirt manufacturing.For this i purchased a t shirt printing machine but due to financial shortage i am not able to start manufacturing.
      so if anyone are interested please join us….as a parternership

  2. Oracle says:

    Dear Arijeet,

    Companies are looking for people who are great in a particular skill, may it be engineering or sales or marketing.

    So, if you are good at engineering, you probably don’t need an MBA. If you are good at MBA related skills (sales, marketing, finance etc), go for an MBA. End of the day, you have to be THE BEST at what you chose to do. Salaries will vary at most 5% in any skill you pick up.

    Good Luck.

    Oracle.

  3. Gauri K says:

    Its all upon the interest you belong too. sometimes we get distracted from our real interest and choose wrong carrier and then get depressed. Most of people get confused in the beginning to what to choose or go for and for such people there are number of consulting places that helps.

    Regards
    Gauri k

    • Tweet says:

      Hi Gauri,

      Hope you are doing well.

      Which consultancy can help choose interest?

      Look forward to your response at your earliest convenience. Thanks.

  4. hemant says:

    hi,
    i want to start a online retailing business like flipkart etc. what steps should i have to take to start this business. i mean where will i get the website, each n everything.

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Hemant,

      Getting the basic website in place is the easy part. In fact, you’ll find ready-made online commerce templates that you can set up very quickly to start selling products.

      The difficult part is to learn how all the pieces in the supply chain fit together – product mix, sourcing / procurement, distribution, pricing, logistics etc.

      A good way to get started is to work for one of the successful online retail businesses for a few years and understand how the company is structured, who does what, where the big issues pop up and how they are resolved.

      I’m afraid, that’s pretty much what we can add in a blog comment. You’d have to spend time getting up to speed before you invest the first rupee.

      Good luck!

  5. Prem says:

    i have some saving wuth me but lack of ideas to start business someone plz contact me by mail we can discuss broadly

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Hmmm, let’s see. You have money, but no contacts. And you want strangers on the net to approach you with business ideas.

      Now why does that sound so familiar!

      We’ll do you (and your unsuspecting potential business partners) a favour by editing the email ID out.

  6. peter says:

    Hi Sameer,

    My wife is running a small business of Boutique and Beauty parlour in Bangalore, catering to the local people around. I would like to join the business and expand it. We have the ladies dresses, tailors, finance and shop as well What sort of a business course would be helpful for this venture?
    Kindly advise where i can get this course in Bangalore or online…

    Appreciate your help…

    regards,

    Peter

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Peter,

      For small businesses, it’s best to start small and learn, then expand.

      The assumption here is that she already knows the technicalities of the core work.

      After it gets big enough that your wife starts feeling the pinch of not knowing enough about specific areas (such as finance, marketing etc), she could take up free courses (MOOCs) or short-term executive education courses to fill the gaps.

  7. Anitesh Chauhan says:

    I appreciate the encouraging article. I would look forward to explore more business prospect for rural india.

  8. Barun says:

    Dear Sir, my wife is planning to start business. Kindly help us how she can start the same. below I am briefing her profile…

    Date of Birth : 1988

    She has done her graduation in English in 2008.

    EMPLOYMENT/EXPERIENCES HISTORY

    -Kindergarten) – HR Assistant (Feb’2012 – May- 2014)
    -English Language Counsellor (Nov’2008 – Mar’2009)
    -Part Time English Teacher in kindergarten (Mar’2008 – Sep’2008)

    WORK DESCRIPTION
    • Counseling students
    • Customer Service
    • Marketing and Advertisement
    • Teaching
    • Handling students and maintaining their records
    • Recruitment of candidates
    • Preparing schedule for exams
    • HR Skills
    • ERP & Data Management

    STRENGTHS
    • Individual contributor.
    • Self-motivated, fast learner & sincere.
    • Excellent communication skills in four languages.
    • Relevant character.
    • Ready to take initiatives.
    • Believe in organizational attitude.
    • Easy going personality,

    HOBBIES

    • Professional Photographer for Event, Portrait & Landscape Photography.

