A friend of mine shared her success story of selling her hand-made crochet items on her Facebook page. She started with just 4-5 items on her inventory which got her good customer response. The sales volume started increasing- so much so,that she had to employ people to meet the growing demands. This is one of the examples, which I have seen at closed quarters wherein, a woman resorts to online platform to sell her products. Like her, there are many women who are setting up stores online to showcase their ideas, knowledge and creativity in the world of entrepreneurship. But there are still many women who, though wish to venture into online business, are at a lost to know where to start and what products to choose which can give good profit margin.
Lets try to understand the idea behind buying and selling products online.
First, you might ask “why sell online” when you can easily showcase your products at your house or at a local exhibition. OK, suppose you are good painter and you see this as an opportunity to make extra bucks by selling your art. Taking the traditional route of showcasing your talent in art exhibition or the usual brick and mortar store will give you only limited admirers. But if you advertise your creation on internet , may be on Facebook or through online market places like e-bay and Amazon, it will not only give you a wider range of audience but can also prove to be the quickest, the safest and the cheapest way to reach the whole world from the comfort of your home. All you need is a computer, and an internet connection to make your painting adorn the wall of a homeowner whom you won’t even know personally. Bill Gates once said that: “if your business is not on the web, then your business will be out of business.” In this age of technology, internet is a boon for every entrepreneur which can be used to make the task of selling your wares easier and approachable for prospective buyers.
Next is “what” to sell ? The simple answer is you have to have an eye to convert the “needs” of other into a business venture. Let me start by giving some examples. Falguni Nayar started the beauty e-tailer Nykaa when she noticed how Indian used to buy cosmetics from international websites or while travelling abroad. So she thought of providing the widest range of beauty products under one site and Nykaa was born. Online lingerie market Zivame was conceptualized by Richa Kar when she realized “there was so much social discomfort while buying lingerie that it got reduced to a 5 minutes hurried chore”. Rashi Choudhary wanted to make shopping more convenient, so she started Mumbai’s first online grocery store. Another Rashi (Narang) started Heads Up for Tails which offers products for Dogs as she could not find these for her dog after exploring markets. Chumbak was co-founded by Shubhra Chadda when she found dearth of quirky and funky souvenirs in the market.
Yesterday only I came across a website, started by three sisters which is a one-stop shop for all the birthday needs, be it themed disposables or return gifts. To cut the long story short, sell products which are not easily available in offline stores or have a niche value attached to it.
Read the following guide to get acquainted with some of the top products which women can choose to sell from home as long as the internet is at their disposal.
- Selling self-made products: If you have a creative streak inside you, then the options to explore are limitless; either you can make your own Facebook page to promote your product or join a group on FB which helps you sell the product. And with various e-commerce platforms in scenario selling a product has become lot more easily; you just have to concentrate on your product (manufacturing or procuring part) because the transaction related nitty- gritties are managed by the website operator.
- Jewellery making:
If you have the dexterity to manipulate material like glass, beads, plastic, metal, wood etc. into something beautiful with finesse, then you should get into selling your hand-made jewelry online. Moreover, with gold prices shooting up like crazy, the demand of artificial or imitation adornments is growing day by day, making it a profitable business. Once pursued, slowly you’ll learn the trick of the trades, like where to source reasonable raw material and cost-effective labor which will further help you in becoming a well-heeled entrepreneur in this field.
- Clothes –If you are nifty with a sewing machine or your fingers works skillfully with the needles then you can start making stylish and fashionable garments for children (or women). When those cute little booties or frocks with frills and laces strikes a right cord with the mothers , then there’s no stopping you from getting orders in bulk . To be successful in this business, all you need is a good taste in latest fashion trends and the intention to offer your customers a good value for the money with a quality product.
- Painting: Is an artist within you wants to see your art work being appreciated by the wider audience, then selling it online is the answer to it. One of my friends, who are good at making paintings on silk cloth with water colours, thought of making it as her profession .She first tested her waters by selling her paintings in an exhibition and got a good response. She then started selling them online and got a better response plus more profit.
Even if you don’t know how to paint, you can always acquire the necessary skills by taking some painting classes or through online tutorials where the options to choose ranges from Warli, Madhubani, Tanjore, modern and traditional form of art. Once you become adept at something, just grab your brush and start creating your artistic composition!
