How to start a small business in India?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

How to start a small business in India


Every once in a while, I like to think and write about my entrepreneurial journey. If not for anything else, I really like reading them couple of years down the line. It helps put things in perspective. So, before we go ahead, here are couple of old posts in the series:
June 2013In defence of the little guy
June 2014The Reluctant Entrepreneur
I did not write one in 2015 and I am kicking myself for it. On the business aspect, things have definitely improved and turned out to be a lot better than what I had expected. What prompted me to share this post (and appear as a gyaan baba) is the fact that we just hit 750 students for our online CAT coaching course. I am still driving the same old i10 as mentioned in the 2014 post but we are now a 4-5 member team as I had hoped for in the 2013 post. Emotionally, it is still pretty nerve-wrecking. More on this later.

Tips for starting a small business in India

1. Get the proper working docs in order (sole proprietorship, service tax, current account, etc. in place). This will take less than 10 hours in total if you have a CA / professional help. 10 hours on 10 separate days – not in one stretch. It would cost less than 10,000 Rs.

2. Let the CA handle all the accounting and other legal details. Be open with him and pay the fees.

3. If you are going to be dealing with clients, always – ALWAYS take some money in advance. People do not pay on time. Sometimes they do not even pay at all. If a company / client is not willing to pay you an advance, walk away. Even if it is a really big client. I am yet to meet a small business owner whose clients pay on time. This is going to be the biggest challenge.

4. Market and promote yourself to the best of your ability.

5. Be shameless in asking for help. Most people turned out to be way nicer than I thought.

6. Ask for reviews wherever possible.

7. Help people out without getting anything in return. Karma can be a bitch but it can work in your favor as well. It helps you build a strong word-of-mouth which is vital for a small business.

Emotional Quotient for starting a business

In all the posts that I read about startups (forget small businesses), very few of them touch upon the emotional aspect of things. As a matter of fact, most of the print and online media space is spent on chasing the next Unicorn. I very distinctly remember reading about a techie who committed suicide because his mobile app did not do well. While that might be an extreme case, you need to be very well prepared for what you are getting into. Do check if there is an emotional support system in place or not. May be I am wrong about this because almost no one talks about this stuff in the personal domain. Running a small business is not like a stressful job. A stressful job, at the end of the day, is still a job. Walking away from it / fixing it is bound to be easier. More than Something that has helped is the fact that I have moved back to my hometown Jaipur and hence get to spend a lot more time playing ‘Rummy’ with my parents. I am trying to get back into quizzing, a hobby that I gave up on around the same time I started selling online courses. If you are planning to start a small business, it is really important that you think about the emotional aspect right at the start. I think that is a big mistake that I made in the beginning and I am trying to fix that. It might mean less money / sales / whatever metric you are tracking, but it will make you happier.

While you can, and probably should, dismiss these as ramblings of a nobody – if you need some help, do not forget the point number 6 mentioned in the tips. You can reach me on ravihanda[at]gmail. And in case you are looking for a part-time / full-time / work-from-home job, do have a look at the job openings we have.

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