How to Start an Online Store With Minimal Cash Investment

Sometimes, the best of online business ideas are hindered by financial restrictions. 

But owing to digitization and the advancements in technologies, you can start an online store with minimal cash investment in no time. 

We’re not kidding. 

Let us tell you all about it. 

Start an online store with minimal investment 

If you’re someone on a budget but want to start an online business of your own, the following sections will guide you through the process. 

  • Understand the different ecommerce business models
  • Find the right products to sell 
  • Find your product source 
  • Calculate your product pricing 
  • Find the right ecommerce platform 
  • Use free themes to design your store 
  • Select the right payment gateways 
  • Find a good shipping partner 
  • Create a marketing plan 
  • Build a community 

1. Understand the different ecommerce business models

Don’t just jump in and start an online store. 

The first thing you need to do is understand the different models with which you can run an online store. This helps you understand how business will work for you and also estimate the costs of setting up an online store. 

Here are the 8 top business models used in the ecommerce industry: 

Additional resources: 

2. Find the right products to sell 

Once you have understood the different business models you can run an online store on, the next step is to find what you want to sell. 

To find the right products to sell, here’s basic framework you should be following: 

  • Make a list of products you want to sell/ are passionate about 
  • Check the demand for products on Google Trends 
  • Check the demand on marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart and others 
  • Take a note of their average pricing 
  • Identify direct and indirect competitors/ other stores selling the same or similar products 
  • Shortlist the products you can sell 

Additional resources: 

3. Find your product source 

After you have a list of products you’d like to sell based on consumer demand, you should look into how you’re going to get the product. 

If you’re building the product from scratch, you will need to look for a manufacturer that understands your requirements and is able to deliver quality. 

If you’re looking for products that are already in the market, and you want to act as a channel, you will need to find a supplier who can dropship for you.  

There are also traditional ways of exploring local markets and marketplaces to curate the products you want to sell online. 

As you explore all options, you need to keep in mind the following: 

  • What is the available budget for product sourcing? 
  • Which of the ways costs you the least? 
  • Which of the ways gets you the best quality of products? 
  • What will be the timelines for product manufacture/ supply? 

Additional resources: 

4. Calculate your product pricing 

Taking into account what you intend to sell and how you’re sourcing or manufacturing it, it’s time to calculate the product pricing. 

This is a crucial step to starting an online store, because it impacts the ROI you get on the investment you make - no matter how small the investment may be. 

While pricing your products, you need to: 

  • Calculate the investment you are making 
  • Estimate the profit you’d like to make 
  • Calculate the selling price 
  • Calculate the marketing price (including store set up) 
  • Predict the profit you will make 

Additional resources: 

5. Find the right ecommerce platform 

Now that you are aware of the resources available to you after product sourcing and have an estimate of how much you can earn, it’s time to find the right ecommerce platform. 

The ecommerce platform you choose does not only make it easy to set up an online store, but can have a big impact on your recurring investment. 

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing an ecommerce platform: 

  • Is it easy to use? 
  • What are the additional costs associated (domain, hosting, security, etc)?
  • When will you need to upgrade your plan? 
  • What are the added benefits it has to offer? 
  • Does it offer customer support and service? 

Additional resources: 

6. Use free themes to design your store 

Branding is important, but it does not mean you need to invest too heavily into website designing. 

On average, designing and developing a website on your own will cost you around INR 40,000 at the minimum. The costs can go up to INR 70,000 and upwards depending on the number of pages, functionalities and other aspects you’d like to offer customers. 

If your focus is to start an online store with minimal investment, we recommend exploring free themes to design your store. These themes come with different page layouts and customizations that you can use to brand the look and feel of the store. 

Here are a few things you should have prepared before designing your store: 

  • What is the look and feel you want to offer (create a moodboard)? 
  • What are the different pages you need to set up?
  • What are the different functionalities you need to offer? 
  • How many pages do you need? 

Additional resources: 

Note: You can always upgrade or change the theme of your online store as your brand grows. The idea here is to save as much as possible to invest into marketing and advertising instead. 

7. Select the right payment gateway for your store 

Before you launch your online store and start taking orders, you will also need to identify the preferred payment modes of your target audience. 

Post which, you need to identify the right payment gateways and the set up as well as maintenance costs associated with them. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

  • Identify the payment modes you want to offer on the store 
  • Shortlist the payment gateways that enable the above 
  • Evaluate on the basis of ease of set up, support, commission and maintenance fees 

Additional resources: 

8. Find a good shipping partner 

Another place that your online store costs can quickly add up is your shipping. 

Most ecommerce businesses make the mistake of not evaluating the costs of shipping and delivery when chalking out their investments. 

We recommend considering the following if you’re starting with a minimal investment: 

  • Identify the shipping options you want to offer (fast delivery, one-day delivery, etc) 
  • Shortlist the possible shipping providers 
  • Check for serviceability to pincodes you want to sell at 
  • List out the costs associated with each provider 
  • Add to business expenses to calculate the impact it has on your investment and the profit you want to earn 
  • Add to selling price (to estimate how much the customer will need to pay)  

Additional resources: 

9. Create a marketing plan 

The next place where your business investment can go out of hand or fall short, is marketing and advertising. 

With the competition for consumer attention increasing by the day, you need to identify the right channels to be present on. 

