I plan to start my venture from home; however, I am not sure if this is a good idea. Although, it will help me in saving capital, it may not look very professional (especially in India) to meet with clients at home.
Also, changing business address too often may look unprofessional. How important is the location of the office for business' image? Should one pay any attention to this topic? What is the best strategy for this?
Joydeep, it depends on a couple of factors :
I started with a basement startup and we were there for 1 year.
Starting from home is great because of cost cutting benefits. In some places in India, now you can rent executive offices for a day in case you do need to meet clients in a professional setting. Keep in mind that when working from home, you do have to keep your office hours straight and domestic interruptions should be handled by somebody else at home.
Only change the address once you know that you will be in a specific place for a couple of years. You will know that you need to change the address when you have couple of clients or when your employees outgrow your existing space.
You should definitely not meet clients at home. But don't pretend you are a big company though. Meet the clients at a nice cafe or at their offices.
About changing business address: I am sorry, but nobody cares about you and your address. People will hardly notice the business address changes unless you go a long way of notifying them.
Best strategy for this: don't worry about these things. Provide a really valuable service or product. Don't pretend to be something that you are not.
It really depends on what your end goal/target customer is. Are you consulting? Are you building software for these clients you are meeting?
We run a company that does a few things, we largely sell software that's easily registered for and run online. We work out of our home offices extremely often. But occasionally we need to provide services for our clients, and yes, we wouldn't have them over to our homes for these meetings.
So if it were me, I'd make 100% sure an in person meeting was necessary in the first place. People like meetings, but meetings are often bad ideas. They distract you, and are expensive from a time perspective. Time you could be spending building your business.
Meetings are also poor decision making tools. Everyone gets excited in a meeting to make a decision, but many decisions require things like you sitting in silence even for 15 minutes to think, just think. :) Silence is a tool that isn't often present at meetings.
Make sure you've exhausted every resource you can before that in person meeting. Email -> instant messaging -> phone -> webex/video conference -> then if all else isn't going to cut it, meet in person.
It's hard to provide advice on this topic though because I am clueless to the resources you have in India. In Chicago, we have things like the TechNexus that provides an extremely affordable and professional location to have meetings, conferences, etc. And I know other cities have similar services so that when you do in fact need a meeting, it doesn't have to be in your house.
Have you found anything like that in India, where you could pay a monthly fee, or per-meeting fee for that location outside of your house that's more meeting friendly?
Home offices are becoming pretty common (at least in the US), and if you're customers are businesses, most will probably expect you to come to them. In which case, save the money!! On the off chance that you run into a customer that is put-off by your humble office, it's better than spending all that money and finding out no one cares.
I think people have a soft spot for people who are boot-strapping and it won't matter as much as you might think.
That said, if your business involves people visiting your office on a regular basis, then of course you'll need to find a reasonable solution. In the US we have something called coworking offices, where lots of people use the same office/meeting space for nominal fees. Might be something to look into.
Best of luck!
For a few types of business location is critical to send the right message. For most software businesses though, it will be pretty irrelevant unless customers are always dropping in. And is a cheap office going to send any better message than saying I work from home? You can always join a snazzy club and suggest meeting them there as a better location.
We have a very rural location so a simple office and we also have membership of a nice posh London club where we do our entertaining and meetings. Its much cheaper.
We had a big city office right at the middle of the center that was highly expensive. It did make it easier to recruit - but in general not easier to recruit the right people.
It depends whether the office is a place to get work done or a 'showroom/shop window' for you...