2 min read
25 May 2021

When the word ‘start-up’ comes to mind, most people visualise a small business with 10-15 employees working in a corner office with a vision of changing the world. This image, though not wrong, does not adequately convey what a start-up is in the truest sense. It also leaves a lot of scope for confusing a small business with that of a start-up.

There are many reasons – entrepreneurs start both these business types, and both have low employee count and low revenue. So, what makes them different. We begin explaining by stating their definition.


  1. A start-up is defined as a ‘temporary organisation searching for a repeatable and scalable business model’. According to the ministry of commerce and industry, government of India, it is:
  2. A registered entity not more than seven years old
  3. Has never crossed an annual turnover of Rs. 25 crore in any preceding financial year
  4. A company working towards innovation and development of products or services that have a high potential for wealth creation or employment generation

An SME (small and medium enterprises) is an ‘independently owned and operated enterprise, designed for profit and sells known products to known customers in local markets. As per the revised definition, SMEs in India now comprise both manufacturing and service enterprises. The following classifications based on the turnover value and investment amount determine an MSME’s micro, small or medium enterprise status.

Additional Read: Four financial habits to better manage business growth

Business objective

A start-up starts small but has a very big vision. It has come into existence to prove that the business model can hugely impact the current market. From the onset, start-up founders envision growing their firm into a large, disruptive company that will rearrange an existing industry or create a new one altogether.

SMEs or small businesses follow a tried and tested path and don’t travel off it. They are structured organisations that follow a known and established business model. Founders of small businesses are focused on gaining profits by delivering value to their customers. The best way to achieve this is by following a stable and prosperous business model and securing a financially viable position in the market for a long time, along with getting business finance to fund the company’s growth.

Funding and control

Start-ups are in a hurry to prove that their business model is viable, and for this, they require funding. Start-ups have humble origins and are founded to prove a point. The founder’s vision does not feature thoughts like retaining control of the company.

As the start-up begins to grow, it will receive funding from angel investors and venture capitalists who will buy out a stake in the company with their investments. Over time, the founder’s control over the company will diminish, and she/ he will move on to the next idea/ challenge.

Funding for small businesses is the same as that of a start-up in the initial stages. But, in contrast to the latter, the founder’s interest is in retaining control over the company. He will seek business finance from various financial institutions, such as NBFCs, to grow his company without relinquishing control.

Risk factor

This is one of the significant differences between these two business types. Start-ups promise enormous potential, high return on investment and claim to bring revolutionary changes in the industry they operate in. Any company claiming to upend an entire industry with a novel idea is treading a path fraught with high risks.

Small businesses are not risk-takers. They follow a path that has already been treaded a million times before with proven returns. Hence, they are much more stable than start-ups and offer consistent returns with a significantly lower risk profile.

Additional Read: When is the best time to start your small business loan search?


Start-ups are trailblazers in their own right. They are pursuing ideas that have never been explored before. Therefore, the equipment they utilise also has to be more advanced than what is already available to the industry to reach their goals.

SMEs don’t require cutting-edge equipment to manufacture the products or give the already present service in the market. Hence, they can do conventional technology and only upgrade their equipment if they want better efficiency in pursuit of higher financial gains.


Both these company types are founded by entrepreneurs and might appear the same at first. However, they are as different as chalk and cheese, with radically different ideas that separate them from the onset. Their stated objectives and method of working and acquiring finance further differentiate them from each other.

While care is taken to update the information, products, and services included in or available on our website and related platforms/websites, there may be inadvertent inaccuracies or typographical errors or delays in updating the information. The material contained in this site, and on associated web pages, is for reference and general information purpose and the details mentioned in the respective product/service document shall prevail in case of any inconsistency. Subscribers and users should seek professional advice before acting on the basis of the information contained herein. Please take an informed decision with respect to any product or service after going through the relevant product/service document and applicable terms and conditions. In case any inconsistencies observed, please click on reach us.

*Terms and conditions apply