Business Deals 101: A Small Business Owner’s Guide To Contracts In India

Posted On - 11 July, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


For any small business, establishing a strong foundation is essential for sustainable growth. While passion and innovation are crucial drivers, a well-defined legal framework is equally important. Contracts serve as the cornerstone of trust and collaboration in the business world. They provide a clear roadmap for agreements with clients, vendors, and employees, outlining rights, responsibilities, and expectations for all parties involved.

This article will elaborate upon the basics of contract law for small businesses in the following manner:

  • Essential Elements of a Contract
  • Common Types of Contracts for Small Businesses
  • Tips for Drafting Strong Contracts

Essential Elements of a Contract

For a contract to be legally binding in India, it must possess certain key elements. These elements are explained below using real-life examples relevant to small businesses:

  1. Offer and Acceptance: This establishes the “meeting of the minds” between two parties.
    Offer: For example, a bakery owner, A, needs flour. She calls a supplier B and proposes buying 100 kg of refined wheat flour for Rs. 20 per kg with delivery next week. This is A’s offer, outlining the product, quantity, price, and delivery terms.
    Acceptance: B considers the offer and responds that he can deliver the same at the offered price, quantity, and delivery terms. This is B’s acceptance, mirroring the terms of A’s offer.
    Important Note: If B had rather proposed that he could deliver 120 kg for Rs. 22 per kg, it would be a counteroffer, requiring A’s acceptance for a valid contract.
  2. Consideration: This refers to the exchange of value between parties.
    In our example, A’s consideration is the payment of Rs. 2,000 (100 kg * Rs. 20) for the flour. B’s consideration is delivering 100 kg of flour. Both parties give something of value to form the contract.
  3. Capacity: Both parties must be legally capable of entering a contract.
    A and B must be of legal age (18 years in India) and of sound mind to understand the contract’s implications.
  4. Lawful Object: The contract’s purpose cannot be illegal or against public policy.
    A and B’s contract is for a legal purpose – buying and selling flour.
  5. Free Consent: Neither party should be coerced or pressured into the agreement.
    For instance, a competitor threatens A to buy his flour instead. This would negate free consent. The contract formed under such coercion would not be valid.
  6. May be Implied Contract: A contract may be written or oral, explicit or implied.  An implied contract is a business agreement inferred from the conduct of the parties, even without a formal written document. While legally binding, implied contracts can be difficult to prove in court. Further, Implied contracts typically cover specific transactions or short-term arrangements. For complex agreements, relying solely on an implied contract is risky.

By understanding these essential elements, small business owners can ensure their contracts are legally sound and protect their interests.

Important Clauses in a Contract to Protect Your Business

Beyond the core elements of a valid contract, including additional clauses can further safeguard your interests. Some common clauses are:

  • Indemnification Clause: This protects one party from financial loss if the other party breaches the contract or causes legal trouble. For instance, A (bakery owner) signs a contract with a delivery company. An indemnification clause could state that the delivery company would be financially responsible if their negligence damages A’s baked goods during transport.
  • Governing Law Clause: This specifies which state’s laws will apply if a dispute arises regarding the contract. This is crucial, especially when dealing with businesses in different states. For instance, A, operating in Delhi, might want the contract with her flour supplier (based in Maharashtra) to be governed by Delhi law, where she is familiar with the legal system.
  • Termination Clause: This outlines the conditions under which either party can terminate the contract. This can be based on breach of contract, insolvency, or unforeseen circumstances.
  • Confidentiality Clause: This protects sensitive information shared during the agreement. For instance, A might share a unique recipe with a bakery equipment manufacturer for a customized oven. A confidentiality clause would ensure the manufacturer keeps the recipe confidential.
  • Force Majeure Clause: A force majeure clause in a contract protects both parties by outlining unforeseen events (natural disasters, pandemics, wars) that could hinder fulfilling obligations. If such an event occurs, it may excuse a party from their contractual duties for the event’s duration. To avoid disputes, a well-written clause clearly defines covered events, their impact, and any notification procedures.
  • Dispute Resolution Clause: This outlines the process for resolving disagreements arising from the contract. This could involve negotiation, mediation, or arbitration before resorting to court.

Common Types of Contracts for Small Businesses

  • Shareholder Agreement (multiple owners): Defines relationships between shareholders, including profit sharing, decision-making, and dispute resolution.
  • Service Agreement: Outlines terms for services provided, limitations of liability, and payment details.
  • Sales Contract: Specifies goods, quantity, quality, price, delivery, and warranty terms.
  • Employment Contract: Defines job duties, compensation, benefits, confidentiality obligations, and termination clauses.
  • Non-Disclosure Agreement: Protects confidential business information shared with a third party.
  • Lease Agreement: Establishes terms for renting commercial space, including rent, maintenance responsibilities, and termination clauses.
  • Privacy Policy Agreement: Governs collection, handling, and sharing of customer data.
  • Loan Agreements: Standard agreements from banks outlining loan amount, interest rate, repayment plan, and consequences of default.
  • Independent Contractor Agreement: Defines the working relationship for outsourced tasks, including scope of work, timeline, cost, and independent contractor status.
  • Website Terms of Use Agreement: Defines the legal relationship between website owner and users, including limitations on use, disclaimers, and privacy policy.

Tips for Drafting Strong Contracts

Drafting clear and enforceable contracts is crucial for any small business. Three key points to keep in mind are:

  • Prioritize Clarity: Strive for plain language that all parties involved can easily comprehend. Avoid legalese and technical jargon that might lead to misunderstandings later. Using clear, concise sentences and everyday language ensures everyone is on the same page and reduces the risk of future disputes.
  • Include Key Details: A strong contract meticulously outlines all the essential elements of the agreement. This includes the scope of work, which clearly defines the services or goods being provided. Additionally, ensure the contract specifies payment terms, outlining the amount due, payment schedule, and any applicable penalties for late payments. Finally, a well-drafted contract incorporates clear termination clauses, specifying the conditions under which either party can end the agreement and outlining any required notice periods.
  • Seek Legal Guidance for Complexities: For intricate agreements involving significant financial commitments or complex legal issues, consulting with a lawyer is highly recommended. A lawyer can review the contract, ensure it complies with all relevant laws and regulations, and tailor it to effectively safeguard your business interests. Their expertise can be invaluable in navigating complex legal situations and preventing potential problems down the road.


Well-drafted contracts are the foundation of trust and collaboration for small businesses in India. Understanding essential elements like offer and acceptance, consideration, and legal capacity ensures a contract’s validity. Key clauses like indemnification and confidentiality further protect business interests. Common contracts include those for services, sales, employment, and leases. By prioritizing clarity, including key details, and seeking legal guidance for complex situations, small businesses can navigate the legal landscape confidently and safeguard their success.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

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