With almost 15 lakh schools and more than 26 crore students, there is a huge demand for stationery products in India.
Even though schools are taking a more digital approach to education, the demand for stationery is still on the rise.
In 2022, the Indian school stationery market was estimated at US$ 2240.1 million. And it is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 8% up to 2028.
With growing e-commerce trends, customer behavior has changed, opening doors to new opportunities. For example, you can now sell your products on an online store that offers more reach.
In this article, we will discuss step-by-step methods to start a stationery business in India.
What is a Stationery Business?
A stationery business sells paper-based products, such as files, notebooks, notepads, and diaries, and also non-paper-based products, like pens, pencils, and staplers, that are used for writing/printing.
There are four business types for a stationery business –
- You can set up a retail store and sell directly to customers.
- You can become a wholesale supplier for retail stores, school, and office supplies.
- You can start an online store. (can be done with a retail store or a wholesale shop)
- You can do it as a part-time or home-based business. (supply items on contact)
Why Starting a Stationery Business In India Is A Good Idea?
Due to the growing urban population and changing lifestyle of people, the Indian stationery market has been consistently evolving. The government has also introduced initiatives to enhance the quality of Indian education quality, which is a reason for the growing stationery demand.
The global stationery market is expected to reach US$30 billion by the end of 2031, with North America and Asia having more than 60% of the market share. With increasing literacy rates and internet usage, the Indian stationery market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.5%, more than the global average.
The increasing numbers of schools and offices have spiked the demand for stationery products. Moreover, changing consumer habits due to e-commerce and online storefronts have made it easy to penetrate the market. Right now, it is the perfect time to start a stationery business in India.
A Complete Guide to Open a Stationery Business In India
If you are convinced by now to open a stationery business in India, you need a solid plan and strategy to do it right. So let’s dive into this step-by-step guide on how to start a stationery business in India.
Identifying The Target Market
There’s an old saying, “If everyone is your customer, no one is your customer.” Therefore, in order to sustain and make long-term gains, you must identify your target market. Your target market will decide the business operations and marketing strategy.
For instance, if you’re selling stationery to students directly, you need to have a retail shop nearby a school. In another scenario, if you are delivering supplies to offices, you must be able to handle bulk purchases constantly.
When you’re choosing your target customers, think about the following –
- Marketing budget you can allocate
- Orders you can fulfill on a constant basis
- Brand placement
- Business contacts
Conducting Market Research
Different markets have different pain points. For example, a CBSE student will not have the same preferences and pain points as a district school. Therefore, once you finalize your target market, you have to research that segment thoroughly.
- Find out what competitors are doing.
- What kind of issues your target market is facing with the competitors?
- Is there anything you can do better?
- Is there an ongoing trend that can be leveraged?
Figure out answers to these questions, and you can place yourself well in front of your targeted customers.
Deciding On The Business Model
You have two business models in the stationery business. There is no right or wrong. It is all about your preference, investment, and the amount of time and effort you can put into your business.
1) Reseller or Retailer
This is a simple business model. You purchase products manufactured by others and resell them at a margin. Generally, you buy stock in bulk at a wholesale price, so the margins are high when you sell it.
2) Customized Stationery Seller
In this business model, you have the chance to showcase your creativity. You purchase products from wholesalers and customize them into something unique, keeping your target audience in mind.
This business model can be highly rewarding as it’s very niche-specific, and you can make a higher margin on customized goods.
Choosing The Right Products to Sell
Based on your target market and your business model, you must choose the right products for your business.
For example, if you’re going with a customized stationery business model, you may not have the time and resources to customize multiple products. But you can create a particular product, such as a customized pen, a pencil, or a notebook.
If you are a reseller, you can choose multiple products as you don’t have to put extra time and effort into customizing them.
Similarly, you cannot supply the same products to a district school and a private office.
Do your research and choose the products that cater to your target market and fit in your budget.
Deciding About The Pricing
Your pricing must suit your business type. If you work as a reseller, you can expect a 20% margin on branded products. The margin can be 25% if you are a customized seller.
However, as a wholesaler, your markup must be industry-standard. As a result, the margins are quite low per product, but you also make more sales.
Remember to analyze the competitors’ prices before reaching a final decision.
Developing a Marketing and Sales Plan
A sound marketing and sales plan is essential for business growth. There are two types of marketing to promote your stationery business. Let’s understand both of them.
1. Offline Marketing
Offline marketing involves local promotion using displays and banners. It also includes networking and finding the right connections.
You can start offline promotion by distributing flyers and putting banners in the locality. You can also offer discounts to students (if your stationary shop is near a school) initially to create brand awareness.
Most stationery business in schools and offices is done through referrals. Right connections can help you get recommendations and big business deals. When enough people know your business, you establish a reputation. This reputation can grant you more exposure which in turn can be converted into significant transactions.
