How To Start An Online Retail Business with Zero Capital Investment

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Business is essentially about taking a risk…But even to take this risk, one needs money. 

While e-commerce has grown so much and so popular that you may not need as heavy an investment as a brick-and-mortar store could require, you still need money. 

However, there are certain mandatory expenses while setting up your own ecommerce store that can be controlled, reduced and sometimes completely eliminated. 

Starting an e-commerce business has become considerably cheaper thanks to various portals like Shopify, offering ready-to-use websites for just a minimum rent every month. Once your business picks up even a little, managing the rent isn’t a major problem. Therefore, you don’t need to wait around to accumulate lakhs of rupees. You can get started by setting aside some money for a few months and making your website. More so, you can also opt for a small business loan and kickstart a relatively low-risk e-commerce business. 

Follow these four steps for your next e-commerce business 

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Select your products

The first and foremost thing you need to do is select the kind of products you want to sell. This is a major determining factor when it comes to cost. To give you an example, stationery costs less compared to heavy-duty furniture. So if you’re starting a business selling stationery online, all you need is a good printer, software to customize your products and some paper to get started. Another thing that benefits you here is that stationery is not an edible product which makes its shelf-life extremely long.

In the case of perishable commodities, if you don’t sell your products on time, they are simply wasted. From clothes to bags to books, you can sell anything online. But make sure that whatever you decide to sell has a long/decent shelf-life, the cost of manufacturing is less, or if you’re bulk buying, ensure you have good and reliable suppliers. 

Select your role

E-commerce gives you the benefit of limiting your role as a business owner. Depending on your product offering, you can decide to either be an end-to-end provider or a dropshipper. An end-to-end provider is required to manufacture/buy the products, list them online, market them, get sales, and deliver them to the customer’s doorstep.

On the other hand, a dropshipper is simply responsible for hosting a website and selling the products online. A dropshipper has to tie up with a third-party manufacturer/supplier who is responsible for directly packaging and delivering the product to the customer’s doorstep. Being a dropshipper saves you the hassle and cost of manufacturing, packaging and shipping

Build an e-commerce website/free online store

With websites like Shopify, building an e-commerce website takes only some minutes and relatively a lot less money. However, when you’re staring at an extremely low budget, you can opt for making a social media page of your business on any of the popular platforms. With Instagram having millions of users and shoppable posts alongside exclusive features for business accounts, we recommend posting product pictures on the social network for reach and awareness.

Being a customer favourite portal, it also gives you the opportunity to react closely with your audience. And the best part is that it’s free! 

Upload your products

Even amazing products often fall prey to bad lighting and low-quality photography that makes them come off as cheap or ‘knock-offs.’ This can be a deal-breaker especially when people can actually touch your product. While investing in a camera or doing a photoshoot works wonders, you can also use a good smartphone that you already have and take appropriate pictures of your products. Filters and in-built editing apps further help your products look great at the same time give your listing a personal touch. 

Define your customer radius

The smaller the business, the more cost you’ll have to incur with respect to shipping since you will not have the advantage of processing bulk orders on a daily basis. Therefore, clearly define your customer radius to ensure that all of them receive an on-time delivery. Shipping to places near your manufacturing unit/warehouse costs less compared to providing pan-India/international shipping. 

Select a shipping partner

You don’t necessarily have to select a shipping partner that is well-known internationally when your products will be delivered only within a certain radius near your manufacturing/supplier unit. There are companies that cater to deliveries in even remote corners of Indian cities/towns. So the defining factor here is essentially the cost. Choose a shipping partner that is fast and reliable to build customer trust.

Depending on the product you are selling, you can either handle the packaging on your own and simply get the products delivered by the shipping company or leave all the hassle to them from the beginning. However, in the second option, your products will be required to be stored close to the fulfilment centre of your shipping company or in the fulfilment centre itself. 


Always remember that a product costs money to be bought or to be made. But, a service involves human effort that can be delivered first and charged later. Therefore, the investment becomes relatively less. However, please note that service providers often require expensive equipment which may take away all your budget. In such cases, avail EMI on equipment and ensure that they’re of good quality so that they can serve you longer.