How to Start a Saree & Salwar Business

by Sujata Srinivasan; Updated September 26, 2017

Given the global proliferation of people of Indian origin, coupled with greater awareness about Indian culture among non-Indians, a saree and salwar kameez business could prove to be lucrative if you have a winning business model. Total textile imports by U.S. firms in 2008 totaled 50.4 billion sme (square meters equavalent). Assuming you are located in the U.S., the scope of your business will span two geographical markets - importing textiles from India, creating value add through hand embroidery, for example, and conducting sales via formal and informal channels.

Items you will need

  • Business plan
  • Minimum investment of around $1,500 (excluding airfare, accommodation in India)
  • Wholesale saree and salwar kameez suppliers in India
  • Buyer in India (optional)
  • Freight forwarder with customs broker services
  • Import paperwork and harmonization system codes for textile imports
  • Sales and marketing channels including Web site, social media outlets, e-mail catalog, printed Brochures and flyers

Creating a Winning Business Model

Step 1

Conduct a feasibility study to ascertain the demand among your circle of friends and acquaintances. Determine how much they are willing to spend and how often they might purchase sarees and salwars. Research on which fabric and styles are most popular. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) provides access to capital markets for minority-owned businesses (See Resources).

Step 2

Visit Indian garment stores in your city, typically located in South Asian neighborhoods such as Fremont in California, Devon Street in Chicago, Jackson Heights in New York and Edison in New Jersey. Talk to store owners on their suppliers, cost structures, inventory movement, margin, and sales outlook.

Step 3

Develop a well-defined business plan consisting of the required initial investment to cover fixed and operating costs, and operational structure from procurement to sales. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides assistance with the business plan, marketing, and budget management. (See Resources)

Step 4

Meet with wholesale suppliers in India. A comprehensive list of manufacturers and suppliers of women’s apparel is available at www.indiamart.com.

Step 5

Pick your set of suppliers – review the legal requirements and insurance coverage. Arrange to obtain a pro forma invoice, the details of which must be submitted to the customs authorities. Establish a well-documented payment system. Select your harmonized system codes to enable your imports to enter the U.S. Textile imports range from HS 5001 to HS 6310. (See Resources)

Step 6

Pick a freight forwarder/customs broker after obtaining a set of price quotes and acceptable shipment terms. A list is available at www.business.com.

Step 7

Set up a creative display area -- maybe you can begin in your basement. Set up a Web site for free in hosting sites such as GoDaddy.com. Expand through word-of-mouth before launching print advertising initiatives.

Tips

  • A local business partner in India will provide expertise in product and procurement, and help minimize travel costs.

About the Author

Sujata Srinivasan is a Connecticut-based freelance business journalist with over 10 years of reporting and editing experience. Key positions held include: Editor of Connecticut Business Magazine, Senior Financial Editor at Ness Technologies, and Correspondent and Interim Bureau Chief at CNBC-TV 18. She has a bachelor's degree in Business Management, a post-graduate diploma (hons) in journalism, and an M.A. in Economics.