12 import-export business ideas to start in India

Alibaba.com DECEMBER 29, 20209 MIN READ
12 import-export business ideas to start in India

Expanding into the global market is a great way to build brand recognition, scale your business, and boost revenue. Businesses in India have a specific advantage when it comes to exporting because they have the means to minimize production costs and maximize profits.

In this post, we will talk about the benefits of starting an import-export business in India before we dive into specific types of items that you could import or export. We will wrap things up with some information on the requirements for starting this type of business in India.

Why start an import-export business in India?

India is a great place to start an export business for several reasons. The main reason that many small to medium-size businesses in India can use the import-export model successfully is that they have access to inexpensive labor and materials.

Additionally, India has a wide variety of natural resources, which makes it easier to source raw materials for production. India is truly a goldmine for businesses that want to start exporting.

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Top 8 products to export from India

Thanks to the low costs of production and access to a plethora of natural resources, there are many opportunities for exporting in India, including jewelry, PPE, pharmaceuticals, and more.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top products to export from India.

1. Clothing

Did you know that India has one of the largest textiles & apparel industries1 in the world? This is primarily because India has strengths across the entire value chain from fiber, yarn, fabric to apparel, and has competitive manufacturing cost. Additionally, one of India’s cash crops is cotton, which is an important raw material for a lot of clothing manufacturing. It currently contributes to 12% of the country’s export earnings.

The global demand for clothing is evolving since people are spending more time at home rather than at work or out in public. Athletic clothing, loungewear, and pajamas are currently very popular because people want to be comfortable as they work from home. Comfortable shoes are also a must.

People are still buying clothes that are meant to wear outside of the house, but once offices, restaurants, bars, clubs, and borders reopen, the demand for this type of clothes will likely slowly rise again.

2. Jewelry

Jewelry is a popular product in India since there are so many minerals and gemstones that are used to make this type of product. Gold, copper, and garnet are some of the most common precious materials found in India.

India produces large quantities of diamonds since the land is so rich in coal. Although diamonds are not rare gemstones, they generally come with a hefty price tag.

India primarily exports jewelry to the United States, China, Japan, and countries in Europe. As of November 2020, nearly 25% of India’s jewelry and gemstone exports went to the United States2.

3. Mineral fuels

India is rich in a variety of mineral fuels, including several fossil fuels that are valuable around the world. Crude oil and natural gas are two of the most valuable Indian resources. Extracting oil costs millions of dollars to get started, but if you have the resources to start investing, it is a very lucrative field.

As we mentioned, another of India’s most plentiful natural resources is coal. Additionally, the land contains dozens of other mineral fuels, including iron ore, manganese ore, mica, and limestone.

These mineral fuels have a wide variety of uses around the world, which means there are tons of export possibilities.

4. Personal protective equipment (PPE)

The global demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) spiked in the first and second quarter3 this year as COVID-19 quickly spread around the world. Masks and gloves that had previously only been worn by medical professionals became necessary for consumers, as well.

While the demand for masks and gloves has leveled out, there is still a need for these products since the virus continues to affect people on a large scale.

This is still a need for alcohol-based hand sanitizers. There are opportunities for exporting the finished product or the materials that are used to make them. The main ingredients in effective hand sanitizers are ethanol, isopropanol, and carbomer.

A common complaint is that the ingredients of hand sanitizers dry out users’ hands. Relatively few manufacturers have been able to create products that effectively kill harmful germs and bacteria while moisturizing the skin. If you have the means to create this type of product, you could have great success in exporting.

5. Raw ingredients

Sugarcane4 and rice are two cash crops in India thanks to the country’s suitable climate. Since both of these crops require a specific climate to grow, they can be harvested and sold as raw ingredients anywhere in the world that doesn’t have a suitable climate.

Sugar and rice can be sold to manufacturers that create processed foods, or they can be sold to food suppliers, restaurants, and consumers as an ingredient.

These items have a decent shelf life, so transporting them isn’t too difficult. The most important thing is to store the raw ingredients in containers that won’t let them come in contact with bugs, rodents, or other creatures. You also won’t want them to be anywhere that they can absorb foul odors.

Sugar and rice do not spoil easily, but since they will be consumed, you need to keep them fresh and clean. Check the federal regulations of where you’re exporting to and make sure that you’re following any mandated guidelines for storage and shipping.

6. Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals are as important as ever since we are in the midst of a pandemic and people around the world are growing more unhealthy. Additional drugs and supplies are necessary for treating the symptoms of COVID-19 patients. Ventilators and other life-sustaining equipment are in high demand.

Aside from COVID-19, diabetes is posing a major issue around the world. Some of this disease is caused by genetic factors, but it is exasperated by unhealthy lifestyles and diets. When people do not manage it, they need specialized drugs, insulin, and tools for checking their blood sugar. The insulin alone demands the need for a variety of syringes, ports, and more.

Diabetes is simply one health issue that is increasing the demand for pharmaceuticals. Heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and other chronic conditions are on the rise.

7. Fish

India has a lengthy coastline and a plethora of inland waterways with equally impressive fish production. In fact, India is home to over 400 species of fish and is one of the major fish producers of the world.

As a fish exporter, you could sell to restaurants, markets, or foreign distributors.

Exporting perishable items like fish requires a tried and true shipping method that ensures that the product does not spoil before it arrives at its final destination. You’ll likely want to stick to selling in nearby countries in order to reduce shipping time.

In addition to fish, Indians also export large quantities of crustaceans.

8. Prints and signs

In many countries, public establishments, including stores, schools, restaurants, banks, and more, have signs that remind people to pay attention to COVID-19 precautions, like wearing a mask and standing 6 feet/2 meters apart.

Having custom signs printed can get expensive for business owners, but when they are created in bulk, they can be sold at a lower rate. Consider creating sturdy signs, posters, window clings, and stickers that can be used for COVID-19 safety.

Some ideas for prints you could make include:

  • “Please stand 6 feet apart at all times.”
  • “Please stand 2 meters apart at all times.”
  • “This way only” (with an arrow)
  • “No mask, no entry.”
  • “All patrons must wear a mask.”
  • Hand washing instructions
  • “Hand Sanitizer Here”

Prints that are catchy with visual diagrams are valuable for businesses. If you decide to manufacture this type of product, prioritize quality since businesses will not want to replace these materials regularly.

Top 4 Products to Import to India

When it comes to importing, you’ll want to choose products that your local market demands but cannot easily access. If you can supply a product with an adequate demand that cannot be easily found or has local options that are too expensive, you’re destined for success.

Here are a few of the top products to import to India.

1. Electronics

The use of electronic devices has grown in popularity around the world in the past decade, and Indians have participated in this trend, as well. India imports billions of dollars’ worth of electronics each year. Most of these products come straight from China.

India does manufacture and export some of their own electronic devices, but they have a long way to go before they match the amount that they import.

2. Precious Jewels

It might shock you that precious jewels make the list of the top Indian imports, especially since we just covered that their land offers so many gems and minerals. Nonetheless, Indians import almost as many precious materials as they export.

3. Heavy machinery

Heavy machinery is currency another major import in India. These large tools are used for construction and industrialization.

At this point, the majority of heavy machinery is being imported from Japan and China. This import industry is currently worth about $20 billion5.

4. Plastic

Although India’s prime minister is working to reduce the use of plastic, this material is still currently one of their top imports. Plastic is also used to create a plethora of household products and product packaging.

Requirements for Starting an Import-Export Business in India

There are a few requirements for starting an import-export business in India, including:

  • PAN card
  • Company registration certificate
  • Business bank account
  • Registration Cum Membership Certificate (RCMC)
  • Import Export Code (IEC)

All of this documentation is used to certify that your business is legitimate. The Indian government uses these certifications to avoid involvement in any sort of international crime.

Getting started with Alibaba.com

Breaking down the borders on your business to take your products into the global market or bring new products to the local market is a great strategy for growth.

As long as you’re importing or exporting a product that solves a problem in the local market, you have a shot at success.

Alibaba.com is a great resource for businesses that are trying to go global. Importers and exporters from around the world use Alibaba.com to buy and sell both raw materials and manufactured goods.

The platform is equipped with tools and features that were specifically designed to facilitate business across borders. The most valuable aspect of the platform is that it has over 14 million users that are ready to buy.

Interested to learn the top trending products and industry-specific data on the Alibaba.com platform? Check out our free demand signal tool for more insights!

1. https://www.investindia.gov.in/sector/textiles-apparel
2. https://www.ibef.org/exports/gems-and-jewellery-export.aspx
3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/using-ppe.html
4. https://www.statista.com/study/68278/cash-crops-in-india/
5. http://www.worldstopexports.com/indias-top-10-exports/