Saturday, October 20, 2018

50 businesses to start with Rs 50,000

Food or clothes, art or alternative medicine, business opportunities abound. How to identify -- and profit from -- them.

If you've always thought that it takes millions to set up a successful business that can make you some more, you need to think again. Or you could talk to Mumbai's Jayant and Jayraj Salgaokar. This father-son duo could list you many reasons why you don't have to set up a dot-com, a telecom outfit, or a business in the entertainment and auto-ancillary industries to succeed, even in this fast-paced age. The Salgaokars began -- in fact, pioneered -- a business 27 years ago with only Rs 2,600. Today, they are the publishers of Kalnirnay, the world's largest selling calendar-cum-almanac (annual sales: 70 lakh copies).

Not only did the Salgaokars begun small, they set up a business in a field that many might consider unglamorous, even mundane. But their success is no flash in the pan. Because across India, entrepreneurs are making lucrative businesses out of the seemingly humdrum -- from supplying meals and snacks to homes and offices or selling soft toys and glass paintings to giving tutorials to schoolchildren. With initial investments of less than Rs 50,000, many of these businesses are making money that would make other entrepreneurs sit up and listen with respect.

It helps if you aren't set on pursuing a business only for its fashion value. Because, then, actually setting up the business becomes a lot easier than you might think. Intelligent Investor compiles for you 50 businesses that you can start with an investment of Rs 50,000 or less-without running to venture capitalists or pleading for bank loans.

The advantages don't end there. Few of these businesses call for heavy-duty academic training, or even extraordinary natural talent. However, most -- like coaching classes for competitive exams, providing matrimonial services, selling paintings and organising market surveys -- do require some basic skills and competent manpower.

Low knowledge barrier. If you choose a mundane but nascent business, like multimedia-based children's education, it's likely that there are very few entrepreneurs with the requisite skills in the market. In such cases, your skills need to evolve as you learn while exploring the new territory. Mumbai-based production designer Kavita Thakur's was one such case. When she started out as a model coordinator with an initial investment of about Rs 15,000 some 20 years ago, she had hardly any competition. There were few who provided the service of organising models, keeping their portfolios, and offering props that she could hire out to advertising agencies. And as the media business, especially advertising, grew in India, Thakur's business kept pace as well. Today, the 38-year-old is a successful entrepreneur who handles 15-20 assignments a month.




Success Factors

Vegetable/fruit distribution

When delivered at market rates will have high demand from middle- and high-income groups


Traditional ready-to-drink item with vast variety; cheaper than aerated drinks


Increasing demand for custom-made, reasonably priced products with long shelf-life


Customised options, competitive pricing and wide choice will help attract more customers

Idli/dosa atta

Convenient and cheap compared to hotels; coconut chutneys will add value

Sauces, wafers and masala

Provides convenience at low cost, especially for home-makers

Semi-cooked snacks

Cheaper than hotel food, ready-to-cook and convenient

Cut-to-size vegetables

Convenient for working couples; demand for reasonably priced products with a wide range

Tiffin service

Convenience, wide variety and price effectiveness makes it preferred option for office-goers

Specialised tiffin services

Catering to specific preferences; niche segment -- with high margins

Catering services

Good volumes, decent margins and high potential demand; allows time for other activities

Decorator services

Traditional requirements. Most products have to be given for hire; innovative designs add value

Fast-food home delivery

Convienence and wide choice important factors. High demand, especially among the young

Specialised snack foods

High demand, few available options for health snack foods; highly profitable


Sometimes, even when you try to make inroads into old territory, a mundane business can generate money -- provided your offering can add value for the customer. Neelam Jolly, a Delhi-based entrepreneur who manufactures and sells quilted bed linen, showed how this could be done. A back pain that afflicted Jolly six years ago turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Confined to her home and yet wanting to do something creative, she took to making table place-mats at home after investing a mere Rs 5,000 in the business. Recollects Jolly: "I set up a small working area with a sewing machine that cost Rs 800, material that cost Rs 3,000, and a tailor."Luck favoured her as well -- apart from her friends and relatives who bought her mats, the products also found their way to a leading departmental store in Mumbai. There has been no looking back for Jolly since then. Soon, she graduated to making bed linen, a product line that has helped her annual revenues along to the current, very healthy, figure of Rs 50 lakh.

Making a hobby a business. While many mundane businesses don't require specialised skills, exposure to the field can be helpful. Even so, acquiring the additional skills can take little time or money. Few know this better than Mumbai's 55-year-old Anita Dhall, who had no problem turning chocolate manufacturer -- she started making chocolate after a short training.

For Dhall it was a case of double joy, since making chocolate was also a hobby. With a microwave oven that now costs about Rs 22,000 and some kitchenware worth a few thousand rupees, Dhall, a former employee of reputed companies like Britannia and ING, plunged into entrepreneurship in late-1998. She started off by distributing chocolate to her friends and acquaintances. Soon small orders came her way, thanks to word-of-mouth references. Today, Dhall sells 5-7 kg of chocolate a day at an average price of about Rs 500 per kg.

Put experience to good use. Having experience never hurts, of course. When Amal Kanti Bose set up Sentinels Security, a Delhi-based security agency in 1982, his 18-year experience with the Delhi and Punjab Police, besides corporates like DCM and Graphite India in advisory capacities, came in very handy. During his career -- and given the ineffectiveness of the police -- Bose had understood the tremendous potential of security services.

When he began with an initial capital of Rs 10,000, there were few players who provided the service in Delhi. Within a year, Bose's business had generated Rs 75,000. And as the demand for security services increased in the city, Bose's 15-guard outfit grew rapidly to 150. Today, it has a turnover of Rs 12 crore and employs 2,000 guards.


If you can make millions by investing a small sum with little or no experience, what does it take to match the successes of a Jolly or a Bose? The answer: the inclination to do something different and not be afraid of failures. The capacity to not get distracted by discouraging developments often holds the key to success.

Bose, for one, received little support from his family and friends when he decided to set up his own outfit. After all, reasoned people, he had a wife, two school-going children, a widowed mother and a sister to support. Says Bose: "People thought that a man with so many responsibilities could not afford to be whimsical."

Delhi-based Vipul Ranjan had to face much the same talk when he set up Career Shapers, a study circle that prepares students for competitive exams.

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