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20 ventures you can start with Rs 5 lakh!

By Ronojoy Banerjee, Outlook Money
Last updated on: October 26, 2007 12:01 IST
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In 1995, Sabeer Bhatia started Hotmail with his idea - of a free, Internet-based email service that can be accessed anywhere in the world - and seed capital from pioneering venture fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The service was commercially launched on 4 July 1996. The idea found takers, 8.5 million of them by December 1997. That month itself, Microsoft Corporation, the world's largest software company, bought it off him for a whopping $400 million.

That's the power of a good idea. In the last decade, businesses like Hotmail have rewritten the rules of starting a new business. The first idea that has been junked is that you need a large amount of capital to get it off the ground. The second concept to go was that you must make a tangible product to sell. Their demise has been helped in no small measure by the increasing access of the common man to the Internet, as well as by the emergence of the services, rather than manufacturing as a huge and fast-growing sector. Further, the emergence of angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity funds has made it easier, although still not easy, to fund a new venture. The first new requirement for new-generation businesses is what old advertising hands would call the big idea, the ability to spot unmet needs for products or services.

One, two, clean a shoe ... Take the case of Mumbai's Sandeep Gajakas. He saw a lot of otherwise cleanly dressed people going around in expensive, but dirty, footwear. That was because age-old methods were not good enough for cleaning hi-tech branded shoes that used different materials and textures. 

20 Businesses You Can Start With Rs 5 lakh Or Less

Business What's it about Skills needed Amount you need to start (Rs) Gross Profit (%) Break-even period Company in the Name business


Ultra-short temping services Arrange temporary manpower for event managers. There are young people reaady to make some quick money and event managers are looking for more hands. Networking 1,000 20 10 months Radicals, Mumbai Chirag Bhatia, Varun Parekh
Shoe wash Canvas shoes were cleaned earlier with just detergent and an old toothbrush. But people who wear today's fancy sneakers prefer paying a bit to have them cleaned by experts. Knowledge of using the chemicals involved, marketing 7,000 40 3 months Shoe Laundry, Mumbai Sandeep Gajakas
Food delivery How do you lay out a dinner spread with the best dishes from the best restaurants in town? Or, get food from your favourite resturant? A specialist food delivery service can do just that. Marketing and sales 15,000 20 2 months Dial-a- Meal, Hyderabad Pani Kumar Reddy
Uniform making B-schools are making dress codes compulsory for students. Law and medical colleges may do the same. Tie up with these institutions to deliver dresses at student-friendly prices. Man management 20,000 N.A. 1 year Ecstacy Enterprises, Kolkata Atiq Shah
Property management Find a suitable workplace for business enterprises and save their time by doing all the cumbersome paperwork for them. Marketing and sales 50,000 50 1 month E-States International,Pune Sundip Joshy, Sachin Dhanwala
Telecom Business Consultantcy With the spirit of entrepreneurship reaching new heights, leverage your knowledge and expertise to make business plans for budding entrepreneurs. Networking 50,000 N.A. 4 months Tons Telecom, Bangalore Sridhar Pai
Wedding planning Weddings in India have unmatched opulence and are a long drawn process in some parts. Organise them for people who do not have the time. Creativity 50,000 15 Depends on projects you get TAB Events, Delhi Rita Bhasin
Concierge services Arrange services like medical treatment, babysitting and even plumbing for newcomers to a place. Networking, communication skills 50,000 10 6 months Concierge 4 India, Delhi Arvind Pandey
House keeping (hotels) Help hotels keep their rooms spick and span. Man management, communication skills 50,000 20 N.A. Pristine Interiors, Delhi Ritu Mukherji
Pre-recruitment and assessment exercise  There is a talent crunch in India. Help cos hire workers by preparing tests and then evaluating applicants on the basis of their performance. Marketing and sales 75,000 25 2 months MeritTrac, Bangalore Madan Padaki
Custom-making chocolates Prepare the perfect food, chemically speaking, and serve in fancy wrappers. Creativity, love for chocolates 100,000 30-35 1 week Rage Chocolatiers, Bangalore Rashmi Vaswani
Bus service website Inter-city bus service is booming. Create a webpage that shows all the bus routes and their rates and through which tickets can be booked. Knowledge of IT, bus routes 200,000 10 5 months Phanindra Sama, Charan Padmaraju, Sudhakar Pasupunuri, Bangalore
Custom-making festival gifts Innovatively choose festival gifts for a client and have them appropriately wrapped. Sensitivity, idea of direct gift makers' outlets 300,000 20 3 months Sacred Moments, Mumbai Prakash Mundhra
Online ads Have a directory of websites and use your access to those in charge of them to get the right niche ad space for a client, so that he maximises his reach to his target audience. Media planning, knowledge of Net, networking 300,000 20 1 year Ozone Media, Bangalore Kiran Gopinath
Verification services Informaton security is a big concern for BPOs. Check the background of prospective employees to avoid corporate fraud. Networking with police, legal knowledge 400,000 10 6 months Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations India (PCII), Gurgaon Krishnendu Biswas, works for PCII as MD
Tank cleaning Growing use of water tanks and concern for hygiene gives you a chance to displace the guy in dirty overalls and professionally clean tanks with the right equipment. Tech-savvy 400,000 30 7 months TanClean, Mumbai Sunil Uplab
Travel guide Pollution, long working hours, stress ... customise trips to forests, fishing riverines and mountains for those who just wanna chill (Ye man!) Knowledge about getaways, high fun quotient 1,50,000 35 24 months Outrigor, Bangalore Sandeep Chakrabarti
Revenue credit billing Manage the credit finances of hospitals that are outsourcing this job. The quicker you recover money for your client the more the chances of success. Knowledge of insurance, networking 2,00,000 20 3 months Health and Insurance Integrated, Noida Deepak Mendiratta
Merchandising services Merchandising by business establishments is growing. Do it efficiently for them. Marketing, creativity 2,00,000 10 15 months Desk Digital Print, Delhi Yogesh Bharadwaj
Housekeeping (offices) Help Shining India. Get its offices cleaned. Man management, communication skills 5,00,000 5 12 months Collections, Delhi Ramesh Varma

