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Mar, 07 2012


Are you smitten by the entrepreneurial bug and eager to start a new business? The good news is the franchise industry is smiling down on budding entrepreneurs.

LOW-COST businesses are spelling big returns and beaming with new opportunities. We have handpicked the following low-cost franchise ideas for you.

Sole Pleasure

This low-cost business opportunity will take away the ground beneath your feet. The Shoe Laundry is the world's first international footwear laundry and refurbishing service. On how he conceived this unique idea, Sandeep Gajakas, Founder and Owner, The Shoe Laundry says: “I have always been very particular about my shoes and was extremely unhappy with the primitive methods to repair them, so I devised my own methods of cleaning and repairing them.”

The Shoe Laundry is the first of its kind service and has franchisees in India as well as overseas. It has presence in Mumbai, Surat and Bengaluru and will soon establish its outlets in Pune, Surat and Coimbatore. It has spread its wings internationally in Thimphu, Bhutan and Nairobi, Kenya. An eager Gajakas says: “It is a matter of pride for me that an Indian service of such a unique nature has generated interest from overseas and is operating via franchise there too. We are going to open several more franchisees in India in the near future.” The company also does laundry and repairs backpacks, gym bags and luggage on request.

The Shoe Laundry trains the staff of every new franchisee to match its standard. It provides complete theoretical and practical knowledge in every aspect of business, be it washing or repairing all kinds of footwear. The company also helps franchisees in the technical know-how, tools, material, workshop layout, consumables, formulations, adhesives, fitting, etc. “The most important thing that has always worked for us has been delivery of great service to our customers and surprising them with unbelievable results,” states Gajakas.

The Shoe Laundry operates through two models. The first is only pick-up and delivery and the other is through a shop front, across the counter along with a pick-up and delivery offered within the service area. The company is receiving several franchise enquires and will be soon opening its outlets in metros and tier II cities.

There another venture is ShoeVival - The Shoe Laundry (shoe + revival), that has been introduced as the international franchise brand of The Shoe Laundry. One needs an investment of Rs 5.5 - 7 lakh and 400 - 600 sq.ft of commercial property. The breakeven is 10-18 months and RoI 40-60 per cent.

No crying over kidswear

Dealing in kidswear is no child's play. The sector is on a roll, thanks to rising family incomes, global retail formats and exposure to brands that the kids are spoilt for choice. Amitava Saha and Supam Maheshwari while travelling abroad would pick up a lot of things for their kids that were not available in the country. The reasons were the quality of products and huge variety. Looking at the business opportunity in this scenario, they conceptualised FirstCry in 2010 whose online portal is

The brand has become hugely popular and is already touted as the largest online shopping portal for kids and expecting moms in Asia. With over 200 stock keeping units (SKU's) being added on a daily basis, it currently has over 20,000 products that parents can choose for their kids. It currently stores products for expectant moms and children in the age group of 0-10 years.

“One thing that is sure in this line of business is that recession will never affect it. People will continue to have kids and the demand for kids' products will always be there. What sets us apart is the quality of products that we offer. The market potential for this business is bright. With a payback of 18-24 months, the franchisee partners would gain a lot along with FirstCry in establishing this business,” says Supam Maheshwari, Co-Founder, FirstCry.

Franchising has helped FirstCry have physical stores, so that people can have a look at the brands that are sold online. They currently have six franchisees and with the expansion plans in place, they plan to open at least 60 franchisees in next 12 months. The brand is targeting tier-III cities because of the huge potential in those markets.

“Most of the people in tier-III cities may not be open to buying online, so we adopted the franchise models and things fell in place. You don't have many stores that offer all baby and kids requirements under one roof, right from diapers, strollers to clothes/shoes, etc,” affirms Amitava Saha, Co-Founder and Director, FirstCry.

FirstCry helps franchisees do the interiors of the showroom, choose an appropriate location, make local trips to study competition and thereby facilitate making recommendations to a product mix that the franchisee partner must keep. The company also offers support in helping the franchisees build their marketing plans and collaterals in their local market. They also provide them with point of sales software and basically get them up and running in less than 30 days from the time that has been mutually decided.

The break even is 18-24 months and 32 per cent gross margin. The company has an interesting franchise investment model:

Thumping dance steps

Operating a business is no longer monotonous, dance has added an element of fun and entertainment in the franchising sector. Ankur Sethi, Founder, Thump Entertainment Co. Pvt. Ltd, tells how recession made his entrepreneurial voyage successful. “It was early 2008 when slump had just started in the US market and I was part of the recruitment business. Being a partner in the business, our profits started slowing phenomenally. Pallavi Bhatia, Co-Founder, Thump Entertainment, gave us the idea to use dance as a medium of entertainment and fitness. And from there, we never looked back. Today, we have a state-of-the-art dance studios where people have all the facilities from veteran trainers to fitness plans,” says Sethi.

Buoyant about their success in the franchise sector, Sethi shares: “Franchising is one of the best mediums to grow your business as far as you have a strong hold on business operations and Thump certainly has attained it. Our five year plans are already in place, so we shall have a multi-continent presence along with a very deep penetration in India.” With presence in over six states now, the brand is expecting a much-penetrated growth of about 200 studios by year 2014.

Thump's franchise partner is expected to be the one who has a fairly valid inclination towards performing arts and has a strong financial backbone to sustain business till the time of break even. Partners must also have a strong belief in the scope of concept and should be able to match to the company's vision of growth. Initial investment varies between Rs 6 and 15 lakh, subject to location and magnitude of the marketing required for the studio. Break even is achieved between six and nine months. The company has around 14 franchise centres and charges 20 per cent royalty.

Thump supports each franchise on an end-to-end basis, starting from searching for a choreographer, conducting auditions for hiring the best choreographer, training choreographer for a month, marketing research, comprehensive market analysis, designing of marketing campaigns and training of hired staff for understanding the different processes.

Play smart: invest less, gain more

With these low cost, unique business concepts, you can easily sneak into the fantastic world of franchising world. These opportunities are not just lucrative but interesting enough to get started. So, make small bets and pull off a fair share from them.

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