How to choose a business partner in Indonesia

Differences between a European partner and an Indonesian Partner 

Whether it is an importer, a distributor, a factory or a commercial agent, in every FDI it is crucial to engage with a reliable partner. You need an agent who will guide your product in an unknown market for you. 

To set up a business with an Indonesian entrepreneur is not the same as to set up one with a European entrepreneur. Cultures are different and so are, subsequently, personality and character. Truly, every person is different, but there are certain features which can be highlighted as general differences between Europe and Indonesia:

When a European manager lays an offer on the table, we normally wait for a fast response, whether our counterpart is interested or not. In Indonesia, we need to be patient as the answers will not be reached soon and it does not always mean they are not interested, but simply that they take their time to respond.

Another situation where a European will need to be patient is with the Indonesian punctuality. With a population of over 270 million of inhabitants, and a surface of 1.904.569 square kilometres, life and traffic are quite hectic in Indonesia, especially in big and metropolitan cities like Jakarta where traffic can hold you up for one hour easily.

Another noticeable difference is the way business is done. In Europe an agreement could be closed in a single meeting. Unlike in Europe, in Indonesia more meetings are required before a closure takes place. 

The first meeting could be defined as a ‘getting to know’ meeting. If the new Indonesian partner is interested in the idea, he will request a second meeting. But this is usually an informal meeting, a dinner invitation for us to say. This second meeting gives you the opportunity to earn his trust. Indonesians are very sociable people and they like to run their businesses with “friends” so it is recommended to be open and honest with them. 

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Beware that with so many meetings, sometimes it is easy to skip relevant information so it is important that before closing up the meeting, every issue discussed is summarized and noted. 

Indonesian people are subtle people. If there is something they dislike or do not want, they will not say it to you directly. When doing business, if they are not interested, they will either not reply or they will let you know they are still thinking about it. 

Moreover, Indonesians are curious people so do not fear if they ask personal questions during a meeting. Questions which could be indiscrete in Europe, are completely normal in Indonesia. 

Finally, it is very common to do business through WhatsApp, even more usual than via email. It is a way to prove closeness. Email is considered a colder way of communication and they usually take more time in being answered.