By Stacy Stube
IT was during a holiday on the island that I caught the Bali Bug; not the one that affects the stomachs of many tourists (that’s Bali Belly), but the madly-in-love and ‘can’t live or breathe without you’ kind of bug. Bali is one of the few places in the world that I have visited where you get this hopeful sense that anything is possible. Despite being half-Indonesian and half-American, I grew up in the United States so I had to relearn the language when I landed in Indonesia and take the time to understand the Balinese way of life.
For 13 years I worked steadily toward a childhood dream of building a socially focused fashion company that gives back to the community. I completed my Masters studies at London College of Fashion and London Business
School and worked for some of the top luxury fashion brands in both the United States and Europe. However, when I arrived in Bali, I really had no idea how to start a fashion business. I had created a business model during my studies, but that model was of no use to me when I first landed in Bali, when I was merely trying to survive. There are so many things that you can only learn by doing when you are becoming an entrepreneur.
If you are considering setting up a business in Bali, I would like to share my insights in order to save you a few unnecessary headaches. I have created a summary in the form of a SWOT Analysis, to highlight the key Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, along with my Top Ten Tips for Setting Up a Business in Bali.
- Low cost: living, labor and property rents
- Warm weather, beaches, mountains and rich culture
- Fresh produce grown locally
- Slow and spotty internet
- Limited legal protection
- Health issues due to common illnesses in the region and poor hygiene
- Heavy traffic jams and pollution
- Everything takes longer than promised, which means longer wait times
- Many religious ceremonies delaying business processes
- Low level of customer service and business professionalism
- Focus on producing lots of products at the expense of quality
- High level of creativity amongst the Balinese people
- Ease of customization
- Production can be done in small quantities
- Relative accessibility to Indonesia as a growing emerging market
- Close proximity to other markets across Asia
- Many legal limitations within the context of business. For example, if your business operates outside the spectrum of the registration categorisation you could incur a hefty fine
- Corrupt System – many officials are looking for a payout ‘bribe’
- Owning land as a foreigner is not a straight-forward process and involves reliance on a partnership with an Indonesian co-signer. This process requires a certain degree of trust that could pose a problem in the future if the relationship doesn’t work out.
- Temporary loss of key staff as the need arises. For example, when an employee’s relative is sick or team members have to return to their village, and a replacement is not easily found, this leaves the business vulnerable.Cutting corners is common when manufacturers or suppliers are looking to find a way to make a bit of extra money
- Limited protection of your creative works – copying is a standard business practice on the island.
Top Ten Tips
1. Learn Bahasa Indonesia – Some locals speak English, but many don’t. I’ve noticed that foreigners end up paying higher prices when speaking English.
2. Learn to drive a motorbike – Traffic is a massive problem on the island so get used to spending lots of time on your bike. Be careful with your bags while on the bike, as there have been many motor accidents resulting from bag thefts.
3. Get a business visa – Although you can apply for a visa with an agent in Bali, you must leave Indonesia to process Once complete the visa allows you to stay on the island while you are deciding whether to commit 100% to setting up your business. The visa is valid for one year but you must leave the country every 60 days. I would advise against registering your business in the beginning as it can take about 3-6 months. Moreover, your business idea may change over time.
4. From homestay to house contract – A ‘homestay’ is is a cheap form of accommodation, while still figuring out where you want to live. If you decide to stay, you will save you money in the long run to rent for longer periods like six months to a year. Prices are usually negotiable, so ask around with a local Indonesian friend in tow.
5. Learn the Balinese Hindu and Muslim Calendars – Mark your calendar for the key religious The Balinese Hindu have a large number of festivals and ceremonies throughout the year. Also factor in that the Muslim population fasts for an entire month during Ramadan.out where you want to live. If you decide to stay, you will save money in the long run to rent for longer periods like six months to a year. Prices are usually negotiable, so ask around with a local friend in town.
6. Have enough money to last you at least one year- Two years’ worth of funds is wiser and a safer bet. You can live fairly cheaply, but you may occasionally have to factor in unanticipated expenses.
7. Build Bridges with other Business Owners – In the early days of starting up your enterprise, you might want to seek out other business owners on the island who may be willing to help you.
8. Understand Indonesian Business Practices - Learn the Indonesian way of doing business by engaging with the local community so that the business can grow more Sometimes it’s easy to follow what you are used to in approaches to business, but be open to new perspectives.
9. Visibility through Social Media – I highly recommend using social media platforms to promote your business through video content, blogging and even a crowdfunding.
10. Spread Your Risk - Reliability and consistency are among the greatest challenges when it comes to dealing with vendors and Make sure to have a fall-back plan for all aspects of your business.
Looking back, this is the best advice I heard when I was starting out: ‘When people start questioning your decision to move to Bali and they want to know how you will do it, just tell them: ‘I don’t know how I will get there, but once I have gotten there then I will tell you how I did it’.
I have documented the good, the bad and the ugly in a year-long blog called Bali Fashion Dream. www.balifashiondreamblog.com. My book, based on my blog, was released in January 2015.
Now it is up to you to dive into your dreams. No one else can do it for you. What are you waiting for? The greatest journey of your life awaits… See you in Bali!by