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How to Start an Import Business in India – Complete Guide with Ideas

There are a lot of people who at some point in life think of starting a business in import-export. People who are looking for ideas for importing something into India for starting a business but have no idea how to go about it and how to start an import business in India, this article is especially for you!

In this article, we will guide you on how can you start your import business step by step and how things are imported in India with some interesting ideas.

The first thing you will need to decide is – if you want to import occasionally as an individual? or if you want to import frequently as a company?

By the end of this article you will get answers to all your questions related to how to start import business in India, so please stay tuned with us till the end of this page.

How to Start an Import Business in India? A step by step guide

1. To start importing in India the most important document you will need is Import-Export Code (IEC). The application process for IEC is completely online and it is easy. You can read our article on how to apply for IEC to know more.

2. You should own a valid PAN card.

3. You must open a current account in any government-recognized bank.

4. Select Company name and business type like LLP, Private Limited, trader, etc.

5. Select the product you would like to import, then find a country where that product is widely available, then find sellers of that product in the country you have selected.

6. Arrange for initial investment/finances to import the product.

7. Fix the cost of your product and Find buyers in India who will buy your imported product.

8. Find a genuine freight forwarder & Custom house agent who will help you with customs clearance and tell you about the required details/documents for import.

9. Once all the above things are fixed you are ready to import.

There are many other aspects involved in import business in India other than the ones mentioned above but don’t worry we have got you covered.

Flowchart on how to start an import business from India

To start importing goods for doing business in India, you can follow this flowchart –

Flowchart on how to start an import business in India
  • Find a product you want to import
  • Find a supplier of the product in the international market
  • Form a company or brand and apply or Import-Export Code (IEC)
  • Place the order with the supplier and make sure all documents are in place
  • Manage your finances that will be needed for import
  • Hire a freight forwarder/CHA for the customs clearance process
  • Import the product, pay the duty, complete customs clearance, and finally take the delivery.
  • Sell the product in the local market in India and recover all finances spent on Import.

How to start an import business from home?

Setting up an import business takes a lot of work just like any other business. You can start an import-export business from home as an individual. You can start importing in India either occasionally or one time or you can set up a full-fledged import business. Importing goods to India becomes easier once you have done your thorough research by getting answers on starting an import-export business from home.

Start your Import Business from home

If you are looking for ‘how to start import export business from home? ‘ then, there are certain important points you need to take care of which we have given below –

1. Get an IEC first as this is the most important document to import anything in India. It is like your importer identification number. It takes around 10 to 15 days to obtain IEC.

2. See the legal compliances that are required to import the product that you have selected which simply means checking if the product is restricted, prohibited, or under section 11 of the Customs Act 1962.

3. Get the import license if needed for your product. Once you classify your product as per ITC(HS) you will know if any specific license is needed to import the product. For example, some products need permission from DGFT, some agriculture products need permission from DAC, etc.

4. Filing of Bill of entry (BOE) to do the customs clearance procedure is another most important step and BOE is the most important document needed in customs clearance without which you will not be able to import the goods in India.

5. Check the import duty and pay it. You will know your exact duty amount when you file the bill of entry. You can also calculate the duty amount in advance to arrange for funds once you know the classification in ITC(HS) for your product. Once you pay the duty you can take delivery of your goods.

Since importing goods from various countries, especially from China, and selling them with a huge profit margin in India is very lucrative, a lot of young entrepreneurs are looking for ways how to start an import business from home without investment in India.

How to start an import business from home_

Can an individual import goods into India?

Documents required for importing goods into India

The basic documents that are required to import goods in India from any country are –

1. Invoice
2. Packing list
3. Certificate of Origin
4. Airway Bill / Bill of Lading
5. Any other specific document if needed by customs (example: CA certificate, phytosanitary certificate, certificate of analysis, FSSAI, etc)

Do I need an import license to import in India?