So, armed with a knowledge of chemicals and cleaning methods and all of Rs 7,000, he started a shoe cleaning service, Shoe Laundry, four years ago. His service appealed to company brass, TV and film stars, models and politicians, among others, who did not mind spending Rs 120 a pop to have their costly sneakers looking like new. Today he has the likes of Yash Chopra and family among his clients and his turnover has ramped up to about Rs 1.5 lakh a month. While initially he did all the cleaning himself--he did not trust anyone else to do the job--he has now hired help to keep his business growing.

Low entry fee. Gajakas is not the only one who has managed to turn a good idea into a successful business. The table 20 Businesses You Can Start Within Rs 5 Lakh is about initiatives that do not require very high seed capital, taking into account both the initial capital expenditure as well as the working capital required to get rolling. In each case, somebody has actually made a success of it. And all of them can be replicated, although the specialised knowledge that most of them need creates an entry barrier that keeps competition in check and prevents them from becoming commoditised.

Spot a need. Few things can be more mundane than cleaning a drinking water tank. But Mumbai-based Sunil Uplap thought there was a job to be done when he saw tobacco chewing, beedi-smoking men cleaning one. So, in 1995, he set up TanClean, which uses modern cleaning and disinfection methods to ensure the water is potable. Today, TanClean operates in 87 cities and towns now and Uplap is on the lookout for more franchisees.

The dotcom bust of 2000 proved that you cannot succeed simply because the entry barrier is low. But Bangalore-based Phanindra Sama, Charan Padmaraju and Sudhakar Pasupunuri proved that good ideas still work with It is one of the few websites through which you can buy bus tickets in India, just as you buy air tickets over the Net. Investment is low, but you need grit to stick through the initial stages, says Sama. Sanjay Anandaram, managing director of JumpStartUp, provides the perspective: "Bus service is usually ignored, but in India it is a $2 billion-plus (approx. Rs 8,000 crore) industry." 