When you’re starting with a minimum investment, we recommend the following approach: 

  • Define your target audience and ideal customer persona 
  • Identify the channels they are present and active on 
  • Make a list of marketing tactics on the shortlisted channels 
  • Estimate the cost of each tactic on the channels (include graphic and advertising costs as well) 
  • List out the resources available to you (and if you’d have to outsource or hire) 
  • Start with one channel and gradually explore others 

Additional resources: 

10. Build a community 

If you want to reap the most out of the minimal investment you have made, make sure you focus on building a community from day 1. 

Your very first customer should be the one that recommends your products and services to others in their network. Ideally, you should ensure that the experience you offer creates a chain reaction of word-of-mouth marketing. 

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind: 

  • What are the channels you’d like to use to stay in touch with customers? 
  • Where can you potentially create a group for customers (Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc)? 
  • What value can you offer to existing customers? 
  • How can you encourage these customers to continue engaging with you? 
  • How will you get them to join your community? 

Additional resources: 

Start an online store on Shopify 

The ecommerce business model opens innumerable doors of opportunity for everyone. 

But owing to the competition in the industry, it is also getting much harder for businesses to succeed - some due to the lack of resources and others due to the fast burn. 

Platforms like Shopify are designed keeping in mind how most people would like to start small, explore their business idea and then grow. 

Apart from a pricing that includes the cost of domain, hosting, security and other aspects that business owners traditionally need to pay for separately, it also comes with a host of marketing and sales apps, shipping and delivery partners, payment gateway integrations and more to keep your running costs at the minimum. 

Don’t believe us? Explore our pricing here

Or you can start with a free trial on Shopify to explore all the features and added benefits the platform has to offer

Frequently asked questions about starting an online store

Can I start an online store with no money?

Depending upon what you're selling or what your product is, the capital you invest will vary. For instance, if you're selling printed products, you will have to part your sales with the print provider. But if your online store is selling custom audio tunes, you get to keep the entire amount, and your capital costs would only include your computer and your editing software.

What can I sell online to make money?

You can start an online store in India for selling anything from handmade products, courses, graphic design services, custom printed t-shirts and other goods, home-baked items and more. If you're testing waters, you can also consider running a dropshipping store to sell a multitude of products on your store until you find your niche.

How to start an online store in India?

The steps for starting an online store are:

  • Identify what you want to sell.
  • Focus on identifying who your ideal customers are.
  • Develop competitive pricing models for your products.
  • Start an online store on established eCommerce platforms like Shopify before promoting them across other digital platforms.

After starting an online store, will selling be profitable in India?

Yes, it is profitable to start an online store in India as a seller. One of the common misconceptions is that if you start an online store, the profit margins may decrease. That is not true at all. As the available data shows, some businesses save a good amount of money when they start an online store.

After starting your online store, your overhead expenses like commute, electricity bill, and maintenance costs for the store come down to zero. It is possible to run your entire business from home while managing your team remotely.

How much will it cost to start an online store in India?

The cost of starting an online store in India depends upon the location and type of software you’re using. If you choose a website builder to create and then start an online store, the cost may vary between INR 10,000 to INR 30,000 per month.

This will depend on customisations, plugins and services used and comprise just the website hosting platform charges. You could also incur additional charges for the domain you use for your business. Instead, if you choose to develop your website with the help of a developer, you will have to pay a one-time lump sum amount. Further, you can hire a developer to make customized edits.

How do I decide which products to sell on my online store in India?

Since the pandemic, online selling has recorded remarkable growth for all kinds of businesses from every part of India. This has led to a significant rise in the number of online stores in India.

Some of the products that today’s millennial generation commonly looks for in online searches are: 

  • Consumer electronics and accessories
  • Groceries and clothing
  • Health & beauty products
  • Fashion and jewelry
  • Home decor materials
  • Hobbies and craft products
  • Mobile accessories
  • Pet products
  • Travel accessories
  • Online educational courses

The online clothing store I started is not profitable. Why?

Today’s markets have a huge variety of options to satisfy everyone’s needs. After starting your online clothing store, it is possible that your sales are not picking up in the first few months, and you are finding it difficult to convert customers.

You can explore some of the suggestions below to boost your sales:

  • After a few months of starting your online clothing store, you may create and run an online contest and offer prizes or discounts to the winners.
  • Another option is to offer limited-time deals like buy two, get one free!
  • Partner with an influencer.
  • Join another partner brand in the same market as yours and try cross-selling your products. This sometimes helps to boost your own sales.
  • Use time and resources to get a better understanding of your competitors. Analyse the reasons for your competitor's success and employ some of their best practices.
  • According to market studies, people decide to buy online: competitive pricing, trusted website, best delivery options, and stock availability. After starting your clothing store, ensure that you adhere to the above tips to ensure good sales.

Upon starting my online store, what marketing strategies should I employ?

For an individual or a business that is successfully running an online store, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are quite useful, depending on where your audience is usually active.

For a newly started online store, some of the ways to advertise your store are:

  • Contact local publishers to get an ad published in local and national newspapers which have a wide readership.
  • Understand the advantages of running paid ads on social media channels like Quora, Facebook and Instagram, since a large chunk of the GenY customers is active on these platforms.
  • Seek out target communities for marketing your product and services; these communities often help in connecting with the right set of customers.
  • There are some other marketing channels that you can examine, for example - influencer marketing, email marketing, referral marketing and others.

Do you want to create your own online store?