Yes, you need an import license to import in India. An import license is also called an Import-Export Code (IEC) which can be applied online at www.dgft.gov.in. A charge of Rs.500/- is to be paid at the time of application. You can follow our step-by-step guide on how to apply for IEC or you can also hire a professional on Eximpedia by sending an email with details. We charge Rs.2000/- +gst for the entire process and send reminders to update your IEC every year as per the latest notification.

Investment required to do import business in India

The initial investment required to import in India can be anywhere between Rs.50,000/- to Rs.1 lakh. However, this completely depends on the product that you are planning to import and the quantity that will be imported. Initially, most of the money will be required for the registration process of business.

It is always good to start small and then grow later, for the people who are looking for how to get into the import-export business from India. India being a huge growing market, importing can be profitable if done with the right strategy. Once you know how to import, you must start doing research on products and businesses. Research is the base of every strong business supported by a strategy to tackle the risks involved. Know the import process by importing small samples at first and then steadily go on importing in bulk.

Import business can be a risky business if you don’t know the risks associated with it. Hence, you must know about all the risks involved in importing goods to India.

Risks involved in Import Business

If you are in the business of import-export, then you must know about the – Most common risks involved in importing and steps to minimize them. Starting and doing a business is a rollercoaster ride and hence you must be aware of the risks involved in it and ways to tackle those potential threats to your business.

The most common threat involved in the import-export business is the lack of proper knowledge and guidance. Import Export business is a complex business that involves risks in transportation, documentation mistakes, government policies, quality, political, commercial, delivery time, exchange rate differences, natural calamity, amongst others.

How much money is needed to start a import export business in India?

To just start with import-export business from India, you must have at least Rs. 50 thousand to Rs. 1 lakh as a minimum investment toward buying the products, transportation cost, documentation, and fees.

How to start import export business without investment in India?

To start an import export business without investment in India you can start with trading of goods and commodities in international markets. You must identify the price arbitrage opportunities of the exact same product or commodity in two different countries. Then you should find buyers and supply them with the goods sourced at a lesser price.

Eligibility for importing goods into India

There are no eligibility criteria to become an Importer. Anyone can import into India, provided you have an IEC. The application form for Import Export Code (IEC) is given on – https://www.dgft.gov.in/CP/

You can check the FAQ section below to find out – what are the documents required to apply for IEC?

Online Portal and Important websites for importing goods to India

Please make a note of these important government websites that you will need while importing goods to India from any country for business purposes.

1 . https://www.icegate.gov.in/ – For Checking arrivals, filing of bill of entry(s), payment of customs duty, to avail duty scrips, any other important customs-related updates. This website is the most important one to do everything related to import and export and one must explore this website thoroughly.

2. https://www.cbic.gov.in/ – For the latest notifications, updates, circulars, tariffs, regulations, etc.

3. https://www.dgft.gov.in/CP/ – For application IEC, updating of IEC, obtaining licenses, SION norms, meetings MOU in customs, important contacts in customs, schemes application and updates, SIMS, etc

4. https://www.indiantradeportal.in/ – For all trade agreements details, foreign trade policies updates, trade tenders, etc. This is a very helpful website when you are looking for how to start an import and export business.

5. https://www.ldb.co.in/ldb/containersearch – For container search and tracking.

6. https://cip.icegate.gov.in/CIP/#/home – This is more of an informative website on various topics like project imports, the number of customs stations in India, and export incentives. Although this website is still under process, this will help in knowing the correct CTH and in detail process to import anything you want along with needed documents, permissions, etc.

Official Helpline and websites for importing in India

Ice gate provides 24X7 help on their toll-free number – 1800-3010-1000 or you can mail them at [email protected] or you can simply visit their official website – https://www.icegate.gov.in/ also they will solve all your queries related to how to start import export business but you need to know the basics first.