2. Online Marketing
If you choose to start an online store, you rely entirely on online marketing. However, even as a retail shop owner, you can leverage digital platforms for the promotion.
If you choose to sell online, you need a website. The website must offer a good user experience with required integrations, such as payment gateways. You can use Google Ads and SEO to generate sales from your website.
You can leverage social media marketing, too, by creating profiles on various social media platforms and engaging with your target audience.
Build a marketing strategy that aligns with your business goals and is relevant to your target market.
Obtaining Necessary Licences and Permits
Like any other business, a stationery business also needs licenses to operate. So the first step is to decide whether you want to register your business as a sole proprietorship or an LLC. An LLC is a better entity type if you expect yearly revenue of more than INR 16 lakhs.
Another necessary license you need is the ‘Shop & Establishment Act’ license. You might also have to register for GST if your annual revenue exceeds INR 40 lakhs. There are various other licenses depending on your business strategy and day-to-day operations.
Choosing the Workspace Based on Your Business Model
If you decide to start a retail shop, you must find a place with high foot traffic that can be easily accessible. For instance, if you target CBSE students, you need to open a shop nearby a CBSE-affiliated school. In physical stores, you also have to consider the rental costs.
If you are selling online, you still need a warehouse to store your inventory. However, location does not matter much in this scenario. Similarly, as a wholesaler, you can set up a small office (even your home) and store goods in a warehouse.
Choosing the Right Suppliers
You need dependable suppliers to make your stationery business run smoothly. If a shipment is delayed, you can lose a client. Similarly, you cannot fulfill an emergency order, if your supplier is unreliable.
First, you must understand your requirements. Do you need a large inventory? What will be your budget? What are the products you need regularly?
Once you have the answers, you can start looking for a vendor who fits the criteria. You can tap into your network or ask your competitors to find the ideal suppliers for you. You can also find suppliers online with B2B directories.
Other than the quality of products, competitive business terms (like finance) are also crucial when you finalize a vendor. Create a list of various vendors and compare them to choose the one that best fits your needs. Always keep a backup supplier in case your primary vendor fails to deliver.
Scaling it Offline and Planning For Local Deliveries Through Online Channels
You can scale your business offline with the right networking and by establishing a reputation. However, you need a reliable delivery system if you want to start local deliveries. You can also try other models like BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store), depending on your business model and feasibility.
You need an online store to place the order and make the payment. You can opt for a local delivery partner. Ensure they provide a good delivery experience. The products must be delivered within the estimated time.
To ensure a good customer experience, you need to figure out a few things –
- Delivery location
- Delivery charges (if any)
- Mode of delivery
- Delivery timings
- Delivery agent
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Stationery Business?
The cost to open a stationery business depends on your chosen business model. A small stationery shop can cost you around INR 2.5 lakhs to 3.5 lakhs. However, a medium to large retail shop might need INR 6.5 lakhs to 9.5 lakhs. For an online business, you might need anywhere from INR 3-4 lakhs.
Let’s break down the cost of products:
For small businesses –
- Interiors, furniture, racks, display boards, etc., would cost around INR 1-1.5 lakhs
- Stationery products would cost 1-1.5 lakhs
- Security deposit and rental if you don’t own the shop (ranges from INR 30,000 to 50,000)
For medium to large businesses –
- Interiors, furniture, racks, display boards, etc., would cost around INR 2-3 lakhs
- Stationery products would cost 2-2.5 lakhs
- Printers, Xerox, and other computer systems would cost INR 1.5-2.5 lakhs
- Security deposit and rental if you don’t own the shop (ranges from INR 60,000 to 1,00,000)
- Delivery crew or helpers would take a salary of INR 15,000-30,000
Pros and Cons of a Stationery Business Model
Every business has pros and cons, and the stationery business is no different. So let’s look at them.
- The capital required to start a stationery business is quite low.
- You do not need a rental space to start. You can create a website and become a reseller.
- It’s an evergreen business, as schools and offices will not disappear. So, demand will always be there.
- The unorganized sector has taken up most of the market.
- As the cost of setting up is low, the market is crowded. You need proper research before starting a business.
- Finding reliable vendors can take a lot of work. You will have to go through a list of multiple vendors to find the right supplier who can deliver the required product on time.
With the constant rise in demand and lower capital requirements, a stationery business can be a lucrative option. But user behavior has changed since Covid, and you need to up your social media and digital marketing game.
The user journey is not a linear path anymore, and there are multiple touchpoints you need to cover before making a sale today. However, you can survive and scale if you offer good quality products at reasonable prices with decent customer service experience.
You can start on your own and hire a crew as the business scale.
And remember, you can always come back and refer to this guide if you feel like you’re stuck.