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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat
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    Starting a Business in Thailand - Tips & Tricks

    So you want to start a business in Thailand, this is the thread for tips on starting a business in Thailand, not noodle soup stalls or fried chicken feet eateries, but proper businesses aimed at farang tourists who don't eat chickens feet and that sort of stuff.

    First off you need a name, now remember most tourists do not speak Thai, so your guesthouse or hotel called Sabbai guesthouse is just a meaningless noise to them, how many meaningless noises do you remember? Would you recommend a meaningless noise to friend who also doesn't understand meaningless noises?

    As most people speak English it would probably be a good idea to actually use an English name, that way people will remember it, people wont be searching on the net for "sabai" or "sabuy" or other equally useless search terms trying to find your business, so think of an easy to remember English name.

    Right, anybody else got any tips?

  2. #2
    I am not in Jail AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog
    Right, anybody else got any tips?
    Why not start a business that caters to/serves both Thais, foreign residents, and tourists. Even better would be a business exporting to foreign markets.

    Aiming solely for the tourist market leaves you at the mercy of seasonal fluctuations and the like.

  3. #3
    ding ding ding
    Spin's Avatar
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    Learn to speak Thai, relying on your girlfriend or wife to manage certain areas of a business just on the basis that they can speak Thai is a mistake under most circumstances.

  4. #4
    Excitable Boy
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    Location, location, location is true in Thailand just like anywhere else- spend the extra baht for a better spot, even if it's rundown a bit or not as big as a place further down the street- you will more than make back the extra investment.

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat Mr Earl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog View Post

    First off you need a name, now remember most tourists do not speak Thai, so your guesthouse or hotel called Sabbai guesthouse is just a meaningless noise to them, how many meaningless noises do you remember? Would you recommend a meaningless noise to friend who also doesn't understand meaningless noises?
    Wrong.

    First off a foreigner who starts a business here should know going in he/she has the
    odds stacked against them.
    Second you should know a bit about what you're doing, it should be "FUN".
    Thai people especially Thai ladies are inclined to having fun. If your employees are having fun it likely the customer will too.
    Thirdly and perhaps the most important is locating the biz. You have to have a good location with a reasonable rent.
    Fourthly if you perchance get a money making biz going always claim poverty. Otherwise the greedy [at][at][at][at] landlord will up your rent an demand exorbitant "key money". I sold my first business here because of the greedy Sihk landlord jacked up up the rent and overhead.

    Yep I know a lot about it and my advice is to be very wary of investing money in business here.

    I'd say:
    First off you need a Thai proxy(someone who you would trust with your life) so you (the farang) can be totally invisible.

    Anyway whatever it is you should consider the fun angle first.

    On to my next thread which will be about how to start a winery, that should be fun, I hope.
    From the Gospel of Earl

  6. #6
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    Don't have a 'location'...do your business on the internet...that way you keep control...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl
    you (the farang) can be totally invisible
    this is probably the best advice of all...I've seen lots of 'strutters'...but they expose themselves to unnecessary risk...

  8. #8
    Excitable Boy
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    Quote Originally Posted by klongmaster View Post
    Don't have a 'location'...do your business on the internet...that way you keep control...
    That's not going to work if you have a business aimed predominantly at Thais- you need a visible, convenient location.

  9. #9
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    I reckon one of the biggest obstacles to a farang setting up a business in Thailand is the Thai attitude that farangs are idiots with too much money and there for the milking. The few farangs who have made it (and no doubt a couple will post here), will try to tell you that their success was due to their special skill and knowledge at sussing out Thai culture. But I reckon its 1 part skill and 9 parts luck. Luck in finding a Thai business partner or associate who has the brains to see a good business opportunity rather than just the old milk the farang scam for short term profit. Starting a business in Thailand is certainly more than just having a good business idea. Many of the Thai laws are stacked against farangs for a start. Then there is the problem of dealing with the Thai official corruption. Combine that with the Thai business mentality of cheating and rip offs as a legitimate business tactic and you are up against a formidable wall of obstacles not evident in the west.

    All I can say is good luck to those who have run the gauntlet and succeeded, and even better luck to those about to try.

  10. #10
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panda View Post
    I reckon one of the biggest obstacles to a farang setting up a business in Thailand is the Thai attitude that farangs are idiots with too much money and there for the milking.
    Yeah I'd agree with that general sentiment - they don't believe you need the money so they should get a discount for that alone. Plus being a farang associated with a business, it easy for the thais to bad mouth the business because everyone knows farangs are jai dum - if they can't say anything bad, they will just make it up... Thais are like cows, they don't have the brain to think independently, if one says something is bad, they all think its bad and won't go out to verify the information themselves. Stand up to a thai and not let them rip you off = farang jai dum.