Government schemes for importing in India

Government offers schemes for imports mainly for two reasons – To induce industrial growth in the country and to bring in more foreign exchange when these imports are exported as finished goods from India. This is the reason why most of the import schemes apply to the products which will be used in manufacturing goods that will then be exported on completing the final product. For example – you import a specific type of plastic because you want to manufacture plastic water bottles which you will be exporting when the bottles are ready. Also, this is the reason why import and export schemes are somewhat interrelated as here you will be playing two roles – one is the importer when you import the goods for manufacturing and the second is the exporter when you export the final manufactured product.

You must read and research these government schemes for importing goods into India in detail to get maximum benefits here –> 9 Import Schemes in India for Importers’ Benefit

Here are some government schemes for imports into India

1. Duty-Free Import Authorisation (DFIA)
2. Duty-Free Replenishment Certificate (DFRC)
3. Preferential Rate of Duty
4. Duty Drawback Scheme
5. Duty Entitlement Passbook Scheme (DEPB)
6. Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme (EPCG)
7. Agri Export Zones
8. Manufacture under Bond
9. Served from India

Bonus tip – Do remember that in any business, especially the import-export business, the profitability can be ethically and legally increased by just being aware and following the schemes offered by the government.

Licenses and permits required for importing to India

The only license that is required for import in India is Import Export Code (IEC) and the rest of the licenses and permits depends on the product you are planning to import. You will have to apply for a license and permits as needed by customs for the product that you import into India for business purposes. For example: if you are importing a certain food item, you might need an FSSAI license to import that specific product in India. In this case, you will then have to apply for the FSSAI license if needed.

IEC for import

IEC is an import-export code that is essential for any import/export in India. If you are planning to be an importer/exporter in India IEC is a mandatory document that is needed in customs at all levels. It is like an identification number for you as an importer/exporter in India as well as internationally.

You can check the FAQ section below to find out – what are the documents required to apply for IEC?

How to choose a Customs Broker (CHA/CB) for imports to India

Choosing the right Customs House Agent (CHA) or Customs Broker (CB) is as important as choosing your product for import. Customs clearance is the most important part of import for which only a CHA/CB can help.

Once you know how to start import export business in India, the next thing you will have to do is find a reputed and well-experienced customs broker in India.

Every CHA has its own niche or a product that they are experts in clearance. A Customs Broker (CHA/CB) who clears everything might not always be good. Here are a few points to consider while choosing the right CHA/CB for imports –

1. Choose a CHA/CB who is an expert in the clearance of your product or products of like kind.

2. Ask for their top client list

3. Choose an experienced CHA and avoid newbies even though they offer lower rates. Experienced CHAs have the capacity to work faster in customs as they are aware of all tactics for clearances.

4. Since CHS/CB is a service industry, the costs usually depend on the type of service they give. If you are paying a high cost but are not satisfied with the service, you can opt to choose another CHA.

5. Please choose your CHA/CB before the shipment has shipped or arrived as your bill of entry will have your CHA name on it for identification. Once the bill of entry is filed, you cannot change your CHA/CB.

6. Verify if the CHA is genuine. A good CHA will have MSME registration, and BCBA registration and will be a customs pass holder.

7. Talk to the CHA or meet them in person to verify. An experienced CAH/CB will understand you and your product and will tell you the requirements for the clearance procedure easily. Here you can actually ask the Customs Broker how to do import export from India, they will definitely guide you.

The right CHA will always give you end-to-end service with a consultation.

Can I clear customs myself? Find out here in the FAQ section.

How can I import and sell in India?

How can I import and sell in India_

A lot of traders and companies in India import goods and sell them in India or use it in their manufacturing process or as raw material. These are the steps that usually are followed in the market. However, there are many ways to sell the product once imported into India –

