10 Small Business Ideas in Garment Industry

Business ideas in garment industry

There is a tendency among young professionals to move out from day jobs and start something on their own. Having work experience in the garment industry, we primarily look for business opportunities in the fashion industry. Keeping this in mind, I have shared some small business ideas that are related to the garment as a product and some business ideas are services for the garment industry.

Each business can be started on a small scale. If you are on the same board you may be interested to know some ideas on small business ideas. Even if you don't have experience in the apparel and textile field, you can start a business in this apparel sector. 

Small-scale business ideas in the garment industry

This is a long post. So, take time to read the business ideas listed on this page. I have given links to other resources. Read those as well. 

1. Small-scale garment factory set-up

You can set up a small garment factory with your own tailoring or manufacturing experience. Setting up a readymade garment manufacturing unit is considered as top one among the other small-scale business ideas. To scale production, you need to hire a few tailors and supporting staff. Make garments and sell finished garments to retailers or wholesalers in your city. You may select products such as school uniforms, ladies Kurtis, salwar-kameez, men’s shirts or make ladies blouses. You can also sell your designs on e-commerce portals, like Amazon and Flipkart.

To set up a small-scale garment factory, first, you need to decide the product or product group that you will be making in your factory. Next, prepare one project report – note down all kinds of requirements for factory set-up. Here is a brief note you need to know for garment factory set-up.
  • You need sewing machines, fabric cutting machines, ironing, and garment finishing equipment. Prepare a list of machines required and contact machinery suppliers for the price quote and purchase of machines.
  • You need to set up the infrastructure for the factory, lighting, water, material handling equipment, furnishers, etc. 
  • You need space for factory set-up. While planning for space requirements, consider production processes, shop floor, office areas, sample showroom, pantry, warehouse, etc.
  • You need to hire skilled manpower and need service providers
  • Need to source raw material, including fabrics, trims and accessories.
  • Prepare a business strategy and develop a customer base. 
  • Prepare the investment requirement and how would you arrange the fund for the business setup and factory running cost. For the fund, you can take a business loan from a bank. 
You can start a small business with a capital of 5 lakhs Indian Rupees. Initially, you need to invest in machines, factory shed, and employee wages. Normally garment operation cycle is 3-4 months. Factory running cost needs to be considered for that period. Industrial sewing machines are costly compared to blackhead sewing machines. So, you can start with the blackhead sewing machines with an electric motor to reduce capital investment. 

I have shared a machine mix of common apparel products for your reference. If you need additional guidance on small-scale business setup, contact us.

After setting up the garment factory you can do full package garment manufacturing or CMT manufacturing depending on your order and buyers.

Related post: Business Plan for Garment Manufacturing Start-ups

2. Sub-contracting business in garment stitching

In garment sub-contract manufacturing, you need to set up a garment factory. Set up a small factory and do sub-contracting work (job-work) for export houses and domestic brands.

In buying seasons garment export houses book orders in excess quantity than their own production capacity. To complete those orders on time they look for sub-contractors or job-workers. In this business you don’t need to handle buyers, don’t need to purchase raw materials. You need to collect cuttings from exporters and stitch garments. Some brands look for stitching, finishing to packing the garments.

In sub-contract manufacturing, you just need to invest in machines, later you don’t need to invest in raw materials.

You can expand your job-work services and find an opportunity for getting orders from local retailers, and school uniform and office uniform sellers.

Read "Subcontracting Business Process in the Garment Industry" to know more about subcontracting business process.

3. Garment wholesale business

This one is a profitable business among other small-scale business ideas. In the garment wholesale business, you source garments from different manufacturers and brands in volume. Later those are distributed and sold to garment stores. You can start the garment wholesale business in your spare time. Source garments from manufacturing hubs and distribute those garments to shops in small cities. As you purchase goods in bulk quantity and directly from manufacturing hubs, you will have a good margin in this business. 

In India, Ludhiana and Tirupur are considered knitwear manufacturing hubs for all age groups. Kolkata is well-known for kids' garments in the woven category. Delhi is well known for shirts and jeans for sourcing. Though there are many places from where you can source garments in bulk for your wholesale business.

For this business find garment manufacturing hubs for sourcing bulk garments and get the dealerships of some products and from brands. Once you get buyers, you can get garments manufactured from the job-workers.