Hyderabad's V. Pani Kumar Reddy has found a novel way of bringing demand and supply together. His Dial-A-Meal has tied up with restaurants in Hyderabad to deliver food to all parts of the town. Today, it is a household name in that city.

Bangalore-based Kiran Gopinath's Ozone Media is an Internet advertising network. It brings together those with advertising space on the Web and those who need it. He partners online publishers to take advertising reach across the world. His initial investment was just Rs 3 lakh, but his success is also a proof of his networking ability. 
Even the killing pace of today's life can throw up an opportunity. Bangalore-based Sandeep Chakrabarti's Outrigor organises stress-busting trips for others. Says Chakrabarti, "I was a little hesitant in the beginning and did not want to put all my savings in a business venture." Initially, he used to hire equipment to keep costs down. Now he has his own. 

Business creates more business. E-States International of Pune-based Sachin Dhanwala and Sundip Joshy will take over the job of finding the right office space for companies, which can be quite a headache. Say Joshy and Dhanwala, "We will not only find a place or two but also take care of all the paper work, which can be quite time consuming." The spreading boom has brought opportunities for professional housekeeping companies too. Says Delhi-based Ramesh Verma, who owns housekeeping firm Collections: "With many malls and BPOs coming up in different parts of the country, there is a lot of scope for the success of such a venture." Ritu Mukherji, who owns Delhi's Pristine Interiors, which does housekeeping for hotels, adds: "The real investment that a person needs to make is their time and knowledge." Her business is based on the 16 years of experience she had with the Oberoi group. And Arvind Pandey's eponymous Concierge 4 India offers concierge services to expatriates. With more of them moving to India, there is enough and more opportunity for anyone who enters this field.

Ride the boom. The BPO upsurge has made data security a growing concern. Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations takes care of this by checking the credentials of prospective employees. Managing director Krishnendu Biswas says the "growth potential is massive". Sridhar Pai, a 15-year telecom industry veteran, set up Tons Telecom to mentor newcomers and even help them work out their business plans. Event management is growing in India and managers often need temporary staff. Mumbai's Chirag Bhatia and Varun Parekh bring them in touch with students wanting to supplement their pocket money. 

Deepak Mendiratta has been successfully using his expertise and knowledge of insurance to bolster the revenues of his Noida-based revenue credit billing company, Heath Insurance Integrated. His job is to handle the paperwork and complications that arise when patients make payments in credit and claim the amount due from their parent organisation. 

Do what you love. Passion is a key element in these ventures. You need loads of it. That's what lies behind chocolate freak Rashmi Vaswani's Rage Chocolatiers in Bangalore. Appreciation for a casual chocolate preparation for a friend two years ago got her an order of 150 kg of customised chocolates, and there was no looking back. Like her, you too can give a new twist to a common product. With average incomes in India soaring, weddings are becoming more opulent and a need has arisen to creatively organise them for others. Delhi-based Rita Bhasin's TAB Events has been doing just that. "Seed capital is minimal, but what one really has to invest is time," she says. Prakash Mundhra of Pune has made a business out of his skill at sourcing gifts for festive occasions. His Sacred Moments makes designer puja and festival kits, down to the last agarbatti.

Finally, we leave you with five more business ideas that have been successful in the West, but have not seen much activity in India yet. Given that some aspects of life are becoming homogeneous across the world, it is just a matter of time before Indians, too, start demanding these services. To that extent, we think they have good prospects. What's more, you should be able to start them for Rs 5 lakh or less. Here goes.

Home inspection. Looking for a house to buy or rent can get pretty tedious. Many would be grateful if someone shortlisted houses for them--for a fee.

E-bargain website. A website that simplifies the job of choosing the best price--for toasters, trucks and anything in between--is bound to find lots of users. 

Payroll administration. This includes tax deduction at source, PF contributions and tax-saving investments. Target clients: SMEs that cannot spend too much on administrative expertise.

Website for children. A website that lists children's names for parents to choose from and also investment options to save for your child's future. 

Warehousing services. The job of transporting products from warehouses to retail outlets.

With such a wide range of choice available to start small and think big, what are you waiting for? Go, start up!

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Ronojoy Banerjee, Outlook Money

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