- Accessories: Believe me, all add-ons like headbands, hair-clips, hair wreath, bracelets, clutch, potli-style handbags are all in rage these days and sell like hotcakes. You can give them a hint of bling by using material like lace, satin, net, beads, sequins, kundan work etc. To stay in the game, keep adding variety to your merchandise and once you have learned the ropes of this business you can even offer online video tutorials on YouTube. Once you get enough views for your video, the advertisers would approach you for placing their ads in the videos thus enabling you to earn some serious cash!
- Sell Custom-made products: Nowadays every individual is always on a lookout for things which should reflect his or her personality and provide exclusivity without compromising on quality. Tapping into this mantra, you can give a little twist to your hobby and convert it into your own signature style by fashioning a product as per the specifications of individual purchaser. People love buying personalized things like hand-painted garments, made to order jewellery, décor items, and stationary or even bath towels.
Let me explain by giving another example, there are lots of children books available in the market but if you can write your own story book in a simple language using a little artwork and imaginative characters, it can prove to be hit in the market; for an edge, you weave a story around the name of the child as per the parents’ wish and your customized books will definitely find its admirers. Another idea is to make magnets with some funky taglines, cartoon characters on it or personalizing them by writing some cool text as per the customer wishes. Of late I have seen that mothers who are good in baking takes the customer’s order online and customize birthday cakes, cupcakes or any other bakery items as per their requirement. Another good idea is to make personalized gift-baskets for various occasions like baby shower, birthday, and festivals etc.
One of my friends sells animal jewellery online. Well-versed with her target audience, she makes necklaces and bracelets with animal motifs as pendants. So now among her growing customers are the little boys who love wearing tiger and lions as motifs, young girls who love wearing necklaces with cat and penguins as an ornament and women who adore earring with hanging peacock, owls or as weird as scorpions . Although hers is a very niche market but still she makes good profits by not selling any type of jewelry but the theme-based ones.
A word of caution though, a low-value product like greeting cards or candles which although are time consuming and requires much labour won’t give you desired profits coz profit margin is very low. So care should be taken while buying raw materials which either you should buy in bulk or you ask the buyer to order a minimum number so that you don’t incur the losses.
- Procuring and selling: Now everyone can’t be expected to be a skilled workman , in spite of that if you want to earn extra bucks all you have to do to is to buy products directly from suppliers , manufacturers or wholesalers at a low cost and then sell it online at a profit. Merchandise like trendy dresses, toys, phone accessories, antiques, cosmetics and books can be sourced from websites like Alibaba.co, e-bay, DHgate and then sold at various websites which follow managed marketplace model.
Another way to grow your buyers is to sell items which you can source from your native place. A friend of mine who is from Ludhiana, Punjab , a city known for woollens , has made contacts with a local supplier , through whom she gets a shipment of wide range of woolens meant both for women and children and sell them online , making loads of profit in the process. Similarly, if possible one can get blue pottery, jewellery or craft items from Rajasthan; silk sarees from Mysore; articles made of bamboo from north-east; Zardozi or Chinakari embroidery work from Uttar Pradesh; decorative pieces of Dokra metal, Tussar silk sarees from Calcutta or ayurvedic medicines from Kerala. Like these, every state in India is known for its unique product ,all you have to do is to develop business relations with local artisans or suppliers and get a bulk order of quality products at reasonable rate so that you can make bundles while selling them online. In this business though, you have to evaluate, other than the products ‘cost, the statistics involved in storage of inventory and shipping price.
- Freelancing: You can carry out this job right from the comfort of home if you are good with words. A freelancer is a person who writes on contract basis instead of being employed directly by any individual or company. Various websites are always on lookout for good writers who can write product reviews, articles and blogs. You can also freelance for different publications like newspaper and magazines too, though nowadays I feel internet attracts more audience. You can also open your own website to write tips if you are fashion savvy, give some advice on parenting if you are an expert, write your experiences if you are well-travelled and share your recipes if food is your forte and once your written words attracts considerable traffic and page views, you can make profits by earning revenues from advertisements, sponsored content and more. These days writing digital books, better known as e-books is also in fashion, so if you have an idea for story and don’t want to run after publishers, internet is at your service.
On a final note I would like to say that for any venture you start and then to stay in the game, you have to keep yourself motivated, updated , be good in networking- either online through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or offline by going to start-up events, meeting people, PR through mass media etc. No matter if yours is a big or a small web-based business, ultimately the recipe of success is to love what you do and everything else will fall in place.