Can European Companies be Champions in Indonesia?
    Category: Column By : Boye Hartmann Read : 1113 Date : Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 01:51:33

    When I first visited Indonesia two things blew my mind; the great hospitality and the opportunity for doing business. In this article I would like to share my top four pieces of advice for any European business considering Indonesia, based on my experience here.

    My journey started in early 2014 when I founded YGroup Asia to improve Indonesia, mainly through technology. Ygroup now has three companies: Ydigital Asia—a digital performance marketing agency, Bdigital Indonesia—a one-stop platform for SMEs, and Y-academy, which trains digital talent.

    Indonesia is a diamond in the rough with 260 million and a growing economy. The opportunities are huge, but there are challenges. President Jokowi swore openness to FDI but it’s still to kick in. Admitted, sudden law changes can be counterproductive for international companies, but it should not prevent one from doing business here—since when did great reward come without risk?

    Advice 1: Find strong partners who can help you sell
    I partnered with Kejora, a JV between Mountain Partners Switzerland and three local families. If starting from scratch, selling your services can take years and endless meetings. Meeting are helpful, but access to a network is what seals the deal. We have recently helped two companies enter Indonesia. Through a reseller agreement, we offer their technology to our clients and they get access to the market. Together, we empower Indonesian companies to streamline their digital services. Despite Western influences, Indonesians are patriotic and will pick a local product if you don’t stand out.  

    Advice 2: Hire the right talent – start with back office functions
    If I started fresh today, hiring local HR & Finance would be my first action. Find a local HR person who can find the right people, explain salary levels, benefits etc. Invest in building the right culture from the beginning too. With the right support and direction, I see great local talent unfolding every day.
    Advice 3: Be patient and embrace the differences
    The Indonesian word for patience is sabar. Learn it, because you will need it. Things take time. No matter how strong your network is, sometimes you just have to kick back and wait for an answer. I take the time to meet with my prospects, build stronger relations and get to know them and listen to their story.

    Advice 4: Use European Union resources to help your internationalization
    It is good that the EU has recognized the potential of Indonesia and is trying to help European SMEs enter the country. The EU has started projects like the EU-Indonesia Business Network that pulls together local European chambers of commerce. Checking these resources and using their helpdesks is probably a good way to answer questions.

    If you have the right technology (or any other product) at the right price, the rewards here can be big. Following my advice will not get you all the way, but for sure it will be a shortcut. Best of luck!

    Focus on Europe is a new quarterly column produced in partnership with the EU-Indonesia Business Network (EIBN).