Though 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. Some of them may require an upfront investment, others may not. Some of them may require highly specialised skills, while a large number may be easier to launch.
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.
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 prerequisites 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 commercial 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.
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 these related posts:
– How to start a book editing and proofreading business from home
– Careers in Entrepreneurship
– Best jobs for women in India
– Best degree for highest paying work-from-home careers and jobs