Specialty retail Jun, 12 2013

Writing a rich business story

Business opportunity in stationery retail

By Yamini S Verma, TFW Bureau
Sr. Sub-editor
Writing a rich business story

Pen, pencils, crayons and scrapbooks have always caught a child’s attention, bringing his virtual world of imagination to reality. But has anyone thought how retailing of these products could fetch a person handsome profit following the franchise business model? Read on for an insight into the world of profitable business opportunities in the industry of stationery and office supplies.

No modern office or a school can function without stationery items. An office or school sans stationery items is unimaginable and all schools and offices make appropriate allocation of resources for stationery items. These items are also called school and office supplies, which refer to all the products and stationery items, including pencils, paperclips, staples, pens and paper. Even more expensive products like photocopiers, printers, computers, cash registers and fax machines are included in the category. The indispensability of these products allows for the emergence of business entities and brands which deal in school and office supplies. Undoubtedly, stationery retail has become a lucrative business sector that offers great opportunities to investors to profit from.

Market overview

According to the reports of Research and Market, a market research source, the industry of stationery and office supplies was set to grow at a 30 per cent annual rate by 2012. With the growth in the education as well as industrial sectors, the stationery products market would grow at a faster pace. Moreover, recent studies estimate the current market size of school and stationery supplies to be in the range of $ 10-15 billion in India, including both the unorganised and organised sectors.

Crafting prospects

Retailing of craft supplies is a sizeable business in the West. As a part of the retail and consumer evolution, India has seen many changes in consumer desirability, while crafting is believed to be one of the new trends in schools, offices and for household use.

Crafting may involve specialised crafts like scrap-booking, card-making, toy-making, jewellery-making, etc. People may look for accessories just to keep their kids busy with some crafting material like ice-cream sticks or pompoms. It could be even a professional who wants to unwind, de-stress, relax and rejuvenate with crafts. Crafting needs no special skills, hence appeals to a large consumer base and provides great business opportunities for entrepreneurs via the franchise route.

Among the established players in craft retail, Hobby Ideas is the first of its kind concept in India offering a range of more than 2,500 arts, crafts and hobby products.  It is a chain of arts, crafts and hobby stores, promoted by Pidilite Industries. Post its inception in 2007, the brand took to the franchise route. After achieving success with the company-owned stores, it was realised that the concept and model was well sustainable and the idea of aggressive expansion started taking shape.  The company believes that an entrepreneurial streak, high energy to excel, combined with passion for arts and crafts, can do wonders in making the venture grow, as franchisees can contribute a lot by driving the business beyond the confines of a store. Hobby Ideas is present in multiple cities through many company-owned as well as shop-in-shop stores.

On the other hand, Itsy Bitsy, another home grown craft supply retail brand, finds franchising an apt model for expansion. “Franchising provides benefits for both the franchisor and the franchisee. It includes benefits for franchisees such as a higher chance of success than in a sole proprietorship, shorter opening time, initial training and ongoing support, the selling power of a known brand, use of an established business model, and national and regional advertising campaigns. We foresee a huge market in this segment, as it is still underserved in India, says Harish Clospet, CEO, Itsy Bitsy.”

Inking on a Cartridge biz

At times the printers, photocopiers, cartridges and many other office stuffs are regarded as corporate supplies. Industry sources indicate that in India, the market for printer cartridges is pegged at over Rs 4000 crore and is growing at over 30 per cent Y-O-Y.

Re-feel Cartridge Store is a retail printer cartridge refilling and recycling chain that follows the franchise route of expansion giving business opportunities to potential franchisees. Headquartered in Kolkata, Re-feel holds the largest network in India with a presence of over 120 stores across 85 cities. Established in 2007, the brand retails printer cartridges and their stores are independently owned and operated by the franchise owners. The diverse background and experience of Re-feel store owners, coupled with the expertise in cartridge refilling industry, enables the brand to provide outstanding services to their customers.

Meanwhile, Cartridge World, another renowned brand having an organised retail chain for printer cartridges, intends to set up a network of 250 Cartridge World stores in the next few years and aims to garner 10 per cent market share via the franchise route. The brand serves many individual as well as corporate customers helping them to make huge savings on their increasing printing cost with their cartridges. With presence in more than 51 countries, Cartridge World in India is operational through a master franchise route with AFL Pvt. Ltd, the pioneer in cargo, courier and logistics industry.

Naveen Rakhecha, CEO of Cartridge World, explains: “The franchise business model helped us to reach and educate customers quickly, as the stores are operated by franchisees. Currently, we have more than 100 stores operating successfully across 46 cities in India and are looking for partners to expand further.”

Penning down e-opportunities

With the growing number of online shoppers on the Internet, Indian e- retail industry in stationery and office supplies has seen many debutants joining the bandwagon of diverse yet niche market of online stationery retail. Among the e-retailers in educational and office supplies are koolskool.com, allschoolstuff.com, skoolshop.com, Flipkart and OfficeYes.com. These players have attracted not only a large number of eyeballs from consumers but are also vying to tap aspiring entrepreneurs with loads of business opportunities via franchising.

Talking about the main value proposition of OfficeYes.com, its Co- Founder Arvind Sivdas, says: “The offline market for stationery and supplies is disaggregated, informal and rife with inefficiencies and cost disadvantages for small and medium sized businesses. We solve it via our e-commerce website which stocks 4,000 office products, and our equally world-class customer service levels. We follow the franchise model, as it is very feasible for our business as well as it offers a huge offline opportunity to our franchisees while still leveraging our core technology expertise and world-class customer service levels.”

Another brand Allschoolstuff.com, one of the early brands to enter into school and learning supplies, has joined the race of e-retailer of school and office supplies. The brand provides a one-stop shop solution to students and their parents looking for school text books, stationery, note books, art and craft materials, school bags, water bottles, school uniform, school shoes, sports items, music instruments, science projects, exam guides, fancy dress costumes, science kits and other such educational products. The brand aims at growing in strength and providing much better services to schools, parents, students and teachers for a much-enhanced learning experience.

The way forward

Cartridge World offers systematic technical and business trainings to their franchise owners and their staff. The trainings are conducted by a highly qualified and experienced training staff. The training covers various aspects of the business, including technical know-how, industry   trends, sales, retailing and customer services.  The brand also has tie-ups with well-known transport service providers to take care of logistic requirements.

Officeyes.com, which is looking for pan-India expansion, is inviting potential franchisees with no specific experience in office supplies. However, prior retail experience would be an added advantage to franchisees, they feel. The brand will provide a training pack to their franchisees for operations on a regular basis. Thus, retail franchise offers immense business opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs in the industry of stationery and office supplies.

Franchise facts

Name of the brand





Break even


3-4 lakh

200-300 sq ft

100 %

12-18 months

Cartridge World

Format I (tier-I city) 15 - 16 lakh & format II (tier-II & III cities) 10 – 12 lakh

300 sq ft

24- 30 months

3-5 months

Related: Spreading fragrance of franchising

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