Thailand is considered one of Asia’s tiger economies, with many opportunities for enterprising companies to make use of both a relatively cheap but well-educated labour force, together with an increasingly efficient infrastructure.
However, there are many pitfalls that need to be avoided when looking to expand a business into Thailand for such a venture to succeed.
Making the initial foray
The Thai government offers a business visa to applicants wishing to come to Thailand to research the opportunities that might exist for their company. This application is best made at the Thai consulate in your existing location, rather than entering as a tourist.
This will allow you to stay up to 90 days at a time and is renewable under the right circumstances. There are many websites that offer detailed advice on the best methods of applying and also the best consulates to apply at with up to date information.
Setting up an office
The best method of hitting the ground running is to look into using a serviced office, at least to begin with. Not only will this offer you immediate support services, you will be able to move into a fully functioning office within a matter of hours.
Most of the facilities you will need (phone, Internet, secretarial, fax, etc) will be immediately available, together with an all important address. Remember too that Thai culture places a great emphasis on status, so make sure your serviced office will impress both in terms of location and decoration.
When looking for a serviced office, remember the following:
· Communication can be a challenge in Thailand, so choose an office where you are able to communicate easily with the staff. They will become invaluable to you when you need to talk to other Thais.
· Location is critical, with Bangkok roads still jammed on a regular basis. Make sure you choose somewhere close to the two train networks. This will save you a great deal of time later on.
· Keep an eye out for hidden costs. Some offices will not be clear on just what is included, so ask about VAT, phone, Internet and installation costs.
· Bargaining is a way of life in Thailand, so be prepared to negotiate a little.
Setting up a Thai company
Advice on this topic would fill an article in itself, but the crux of it is simple. You will need professional help with this task if you are to avoid getting bogged down in administration to the point of not being able to focus on your own business needs.
There are many professional companies that specialize in just this task, and you should get quotes from at least three different companies. Your checklist of factors to consider:
· Once again communication is critical. Any company you choose has to have the ability to communicate with you without misunderstandings. Check to see who will be your point of contact on an ongoing basis.
· Check for a strong history of satisfied customers. Go so far as to ask for references and be diligent in checking them.
· Choose a company that is conveniently located to your base. Bangkok can be troublesome to get around, so bear this in mind.
· Always check the costs and try to make sure you are comparing like for like. If a quote is not clear, request further details so that you can accurately see how one company’s service costs compare with another.
· Negotiate as always, and use this as a way to test communication channels.
Once your company is set up properly, it will be necessary to apply for an official work permit to continue to work in Thailand. Again this is something that you can outsource and is probably in your best interests to do so.
Many companies find the easiest way to start in Thailand is to look for a Thai business partner right off the bat. This way, you can plug right in to an existing network and take advantage of partnerships that have been in place for many years.
Of course, this means finding the right partner, which may not always be possible.
The alternative is to look for networks that you can work into quickly and may include:
Your embassy in Bangkok
Clubs such as the British Club or American Club
Expect to spend the first few months meeting as many new people as you can in order to start connecting with the right people.
The one piece of advice that will be relevant throughout your time in Thailand is this:
Always keep smiling and try to keep your temper.