  • Select the product you would like to import. Shortlist a few products at first and research the demand and supply in the market for each of them and then select the product which you feel will be sold easily and has a good demand or will have demand in the future.
  • Form a Brand or a company or both so that the product is recognized in the market by the suppliers. Having a brand or a company will help you grow faster in the market.
  • Search the international market or maybe a specific country where the product is easily or widely available and look for suppliers in those countries
  • Search and shortlist the suppliers in the local market in India where you will sell the imported product/s for example – In Delhi Chor Bazaar, On social media like Instagram and Facebook, on online platforms like Amazon, and Flipkart, In local shops or to local vendors/suppliers, etc.
  • Negotiate with the International Supplier on the price front and make sure the quality of the product is good enough. The more the quantity, the lesser the price is what the market is ruled by. Therefore, always try to order in bulk. You can also visit the supplier internationally to confirm the company, people, quality of the product and import-export terms, etc. You can ask the supplier to print your logo on the products for your branding or you can simply do white labeling business once your product is imported.
  • Ready for Import – Once your goods are manufactured and ready to export, find your Customs broker and freight forwarding agent and import the material as per your discussions with the international supplier, pay the customs duty, arrange for transport, and take the delivery and pay the international supplier as per your terms discussed.
  • Sell the goods in the market – Sell the goods to your shortlisted suppliers in India or online as per your business plan. You will also need to do marketing for your product to be sold in the market.

Although the above steps are the main steps for import, there is a lot of detailed work that needs to be done practically. But nonetheless, if you do one shipment, the next shipment gets easier.

Most of the imports from China to India happen because of the cheaper price and hence we see a lot of Indian importers importing majorly from China. If you are one of them, you can follow the above-listed sales and marketing strategy.

Top 10 Import business ideas from India

We have listed down these top 10 business ideas for starting an import business from India.

1. Inorganic chemicals
2. Electrical tools and equipment
3. Farm machinery
4. Gems and precious metals
5. Toys
6. Kitchen and home improvement products
7. Fancy electronics
8. Oil products and lubricants
9. Car accessories
10. Mobile accessories
Top 10 import business ideas from India

You can take a screenshot or make a note of these highly profitable import business ideas in India listed above that you can start from India. If you are really interested in starting any of these import businesses then you must know each and everything about the product and market strategy after knowing how to start an import business.

You can follow Eximpedia on Instagram to get import – export related business tips.

Do remember – An entrepreneur is the one who makes the product or the business succeed. There is nothing such as ‘the best import business in India’. You must find the products that you understand in and out and once you are confident about it, you must start the business keeping sustainably, profitability and scalability in mind.

Buyers and sellers list for import business in India

Buyers and sellers are the two most important entities in logistics and the supply chain. You have different ways to make buyers and sellers lists for import business in India. With the online world growing at such a faster rate, nothing is hard to find. Right keywords and you will be there. Here we have mentioned ways that might help you find buyers and sellers for your import business in case you are a trader.

Firstly, make sure you know your product. Select or shortlist the countries in the international market that are good and reputed suppliers of the product you want to import and then start the process of finding sellers.

To find sellers for import –

  • Find the sellers online or on google search, there are certain data companies who give sellers data, you can also purchase such data.
  • Shortlist the sellers in the market, talk to them and ask for the details and pricing of the product. To confirm authenticity, ask for their portfolio or website or some certificate related to the quality of the product.
  • After you have spoken to several sellers select the sellers you feel suit the best for your requirements.
  • Visit the supplier or arrange for a video call and check the office and product live online if possible.

If you are an importer who is figuring out how to start an import business with China, it will be relatively easy for you to source your products because there are a lot of sellers who deal in Chinese imports.

To find buyers for import –

  • Search in the domestic market buyers of the product you want to import like manufacturers, small retailers, big retailers, wholesalers, online market, etc, and approach them.
  • If it is a B2B product, you can also find it on trade India, B2B websites, big companies who need the product, google companies/manufacturers who use/need the product and make contracts with them.
  • For buyers, there are data companies who sell data of buyers who need/order the product. They can be approached
  • Find a market where your product is widely sold and explore such market places to sell the product imported.
How to do sales and marketing of the imported goods?

Right product, right time, and the right place are the basics of marketing. Search the market where your product is most in demand or will be in demand and for this, you will need to do your research and study. Once you find the market, find ways to enter the market through both online & offline means. Create a sales strategy and highlight your USP (unique selling point) which is a point because of this, people will differentiate your product from others and buy them. Convince the manufacturers how your product will help them to grow your company.