4. Open a clothing store

You can open a garment retail shop or an outlet in your small town or city, in a street corner, or inside a mall in metros. If you chose this option, you need to plan the product group you will be primarily selling. You know there is a wide variety of product ranges and of the different price range. If you visit a marketplace in your city, you will find all shops are not selling the same apparel product ranges. Depending on your budget, and your interest, decide the product group. 

Small Clothing Business Ideas
Clothing store

From my observations, here is some product grouping you can consider for a clothing store.
  • Kids and Mom clothing products – All products range kids normally need and some regular products of the season-wise you need to change product sourcing.
  • Ladies' products – Kurtis, Leggings, tops, dresses, gowns, and more. 
  • Youths product range– T-shirt, casual shirts and jeans, shorts
  • Innerwear products – Sells all innerwear products of women and kids, including night suits
  • Family shop – You can keep all product ranges of a family clothing requirement.
  • Knitwear products – stores only sell knitwear products including innerwear and winter wear clothes.
  • Sarees – This is another product range where you can sell saree and include bridal collections, lehengas, and ladies' suits.
  • You can take a franchise of apparel brands. Where brands will supply you with their products, you need to sell and get the commission.
Even you can start selling apparel products from your home. In the modern-day, many women are doing business from home – like selling ladies clothing products including Kurtis, gown, salwar-kameez, and other wide range of products, selling Sarees, designer clothes. For this kind of business, you need to source good quality products and a variety of designs that will be preferred by the prospective customer. You need to promote your business if you are doing business at home. 

Related post: Home-based tailoring business.

Note: If you are considering opening a clothing store, learn about garment quality and customer demand in the selected product range. Buy only quality products and sell quality garments only. By selling quality products you can build trust with customers and retain your customers for repeat purchases.

5. Export surplus garments store

Export quality (international brands) garments at a low price are on-demand nowadays. In metro cities, most of the young generations want to look trendy and wear branded clothing, but they don’t want to spend much money in Brand’s retail shops. So, they look for export surplus garments. Therefore, opening an outlet for export rejected and surplus garments is a good and profitable business idea. If you are working or worked in past in garment manufacturing, you know that garment manufacturers make extra garments than the order quantity they get from buyers. Sometimes whole order gets rejected due to a quality issue or shipment delay. Purchase stock of surplus garments from factories and sell at attractive prices.

Though there is an unethical practice in the export surplus business, you should avoid doing unethical business. I mean, many stores make garments locally using low-quality fabrics and trims and attach brands labels. They sell those garments as an export surplus. But these are not the export surplus products that customers are interested to buy from such clothing stores.

From where you will get the surplus garment? Google for surplus garment dealers and agents. They can help you souring export-surplus garments.

6. Start a printing and embroidery unit

Printing and embroidery are value-added processes in garment manufacturing. In this fashion age, to make products trendy, the designer always adds some colors and patches to their designs. Hence, excluding some basic products, all export orders include printing process or embroidery work, or both. To set up Print and Embroidery machines in-house garment manufacturing factories need to invest extra money for these machines. You need to hire staff and bear the maintenance cost. In the end, printing and embroidery machines capacity will not be utilized by them fully. Looking at all aspects, small-scale garment manufacturers don’t set up in-house printing and embroidery machines.

Thus, it can be one good business opportunity in these value-added processes. You can fill up the gap and the printing business. Start with flat-bed screen printing and later add the latest printing machines to scale up your business.

In recent days, digital textile printers getting more popular. You can even set up a printing business using a digital textile printer and do custom garment print services.

7. Set up a garment washing plant

Washing is required in various stages of garment manufacturing – fabric washing, and various types of garment washing.

Secondly, buyers placed an order for washed garments, with different types of end looks and hand feels. Small exporters don’t have their own washing plant. You can look at this option as one of the business opportunities.

To set up a washing plant, you need to buy a washing machine, hydro extractors, and tumble drier. Washing machines are available in different capacities. You need to set up a machine with variable capacity, considering that you will get washing job-work orders of various volumes and weights.

8. Starting a garment buying and sourcing agency

An apparel buying agency works as an intermediary between apparel brands and apparel manufacturers. They take orders from buyers and get the garment manufacturing done in garment manufacturing. Depending on the product type, order volume, and buyer's vendor selection procedure, a buying agent selects its suppliers. There is no fixed rule for selecting a garment supplier. Bigger brands involve their team in vendor selection, while small retailers give all responsibilities of vendor selection and order sourcing to their sourcing agents.

