Introduction The middle-class squeeze is always a work in progress. It is they who drive the economy. The huge volumes come only from this class. Yet, this is also the class that pays the maximum taxes. Successive Governments have simply robbed these classes. Most of these people are a very worried lot. Their savings during an entire lifetime gets spent on one wedding or a couple of weddings. They then realize that they have very little to fall back upon.
Given the aforesaid realities, which is actually something that cuts across all castes and communities and is a pan India phenomenon, the middle classes need to come out of their non-entrepreneurial outlook, as it were, and embrace small businesses. This can be done by someone in the family. If both parents are in secure jobs, that is all the more reason that their son or daughter gets into entrepreneurship, at least in a small way. This is one sure way of insulating the family against inflation for all times to come.
In this connection, there are five small-scale businesses. These are simple businesses that one can scale up at any time. There is one rule called the TVS rule in Tamil.Nadu. This huge group will never borrow money. If they do, they will repay the debts in record time to liquidate the same.
Similarly, the trick is to just keep going with the tide and do the business from scratch, but without much investment. The five businesses are a) small hotels b) trading in unbranded textiles c) small grocery shops d) manufacture of pickles,spices and jams and e) trading in organic foods. Each of these is sought to be explained in some detail in this article.
Small hotels This small business can be started from one's residence itself. In many parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, one can see small hotels selling just iddli, vada, and poori during the breakfast time. The wiser entrepreneurs concentrate on maintaining the quality of the sambar and the chutney, that are served as side dishes.
Once the taste becomes familiar, people start coming to the same small hotel again and again. Since this is a cottage industry business, there is no tax to begin with. However, there are hundreds of case studies where such entrepreneurs have gone on to make more money by scaling up. That is, they had gone on to set up bigger hotels in the vegetarian category and have grown from strength.
This is one business where there is no recession. It can go on and on. For years together. Since the cash flow is immediate, by maintaining a standard of food served, one can easily make around Rs700 per day by just concentrating on breakfast and dinner. During dinner time, dosa and chappathi are normally served. The trick is to buy in bulk, keep on cultivating customers and keeping prices low. There are cases where even the rich flock to these small hotels and taste the food sold there. Another important point is to never compromise on basic values. One can even use palm oil. But should never ever use pre-heated palm oil. By using such oil, the customers only have gastric troubles. They would see through such shortcuts. Service with a smile, food served beyond all commercial considerations and the like will simply bring in hundreds of new customers. Any middle-class family can easily start this business, with a very small investment of just ten thousand rupees. The trick is to make everyone across classes, a customer. The taste should attract even the rich. Hygiene is very important. Wise entrepreneurs invest in banana leaves and cover the plastic or ever silver plates with the banana leaf. This is done to maintain hygiene. The used banana leaf is also biodegradable.
Most importantly, with some basic training such South Indian food can be served anywhere in India. This is a hugely pan India business.
Trading in unbranded textiles There are hundreds of entrepreneurs who go towards Surat, buy the rather cheap but good quality silk saris in bulk and go back to their small towns and villages. Similarly, there are hundreds of entrepreneurs who wisely land in Tirupur, buy the undergarments in bulk and go back to their small towns and villages. They sell such goods, door to door. There is a huge market. For instance, one can find a huge variety of saris that seem to be manufactured only for village women of Tamil Nadu. The entire lot comes from Surat. The traders pick up agents in Surat who know Tamil and Hindi. In many cases, they also know Gujarathi. This is very good business.
In the villages, the women do not work. They have time to feel the sari and buy it. The designs are totally out of tune with the modern trends. But the ladies lap it up. This author has seen such women seeing more than twenty saris to select one!! The sellers are very intelligent. They get to know the taste of every individual customer and then sell the product. The ladies buy saris to match the glass bangles they get to wear every day. And the village folk depend only on these mobile textile salespeople. For the latter, there is a regular business. Once the credibility of the buyer is established, according to trade sources, there is a credit of one hundred days that is given. This is good business. Many entrepreneurs go on to become very rich people over a period of time when the business picks up.
Yes, most of the goods are unbranded. But once the customers understand the quality, everything falls into place.
Small grocery shops One can even find old men, who are 75+, actively doing this small business everywhere. The money that one gets to earn is really huge. Shampoos, pickles, small packets of branded coconut oils, unbranded biscuits and all the essential groceries also get sold. It is wise to invest in a good refrigerator and stock vegetables and milk and fruits. There is indeed a big market here too. The market will grow, even in the smaller towns. For example, the wiser entrepreneurs go all the way to Guntur in Andhra Pradesh to source the best quality of red chillies. They buy in bulk and sell to regular customers who buy either one kilogram or two kilograms. The entire stock is liquidated within two days.
Values are very important. It is very unwise to stock unbranded snacks, for example. Customers have become health conscious. The trick is to go for good local brands. Once the sales start picking up, the entrepreneur can think of stocking even the bigger brands of every single item sold.
According to trade sources, the total investment can be less than just seventy-five thousand rupees. There is good business even in areas that are two kilometres away from the main business Centers. In fact, there are so many people who set up such small grocery shops only because the rents and advance in such places are very low. Another important point is to customise. If the shop opens at 5.30 am and customers get fresh vegetables at fairly reasonable rates, they will even stop going to the bigger shop.
Manufacture of pickles, spices and jams This is another booming business. It is very common to find housewives who pick up the art of making very good quality pickles, nearly packing them and then selling them through the local hotels and retail outlets. Though there is no branding to start with, once the quality becomes very standard and reliable, one can always mechanize and go for branding. This might require the permission of the food department authorities of the Government. However, the business is bound to pick up if the quality is very good.
In Chennai and the whole of Tamil Nadu and parts of AP, for instance, there is a brand called Mambalam Iyers. This was started by two very young Brahmin women in a very small way. Today, there are able to fight competition from even bigger brands like Ruchi.
This business is a really booming business. The ready-made spice powders and mixes to make sambar or many other types of dishes is so vast. There is a huge market for everyone. Even branded players are making money based on the quality of the stuff sold through local retail outlets. There are families making at least twenty thousand rupees every month, in this market. Jams can also be manufactured with some training. Hundreds of local brands are now available. This is another sure business that can be easily taken up by the middle-class people.
Trading in organic foods This is a big business as well. According to trade sources, one can easily start this business with an investment of just thirty thousand rupees. One can initially but in bulk and then just sell to retail customers. One can then scale up by registering the company. Once done, this trading company will come under GST. However, since the scope is very huge, there can never be a dull moment.
Of late, this is becoming a pan-India business. Special millet hotels are booming everywhere. The trick is to learn everything about organic foods. A huge amount of information is available on the internet too. Once the entrepreneur is armed with such knowledge, getting into the business becomes very easy. The profit margin is reported to be good.
ConclusionThere are so ways to beat the inflation. Entering into businesses where debts can be zero or easily controllable, is an art by itself. One has to just observe what is going around everywhere. This is the secret of success at any point in time.
Today there is a tough competition in the business world. The companies are luring the customers for their products in myriad ways.
The entrepreneurs are finding it difficult to make a niche market for themselves. Due to initial hiccups, they are soon surrendering and joining a good and popular brand by selling their good quality material at a lesser price to the host company.
These are really the practical difficulties faced by the entrepreneurs at the present juncture. Still, a few of them who are very hard working and innovative in their approach is getting through the crowd and are able to survive in the cut-throat environment.