A beginner's guide to starting an e-commerce website business without losing money. This 5 step beginner guide will help you start your eCommerce website easily on a budget.
Most people say the market is saturated when it comes to e-commerce in India. That is not entirely true. The market is saturated for billion-dollar e-commerce companies in India considering Amazon and Walmart (Flipkart) already dominate the market. But starting an e-commerce company and growing it to a million-dollar or even multi-million dollar company is still quite feasible.
How? Consider the e-commerce companies, that entered the market when Amazon.in and Flipkart were already billion-dollar companies and had already captured the whole market. But these eCommerce companies still generate crores in revenue each year. Here are a few examples of such companies:
There are many such eCommerce companies that are obviously not as big as Amazon or Flipkart but are still big enough to generate hundreds of crores in revenue each year.
So when somebody says the eCommerce market is saturated, don’t listen to them. There are still hundreds of opportunities in the eCommerce domain that are still untapped.
Now coming back to the point,
A 5 Step Beginner Guide To Start An eCommerce Website Without Losing Money
Let us consider the following assumptions:
- You are a one-man army or a small team of students or first-time entrepreneurs.
- You have limited to no experience of running a business (let alone an e-commerce business)
- You have limited to no experience of web development, digital marketing, product sourcing, inventory management, customer service, customer support, etc.
- AND wait for it. You have a limited budget!
Considering the above assumptions, these are the steps you should follow to start your e-commerce business.
Step 1: Educate Yourself
Start reading books related to startups. Read as many books as you can before spending a single penny on your business. I would suggest you start with these books:
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel (only if you are planning to take your company to a billion-dollar evaluation)
Step 2: Market Research
Start looking for products (categories) and services that are still not catered by any major e-commerce players. It is very important to focus on a single product or a single product category while starting out. For example, Zivame focused on undergarments, Craftsvilla focused on ethnic wear, Bigbasket focused on groceries, and Amazon and Flipkart both started with just books.
You can also search for products or services that are successful in other countries but are still not introduced in the Indian market. Like Flipkart was inspired by Amazon and Ola was inspired by Uber.
There are hundreds of small successful ideas that keep popping up in different countries around the globe. Follow startup news websites like Techcrunch to stay updated on such ideas.
Step 3: Idea/Product Validation
This is a tricky part. Sometimes you get validation from your prospects and sometimes you don’t. But even if you don’t get validation for your product or service initially, it doesn't necessarily mean it’s not a good product or service.
Consider this quote to get a better understanding of how validation and surveys can be tricky -
“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” - Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company Founder)
Step 4: Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product or MVP is the most basic enactment or realization of your idea, product, or service. Once your MVP setup is completed, make it available to the market. Any further improvements to your product or service should be based on the feedback received from your customers.
The following points below will help you understand how an MVP set up for an e-commerce company will look like.
In case of a physical product, if you are buying, importing or manufacturing it, 100 or fewer products of acceptable quality and features should be fine to start with. Don’t buy, import or manufacture a truckload of products of the highest quality and best features when you haven’t even sold a single product in the market. Good places to source products are Alibaba, Aliexpress, Imdiamart or even your local market hubs like JC road in Bangalore or Jagdish market in Hyderabad.Same goes for a digital product. Don’t hire a team of 50 developers to build a beta version of your product.
start with a basic e-commerce website on a platform like Shopify. Shopify will help you create a pretty decent e-commerce website at just Rs. 2000/month (approximately). Plus you wouldn’t need to hire any developers to build your website. If you can make a PowerPoint presentation, you should be able to make a website on Shopify.
Inform your friends and family about your new website. Setup free accounts on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can also start running paid advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Google.
MVP Company Registration
If you have a PAN card and a bank account in your name, you should be able to start collecting payments online in your name with the help of free payment gateways like Razorpay and CCAvenue.If your budget allows it, I would suggest you register a proprietorship or a One Person Company as early as possible and collect every payment in your company account.MVP company registration point is NOT legal or accounting advice. Reach out to a local chartered accountant or advocate and understand in detail what are pros, cons, and risk involved in running a business without company registration.
Step 5: Scale
Once you start selling your MVP you will start receiving feedback from your customers about your product, your service, your website, etc and you will learn a lot about what you are doing right and where you are lacking. From this feedbacks, you will know exactly where to invest your time and money to grow your business.
I hope this information was helpful. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All the best.