    LANGUAGES KNOWN – English, Hindi, Bengali and Assamese

  9. Pavani.L says:

    hi sir…i am middle class girl with no support from anywhere…and even lot of confusions to do anything in life….i want to start a bussiness…no idea wat kind of bussiness…i like Event Mangement….may i get details abt that or any other business plans for me please…waiting fir reply sir

    • Vinod Dorle says:

      hi,

      I think you should try for taking classes, it can be any thing, teaching, yoga, singing, etc. If you like event management than you can began the same with small arrangements like managing Birthday parties and such like stuffs and this will bring confidence in you and also will make you understand the difficulties, hurdles, etc. so you can than assign your self for big projects with great efficiency. Try from small event management stuffs and then grow. Hope this suggestion well help you a bit.

  10. Vinod Dorle says:

    I have done B com and Masters in MBA Finance, now working with NBFC, just thinking to start my own business, I have started research, for the same, but every time I am get confused to select any particular business ideas from the lists, if any one can guide me in this regard than I will be very thank full for that person, please suggest what to do.

    Please suggest with reference with below points.

    1. Low Cost Business:
    2. Service orientation.
    3. Social Service.
    4 Better revenues.
    5. Potential Growth.

    Regards,

  11. Reddy says:

    Hello Sir,

    I am HOUSEWIFE, I did MCA. I am trying for work from online jobs since 1 year, but I am getting only fake jobs. I had experience in Java, I knew bit Java. Please tell me any genuine jobs online otherwise please suggest me any small business.

    Thanks

  12. Pavlusa Banik says:

    Hi, I have completed graduation in English. Now , I’m pursuing M.A. I want to do some online small bussiness. Pls suggest me what kind of bussiness I can start online.and earn quickly

  13. Mahesh says:

    35+ Yrs Industrial Experience in Waluj, Aurangabad. B.Com. Presently working in German base company. Got an plot in MIDC with shed. Want to start a small scale unit pl advice.Low Budget.

  14. Manoj Reddy R says:

    Hi sir,
    I am manoj I just now completed BTech i am in Network marketing industry from 3 years, I am thinking of starting a small part time business, as i’ll send around 5 hours in network marketing i’ll be free rest of the time, so can you help me by suggesting or giving some idea’s (my site of interest is Photography, Event organizing, Motivational speaker )

  15. rubina says:

    Hi sir,
    I did b.com in accounts honours n now planing to do mba from an average institute.. But M very confused wether to pursue it or not. As pursuing it from a normal institute worth valueless.
    I have always dreamt of starting my own buisness.. So can u please suggest me some good buisness ideas except fashion designing and event management. And please suggest should I go for Mba or not? Will it worth anything?

  16. Ankush says:

    Sir,
    I’m totally Confused tht What 2 do,
    My Last Business (Liquer Shop ) is stopped due to ban & now Searching for new business which is better n more profitable. Plz Suggest me Something better

  17. vigneshwaran says:

    Private limited company takes up to 25 days to incorporate in India. Now you can register your company online. below documents are required for register your company in India.

    1. TAN
    2. DIN/DSC
    3. PAN Card
    4. Registered company address proof
    5. Address proof of the company director

  18. Safwan shan says:

    dear sir, i have planned to start a xerox shop business. it covers lamination, printing, scan , and some government activities. give me some advice about that business.

  19. Rajesh Srivastava says:

    If you are searching some business and thinking to start something your own with least investment, I have an ultimate business model in direct selling in nutrition sector. I would like to share you about today’s market mood and trend. You have many options in the market to start something your own. But according to the current researches there is a huge market in nutritional sector and food supplement product due to increasing of unwanted diseases. Thousands of people are hospitalized everyday due to unwanted diseases in their early age of life and we can not stop all these things happening due to our changed life style and eating habits etc. Experts also say, organic products will be an upcoming future market. that’s why I’m telling you to make your career in nutrition sector. The Government is also initiating in this direction and promoting to organic products and foods.

  20. bhagya sree says:

    Sir I want keep a business can you give any idea with investment 5 lakh.

  21. ddmmagadh gaya says:

    Good ideas. Since many people live in villages and specially youth are unemployed I would like some rural based ideas aswell

  22. Anburaj says:

    Hi Sameer
    I am working in diamond industries, I have experience more than 20 years,my qualifications sslc,if you have any idea please notify to me