Which product is best for import in India?

The best products to import in India considering the market is mineral fuels, oils & waxes, and bituminous substances as these products make up for 27% of Indian imports. Apart from these, you can also import pearls, precious stones & semi-precious stones which are 14% of Indian imports. There are also electrical equipment and machinery that make up for 10% of Indian imports.

What are the major imports in India?

Once you understand how to start an import business, you must have knowledge of the import-export industry of India. To begin your research, you can simply start educating yourself by understanding what India is importing and from which country.

Some major imports in India percentage-wise are given below –

Major imports into India
  • Fuels, Bituminous Substances, Mineral Oils (27%)
  • Precious stones, gems, jewelry, semi-precious stones (14%)
  • Electrical machinery and equipment (10%)
  • Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, mechanical appliances (8%)
  • Organic Chemicals (4%)

India majorly imports from these countries

India majorly imports from these countries
  • China (16%)
  • United States (6%)
  • United Arab Emirates (6%)
  • Saudi Arabia (5%)
  • Switzerland (5%)

FAQs related to starting an import business in India

Below we have answered some frequently asked questions about importing in India which will also serve as a guide for you to start import business from India.

What are the documents needed to apply for IEC?

You will need the below documents for the application for your IEC for starting an import business from India.

1. Pan Card
2. Cancelled cheque/Bank certificate
3. Aadhar Card/ Voting card/ Driving license/ Passport (front-back)
4. Electricity bill/ sales deed or rent/lease agreement
5. Debit/credit card for online payment (eximpedia does not ask for any card details)
6. Contact details and Email id
In the case of a company, you may need certain additional documents as well.

Can an individual import goods into India?

Yes, Any Indian citizen holding a valid Import Export Code (IEC) can import goods in India.

IEC code application is completely online, and you can check the steps on how to apply for the IEC on our website. Import can be done in two ways, either as an individual or a company. If you have a specific and occasional import, then you can import as an individual. However, if you want to contribute to a larger part of society and form a company as an importer then you will have to take IEC along with certain other company licenses which will involve taxation and finance.

Can I clear customs myself?

Yes, you as an importer can clear customs yourself. You need to file the bill of entry electronically online either in advance or on the arrival of goods at the customs port and also attach supporting documents like Invoice, packing list, certificate of origin, bill of lading, or airway bill and submit it online for the generation of bill of entry number without which you won’t be able to clear your goods. This bill of entry should be then submitted to customs along with other documents for taking orders for clearance of goods.

However, the above process is time-consuming, and you might have to make rounds to the customs station for the clearance order especially when you are importing as an individual or you have limited staff. Hence, it is always advisable to hire a dedicated CHA who is an expert in clearing products like yours which will save time. Your Freight forwarder can also arrange to clear the goods when in India.

How much does an import license cost?

Import license in India costs Rs.500/- as per the latest government notification. An import license is widely known as an Import export code (IEC). Application for IEC is completely online however you might need a professional to guide you on the application process.

However, you can also take the help of professionals available offline for application of IEC who charge you between Rs.3000/- to Rs.5000/- which saves your time and cost and makes an application with accuracy. Eximpedia charges Rs.2000/- +GST for the application of IEC. For more information on the same please feel free to email us or fill in the form below, our team will get in touch with you.

Is GST mandatory for imports?

Yes, GST is mandatory for all imports coming into India. However, certain import products are exempted from GST for example agriculture products. While importing you will have to share government notification to customs to show that the GST is exempted for the product. So, it is advisable to check the GST requirements at the time of importing goods into India.

We hope this article got all your questions answered related to starting an import business from India. If you have any more queries while starting your import business, please feel free to ask us anything by filling out the form below or submitting your queries by mail – [email protected]

Also please do follow Eximpedia on all social media platforms for all the latest information on import, export, and foreign trade.



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