If you are working as a merchandiser in an export house or a buying house for a few years, you might have developed a good relationship with your buyers. You have a good opportunity to contact buyers, take the order and get manufactured garments from a factory. You can even set up product development and sampling room to attract more buyers and display a wide range of products.

You will be needed for a small team to start an apparel buying house. For this business, you need to contact buyers and show them your designs. At the same time, you need to develop a supplier base, that is eligible for making your design and order at your target cost. Check these important points to start a buying house.

9. Starting a consultancy service

You might have built up your expertise and skills in some specific fields. If you have a passion for teaching others and can solve real-life problems daily faced by garment factories, buyers, and auxiliary business firms, you can start consultancy services.

Though at present consultancy services are not very popular in the apparel industry, in the future factories will look for expert guidance -in the areas like cost reduction and factory performance improvement. Training of the production department to enhance employees’ skills – in merchandising, industrial engineering, sewing operator training, etc.

Other than doing full-time consultancy services, you can also do freelance consulting and provide your services to needy businesses. The area of consultancy would completely depend on your area of expertise. For example, one can provide pattern-making services, Techpack development, product designing services, sourcing raw materials, etc.

10. Custom T-shirt printing business

The custom t-shirt printing business got popular at the start of this decade. In the custom print business, individual customers or a group of customers, design their own design and place t-shirt/polo shirt orders online and get the printed t-shirt delivered to their homes. This business opportunity is still there but it has saturated. There are some big players like Vista Print.

You can still start a custom garment print business, you can find the gap and fill it with your innovative services. The custom t-shirt print service provider buys blank t-shirts in bulk and keeps in inventory. When they get an order with printing artwork, they print the selected garment (style, color and size). Printing can be done using a digital garment printer or a screen-printer.

With the custom t-shirt business, you can also add custom embroidery services. Customers normally want embroidery for a brand logo. A logo stitching machine can be used for custom logo embroidery. If the embroidery design size is bigger then you need to choose a computerized embroidery machine.

11. E-commerce business

This one is an additional idea. The e-commerce business can be done in two ways – first starting your own label and selling your designs through your own website (e-commerce site). If you want to start small and don’t have huge money, I would not advise starting an e-commerce platform for selling your own designs online. Instead, you can purchase garments and sell those garments on Amazon, and Flipkart.

There are a few other e-commerce web portals like Paytm, Shop Clues, and Myntra. You can also consider selling your product through them. Yes, you can start your label and sell your products through these e-commerce platforms.


I have just explained 10 plus garment business ideas. You can start one out of those 10 business opportunities depending on your competency and business networking. Each business is profitable if you can create your customer base and specialization. Yes, there are many other kinds of business opportunities in the apparel supply chain. My objective is to give you an idea that will inspire you to explore more in starting a small-scale business in the apparel sector.

Many entrepreneurs aspire to start their own labels on some specific products. If you have similar dreams, go for that. For starting your own label choose any apparel product.

Whatever business you start, you need to follow your country's rules in starting a business. Here is I have shared a list of things you need to do to start your business. (Disclaimer: the list of legal documents may vary and this is not a complete list)
  • Give a name to your business. Company name and brand name can be the same or a different
  • Register your business. Registration can be as a proprietorship firm, partnership firm, a company, Private limited company. What kind of registration you need to do depends on some factors. Take guidance from a CA for the correct one. 
  • Open a current bank account, under your registered company name
  • Apply for PAN card
  • GST registration
  • Tax registration
  • If it is a factory in the commercial area, you may take the license for setting up the business. Also, you need various certificates from local authorities. 
  • For the business promotion and online address, register a domain. Get one website for your company.
Did I miss any idea that can be a business opportunity for a garment industry employee? 

As we are moving forward, new business opportunities are coming. Please add your valuable ideas in the following comment box.

Books to refer to:

To enrich the knowledge of the newcomers in garment manufacturing, I have written a book titled Garment Manufacturing: Processes, Practices, and Technology. If you want to know more about garment manufacturing processes and want to know how garment export houses work, I would suggest you read this book.  

I have written another book "Kick Start Your T-shirt Business: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting
A T-Shirt Factory from Scratch
". This book will guide you in preparing your business project report and estimating project financial projections. 

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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