Takeaways from Entrepreneurial Link — Singapore x Indonesia!

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Last Friday, BLOCK71 Singapore, together with East Ventures , assembled an exciting panel for “Entrepreneurial Link: Singapore x Indonesia”, an “Indonesian 101” for those contemplating expanding to Indonesia!

The opportunities that await founders and investors, the types of infrastructure support available and the unique characteristics of the Indonesian market were shared by the panelists through amusing anecdotes and candid reflections.

What are some problems that Singaporean start-ups face when they venture into the Indonesian market?

· There is a language barrier as a lot of official paperwork (e.g. contract, letters) is in Bahasa. It would be useful to have an Indonesian contact to assist with processing the paperwork.

· Setting up a business in Indonesia can take two to three months and can be a laborious process, compared to doing it in Singapore. Start-ups push the boundaries and by definition, they are ahead the curve. They should have the mentality to act first and deal with issues later if you are going to expand to Indonesia. If you can operate in a more efficient manner, you have a competitive advantage.

· The rules and regulations can change every 3 to 6 months and it is necessary to be adaptable. Think big and constantly re-evaluate your business proposition to thrive and scale in Indonesia.

· Indonesia is not a mature ecosystem for start-ups so it is harder to source for talents. Additionally,

as start-ups expand, operational constraints arise in managing the staff situated across various locations. A very strong operations team is essential for start-ups to succeed and the empowerment of staff is one way to achieve this.

· Doing B2B in Indonesia is difficult as it requires a strong network of relationships with business owners. The trust-building element is as important as having a good product, if not more.

What are some tips for Singaporean start-ups to succeed in Indonesia?

In a nutshell, be alert and nimble.

· All start-ups can’t compete head on with conglomerates so they should choose a niche. They have to know their target audience and offer a great product or service, before they start expanding.

· Start-ups must understand that Indonesia is not homogenous and locations have their own idiosyncrasies. The strategy is not to focus have a one-size-fits-all approach but to tailor it depending on the location.

· Start-ups require the support of locals who understand the challenges and problems of a location, in order to expand, especially to the rural areas. The locals can act as a middle man between agents and start-up founders. Start-ups should also seek influencers and actively build their networks.

· Start-ups should talk to others, who have encountered the same issues that they are facing, and learn how these people overcame them. They can organise seminars, workshops or networking sessions and invite lawyers, agents, other start-up founders etc. so there can be a sharing of problems and solutions. Start-ups can consider doing reference checks on potential partners to ensure they are credible and reliable.

· Start-ups can leverage BLOCK71 Jakarta and other incubators to better understand the Indonesian market, ‘set up shop’ and expand their networks into the community.

· Indonesian culture places an emphasis on interpersonal relationships; being compassionate and friendly to employees and partners goes a long way. Start-ups can try to schedule 2 to 3 meetings in a day as traffic in Jakarta is legendary and also encourage their staff to work from home to increase productivity and morale.

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The Panel — (from left) Willson Cuaca, Albert Lucius, Cai Li, Gang Chern Sun, Chan Ih-Ming and Carlson Lau

Are you an entrepreneur working on a cool product and looking for more than just a co-working space ? Do apply for a hotdesk here and become part of the exciting community that we offer at BLOCK71 SINGAPORE.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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