A majority of India's population lives in small towns and villages. Mahatma Gandhi famously believed that rebuilding of the nation after independence could only be achieved by reconstructing self-reliant villages.
After the outbreak of COVID-19, many migrants moved to home towns; with some making a permanent move out of cities. The present government also aims to build a "self-reliant" nation and is aggressively supporting small businesses, the backbone of the Indian economy.
In towns or villages that lack employment opportunities, individuals can look to begin their own venture for self-employment.
Here are some small business ideas that can be started in a small town or a village in India.
1. Grocery Store/ Kirana Store
It may look like an obvious choice and may be an overlooked option, considering the existing Kirana store in your neighbourhood or possibly a newly launched supermarket. However, it could the easiest and most practical business on this list.
The outbreak of COVID-19 proved that grocery business was among the sectors most immune to disruptions in sales, even amid a nationwide crisis. The demand for groceries is evergreen.
The success of your grocery store will depend on your customer service, your supply chain (continuous replenishment of stock) and location.
In a small town, your opportunities could be unlimited considering the fact that residents of these place would have to travel far for certain products that are easily available in cities. The trick is to study the needs of your customer base and keep them happy.
If there aren't many shops around your area, you could opt to add more sections to your stores like fresh fruits and vegetables, or even ice cream.
2. Flower Farming
Flower farming or floriculture in India, for commercial purposes, is dominated in the south, with Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu making up for more than 50 percent of the country's units. It has a 100% export oriented status.
Flowers such as Rose, Tuberose, Gladiolas, Anthurium, Carnations, Marigold, Jasmine, Hibiscus, are grown in India in farms, poly houses and greenhouses. Cut flowers to dried flowers are exported.
Within India, fresh flowers have a huge demand for religious purposes. These are offered in temples and even used at homes, to bestow to deities.
While labour is involved, flowers can grow throughout the year, especially if seeds are easily available and greenhouse facilities are utilised, keeping the business' profit non-seasonal.
3. Poultry/Livestock Farming
Unlike agriculture, raising livestock can give you high returns in a short period of time. A commercial hen starts laying eggs in as little as 12 weeks.
At first, you can start with a few animals or birds, which does not need any registration or license in India, to understand the risks, benefits and associated expenses.
As you start making profits, you can reinvest them into the business and expand. You can then enter into commercial space and fetch large clients for your products like eggs, meat, milk, feathers, skin, the whole bird/animal.
You could also explore the export market for your products.
4. Tutoring Service
Be it school/college education or a competitive examination, tutoring is high in demand in India. The founder of the popular Byju's app also developed the idea for online learning when he started coaching students in Mathematics.
Education in India has become more competitive than ever. There are numerous takers for exams like CAT, JEE Main, TOEFL, IELTS, CA, etc.
Choose your area of specialisation to start. You could even think of starting an online channel on the subject of your specialisation, considering the greater use and penetration of digital education in the country, thanks to cheap data and affordable smartphones.
5. Car/Bike Servicing
Vehicles in small towns and villages is almost a necessity considering the not so well connected public transport in these areas. Moreover, the increase in disposable income among Indian households and easily accessible credit facilities (like EMI) have encouraged residents in interior locations of the country to buy a car or a two-wheeler for transport.
All vehicles need servicing at some point in time, making car or bike servicing centres a viable option, if automobile interests you. You can even opt to start as a franchise of an existing brand and service only vehicles of the brand.
6. Clothing store/manufacturing
People from small towns and villages often have to travel far to purchase clothes for occasions. Despite the reach of online stores, people still prefer to shop at stores for the convenience of try-before-you-purchase.
If you are able to provide the latest designs and styles, along with variety, a clothing store could work.
Textile manufacturing is also a major industry in India, which is the world's second-largest exporter of apparel and textile. India has a very strong raw material base both in natural and manmade fibres but faces challenges in the weaving sector due to poor technology levels and low scale of operations. The government also provides its support to this industry which is dominated by MSMEs.