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Small traders make big contributions

Kiran Raut | Ahmedabad

A small trader, by definition, is an investor who owns or trades a set of options or futures whose value is lower than the requirement for registration and reporting. Consequently, small traders are exempt from several requirements that large traders have to fulfill normally.

Less relaxed regulatory norms offer higher flexibility and leverage to run small trades. Also, handling lower volume of orders or investments as compared to larger enterprises guarantees more freedom to set up a strong foundation in the beginning.

The small traders segment in India has been expanding constantly and contributing to the country’s economy. It is the generic boost registered by start-ups across India that is the reason for most sectors, both traditional and new, to have registered significant growth. Small traders comprise a formidable component of India’s start-up ecosystem.

If you look around, there are hundreds of small trading enterprises or businesses in your vicinity - grocery stores, restaurants, photographers, travel agencies, bakeries, hairdressers, convenience stores, guest houses, day cares even small-scale manufacturing units.

Regulatory requirements vary from each category of small trading entities. Some may require just a license such as while others are more heavily regulated and even need inspection and certification from regulatory authorities.

Clothing and apparel, an evergreen industry, is one of the largest in India and spawning numerous start-ups that are striving to gain more market share and increase visibility. The Indian fashion industry is fertile ground for producing big and small start-ups in the ready-made and self-made clothing categories. In cities such as Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, there is a ten-fold increase in demand for good tailors due to increase in the popularity of self-made designs. Fashion-conscious customers are in a constant endeavour to search for unique styles and designs.

Many young professionals are moving out from their daily jobs to something of their own and the garment industry is a big draw. Clothing stores, small-scale garment factories, sub-contracting works, fashion consultancy, printing and embroidery units and garment wholesale business are mushrooming even in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in India owing to reasonable investments such as rental space, electricity, stitching and sewing machines, semi-skilled labour, etc.

With the growth of fashion industry, subsidiary areas of business have increased simultaneously - jewellery, footwear, handbags, etc. to name a few. Ethnic and fashion jewellery, both traditional and customised are in huge demand. Many jewellery brands have set shops. Young men and women after undertaking courses in jewellery design often open their own stores and build their client base gradually. It is important to strike good deals with the manufacturers of raw materials to increase profit margins.

Everyone who has a panache for cooking or baking dreams of having one’s own outlet at some point. Many youngsters are taking up cooking as a full-time profession and do not mind starting from the scratch. The flurry of food delivery services and apps have made the job much easier as they can list themselves on these apps and ensure regular business. Food trucks are also quite popular that has witnessed several rags-to-riches stories.

Prem Ganapathy, who started off by selling idlis and dosas on a hand cart in Vashi, Navi Mumbai and now owns a chain of luxury restaurants. In the restaurant business, the investment is small, sometimes requiring just a license to serve food and the returns are high considering the growing appeal among urban masses. Breakfast and tea shops, fruit juice stalls, fast food joints are also lucrative options to set a foot in the industry.

Bakery is one of the largest food-processing industry in the country as the products are popular all over. To start a bakery business is easy - in rental spaces, shared spaces and even at homes. There are several big names such that have taken years of persistence and hard work to make a name for themselves. The market is ripe for such enterprises and the future lies in online food-based services, especially for baked goods.

“I started my bakery business at home only and with cakes particularly as that’s my specialty,” says Pune-based Sana Merchant who receives multiple orders everyday only by word of mouth and has ventured into other bakery items also. “Eventually, with more liquidity, I could invest in additional items such as boxes, bakery decors, etc.” she maintains.

Besides making and selling, it’s the demand for teaching how to bake and cook that’s also on the rise and many passionate individuals have turned this around as well. It is probably one of the best ways to present yourself as a brand and establish your name in the industry as a chef, food writer, cookbook author, cooking show host, food blogger, etc., Sanjeev Kapoor, Nita Mehta, Ranveer Brar, Saransh Goila are some of the names that rule the roost.

One of the most popular start-up ventures is event management and as an extension to that - wedding planning. The foremost requirement of this industry is networking and managing. Online networking and marketing through social media apps, websites, event listing portals have increased potential of this industry and also the competition. The clientele has to be built carefully as it is service-oriented. Event managers and wedding planners are mostly outdoors scouting for venues, meeting sponsors, pitching to clients, arranging vendors for different parts of the event or wedding. The cost to start the business is almost negligible as it only needs a sharp, creative mind good with good social and managerial skills and marketing strategy. Wedding planners especially are always in demand and the biggest investment for a consultancy is an impressive website showcasing previously-arranged weddings, memorable photo-shoots, testimonials, etc.

Service providers are a new segment in the Indian small trading and small businesses segment. Day-care services for children are much sought after. However, similar services for pets, elderly and the disabled are slowly getting popular. Working couples are always looking for facilities where their loved ones can stay while they are away at work - a niche need for urban life and nuclear families. Such facilities need trained care-givers and properly supervised staff and premises.

India is presently the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a formidable subscriber base of 1.20 billion people. Increased mobile phone penetration of the scale translates to consumers subscribing to mobile services, data services, etc. Consequently, many new ‘recharge shops’ that are primarily agencies have cropped up, both in urban and rural India, to provide services to mobile phone users. The ‘agency’ is a profitable venture given the ever-growing number of subscribers and requires only an investment in space. Many people even carry out the agency work from the confines of their homes.

Small businesses form the backbone of our economy and our society. With supportive regulatory machinery and reach of internet in homes, many more are coming up everyday touching all aspects of our lives. And, they’re here to stay.

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