Let’s begin this post with three interesting stats –
- According to research, the global stationery products market is valued at USD 24 billion in 2021.
- It is predicted to reach around USD 30 billion by 2031, with a CAGR of 4% over the forecast period.
- In India, over 80% of the stationery market is unorganized, and most of the domestic demand is met by local players,
These stats clearly indicate that the stationery business is here to stay for long. If you are a budding entrepreneur looking to start a business in India, then you should definitely consider the stationery industry. Also, the timing cannot be more perfect.
Today, the Indian stationery market is one of the fastest-growing markets because of the rising expenditure on education. This directly translates to a rise in demand for stationery products in India.
Understanding the Stationery Products
Business owners who want to start a stationery business might probably have a basic idea of what all constitute stationery items.
But for the rest, these comprise any products that are used for writing, painting, drawing, etc. Depending on the type of material and their usage, stationery products can be classified into two types:
- Paper-based (Diary, exercise books, textbooks, notepads, envelopes, etc.)
- Non-paper-based (Brushes, oil color tubes, staplers, pens, etc.)
They can be segmented category-wise as well:
- Office stationery (pens, white papers, staplers, markers, etc.). Basically, any stationery item that is found in an office or in a school is office stationery.
- Personalized stationery (greeting cards, personalized pens, thank you notes, etc.) is often custom-made and meant for personal use.
To run any successful business (not just stationery), it is important to understand the market thoroughly. Why? Because the business strategy and execution depends on the types of items business owners, want to sell.
For instance, most of the Indian stationery market is made up of educational and office stationery products, and the education sector holds the bigger market share with over 58% of the revenue. So this could be one of the potential stationery business ideas.
Let’s now understand how to start a stationery business from scratch.
How to Start Stationery Business in India
1. Choose the type of business
There are two types of business models to choose from – merchandise resellers and customized product sellers.
● Merchandise Reseller: This is all about reselling products made by other brands or companies. Business owners can buy a large volume of stock at a wholesale price. Then they can sell the products either offline or online (or both) at retail price. This business model is usually adopted by business owners who sell office supplies or textbooks.
● Customized Product Seller: Business owners who want to put their creative skills to use can run a successful customized stationery products business. They can import the required materials from vendors and then customize the items and sell them on both online and offline stores. This category is very niche; hence business owners can succeed only if they target the right audience.
Both business models have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. It is up to business owners to decide which one is right for them. Then they also need to consider resources, contacts, and goals before making the final decision.
2. Plan your inventory and location according to your target audience
Business owners should first figure out who the right customers are for them. They then have to take adequate measures to attract them to build a successful, scalable, and sustainable business.
For instance, if you are looking to do business directly with school or college authorities, then you should be ready to handle large volumes of orders frequently. If you cannot meet the demands, there are high chances that your clients will look elsewhere.
Similarly, for a store that primarily targets individual students, then location comes into play. You need to pick a location that is in close proximity to a college or school. Otherwise, you will never reach your target customers.
You also want to keep track of your inventory. Thankfully, there are plenty of free and paid inventory management apps you can turn to.
3. Make a business plan
A business plan is one of the most important steps to carry out before starting any business.
However, it is also the most ignored one. It is the only document that provides business owners total clarity on every aspect of their business. They can always refer to it when then things go wrong at a later stage.
Now the important question is – what should a stationery business plan include?
- Vision: This should answer questions like – Do you have plans to grow the business into an online stationery store? How many cities are you planning to have stores in? In short, business owners should document their goals in their business plans.
- Audience: You should research and list different segments of customers you want to serve.
- Vendors: No matter what type of stationery business you have, you need reliable vendors. They are critical for your business and hence need to be mentioned in the business plan.
- Marketing: This should answer questions like – What is your marketing strategy? How are you planning to reach the audience? What does your marketing budget look like?
- Hiring Team: If you are running an online store and scaling up your business, then you will need some extra help. Hence, you will also need to make a detailed outline of the roles you want to hire for.
4. Budget Evaluation
Millions of unorganized stores and small manufacturers make up a huge part of the Indian stationery market.
One of the biggest reasons behind this unique composition is the low setup cost of this type of business.
However, business owners still need to plan the budget for their business. Always track the following costs:
- Shipping costs
- Marketing cost
- Cost of premises if it is rented or leased
- Legal and application fees cost
- Business operation cost
- Cost of raw materials
- Any additional cost for bulk orders
To manage the costs, you can either use a spreadsheet or download one of the many templates like the Lio’s shopkeeper registers to make your life easier.
5. Find the right vendors
Unless you are directly manufacturing stationery products, you cannot survive without good vendors. Even then, you might need vendors for raw materials.
Hence, vendors are a very important stakeholder in any business, including stationery. Picking the right vendor or supplier who is reliable and offers a great price is essential for your business to succeed.
The best way to find suppliers is via word of mouth or referrals. You can ask your friends in the industry or enquire in any local business association.
Also, check listing sites like Indiamart, Getdistributors, etc. If you are looking for international suppliers, then Alibaba could be an ideal option.
6. Get the licenses
To run a stationery business in India, there are a bunch of licenses that you need to apply and obtain.
First, register the business either as a sole proprietorship or as an LLC. If the estimated annual turnover is more than 20 lakhs, consider registering the business as an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship.
Once the business is registered as an LLC, your business is a separate legal entity in the Governments’ book. In that case, ownership transfer becomes much easier, and the personal liability of the owners is greatly reduced. Nevertheless, reach out to a consultant before making the final decision.
Secondly, you need to apply for a Shop and Establishment Act license. This is a state-issued certificate that you should be renewed annually.
GST registration is only required if your annual turnover is more than 20 lakh. On the other hand, if you have an e-commerce shop, then you need to register for GST, irrespective of the turnover.
7. Delivery management
Ever since the pandemic struck, more people have wanted their purchases to be delivered to their doorsteps.
This is applicable even to smaller towns and rural areas. Even if you are setting up a brick-and-mortar store, it is always nice to have an additional selling channel. So include doorstep delivery without fail in your business model.
Then, have a proper delivery strategy so that you don’t lose customers. You can start by determining all the areas you wish to deliver the products to.
Ideally, the delivery chain must be scalable, and you should gradually cover more areas as the business grows.
One option is you can hire your own delivery team by posting jobs on job boards or advertising in the local newspaper.
But if you are tight on budget, you can join hands with a delivery partner in your area. They usually charge a nominal fee for delivering each shipment. You can add the delivery fee to the order value so that the customer bears the expense.
8. Marketing and promotion
The stationery industry typically relies on referrals. This is especially true when you are dealing with educational institutions and offices within a city. Knowing the right people can help you close more deals easily.
You can start by attending business meetups in your local community. It will help you get referrals, gain visibility as well as build a reputation.
At the same time, having an online presence is crucial in today’s time. Your customers are already there.
So having active accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms make total sense today.
But having an account is just the first step. You should also post quality content frequently that is aimed at your target audience.
Don’t hard sell your brand or your products. First, offer value, gain reputation, and then start promoting your products.
You can also publish blogs regularly on your site. Apart from offering knowledge to customers, it will help improve the search ranking of your business’ website on search engines like Google. Adding the right keywords is the key here.
Advantages of Starting a Stationery Business
- A stationery business serves a diverse population. This includes school children, college students, working employees, business people, etc. Everyone needs stationery products regardless of their social or economic status. Hence, the stationery business has a huge customer base.
- A stationery business can sell a wide variety of products. However, this sector still has room for innovation as the demand for new and useful stationery products will always be there.
- It’s not necessary to have a physical store to get this business started. Business owners can do everything from the comfort of their own home, at least in the beginning!
- The stationery business is a low-investment business for budding entrepreneurs.
- The demand for stationery products is relatively stable throughout the year with peaks during the months when schools and colleges reopen after the summer break.
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Launching a business is hard, and there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes a lot of patience to reach your business goals!
The stationery business in India is a profitable business option for any entrepreneur, owing to the low cost of investment and perennial demand for products. You neither need a large operating capital nor a huge team to run the business once it is started.
However, to become successful in the stationery business or, for that matter, any business, it is crucial to maintain a customer-centric mindset. Similarly, technology can play a very important part in running your business.
You should choose software and tools based on your business size and the requirements of your business.
In the early stages, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive software when you can use applications like Lio.
Lio offers a diverse set of templates to track stock levels, finances, shipment, and many other metrics related to your business operations.
I hope you gained something from this article and it has helped you in getting a clear idea of how to start a stationery business in India.