    Good example is buying a car, thais will ask why you didn't buy toyota (No1) or Isuzu (No2). Ask them why toyota is so good they can't give you any real answer except for "everyone say".

    The odds are stacked up against you - thais just don't believe you should be profiting anything in their country. If I knew what I do now, I probably wouldn't have started the business that we do now and put the money somewhere else.

  11. #11
    Thailand Expat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    Good example is buying a car, thais will ask why you didn't buy toyota (No1) or Isuzu (No2). Ask them why toyota is so good they can't give you any real answer except for "everyone say".
    But that can also be put to good use, if you want a car that you can easily sell you buy a Toyota, if you don't then you can buy a mazda or puegeot which you will lose a tonne of money on.
    So, if you want a secondhand car showroom do you go for mazdas or toyotas? Think the answer is obvious.

  12. #12
    Thailand Expat superman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klongmaster
    Don't have a 'location'...do your business on the internet...that way you keep control...
    If I wanted to do a business in Thailand then this would be the way I'd go. But being as I don't need to, I'll stay well clear of all money making opportunities

  13. #13
    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog
    good idea to actually use an English name
    Dirty Dog Diner in neon lights should be a winner.

    Other than a great name, do your homework, choose a partner wisely and as others have noted, stay well below the radar.

  14. #14
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    Good example is buying a car, thais will ask why you didn't buy toyota (No1) or Isuzu (No2). Ask them why toyota is so good they can't give you any real answer except for "everyone say".
    But that can also be put to good use, if you want a car that you can easily sell you buy a Toyota, if you don't then you can buy a mazda or puegeot which you will lose a tonne of money on.
    So, if you want a secondhand car showroom do you go for mazdas or toyotas? Think the answer is obvious.
    Yeah I agree with the resale argument, but the reason that toyotas get a better resale is for the reason I stated imho. Now, if you were talking about the merits of the vehicles, toyota don't rank No1 for me - I personally think they have grown long in the tooth while the other manufacturers are improving their models to get better market share.

  15. #15
    Member Cenovis's Avatar
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    I think the trusted Thai Name Porn is all what is needed to have success with Tourists, best if connected with a Massage Place or a Hair Salon.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by FailSafe
    That's not going to work if you have a business aimed predominantly at Thais
    you obviously didn't read the OP...
    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog
    this is the thread for tips on starting a business in Thailand, not noodle soup stalls or fried chicken feet eateries, but proper businesses aimed at farang tourists

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl
    On to my next thread which will be about how to start a winery,
    That will be worth waiting for

  18. #18
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    Some farang seem to succeeed here but I think most fail, it's difficult to run a business in any foreign country.
    Some friends have found a needed nitch that the Thai have'nt or can't do. Then they make $$$$ because of cheap labor etc.

  19. #19
    I am in Jail

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    My tip is don't ever start a business in Thailand, your ruin is guaranteed.

  20. #20
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    The odds are stacked against you.

    Try not to let the Thai control the money as they will find many other mates who have business ventures that are to good to be true....sure sure you make good money Lek.

    If its a hobby you can afford - same as buying a boat....

    ...on ya go....enjoy
    Do you know what nemesis means?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by FailSafe View Post
    Location, location, location is true in Thailand just like anywhere else- spend the extra baht for a better spot, even if it's rundown a bit or not as big as a place further down the street- you will more than make back the extra investment.
    "Location, location, location" is not necessarily true. As you know tons of underground parties and alternative clubs are located in warehouse districts in cities in the West. But they draw big crowds.

    A lot of expat businesses in Thailand fail because of their business models, even though they have good locations. For example-- the bar named Zoe in Yellow in Chiang Mai, in a good location just off Ratwiti close to the eastern moat. Run by an American woman and her Greek husband. It was a favorite hang-out of the ngo crowd. It was going until late '08. But then in 2010 when I visited it again, it had an all-thai staff, I did not see the woman or her husband. Don't know if they are still the owners, but the style of the place had changed to be more like a disco with a dj on top of high platform, unsuitable for a place that small. When the couple were there, the place rarely had more than a few people at the bar. So they had to stage "events" like parties, etc. to draw crowds. This sort of thing can only be done occasionally, so they might not have been making it on 5 customers for 6 nights of the week.

    In another case, a German opened up a place called "The Sandwich" in an even better location in Chiang Mai, right on Kotchasarn facing the eastern moat not far from the wat. Visible to major traffic. Brand new building with huge windows. Everything goiing for him. But just like Zoe in Yellow, his business model was flawed.

    Then there was the place also in CM on Chang Moi Kao (hope I got the name right) which is one street north of Thapae Road. It was a barn-like place, meant to be a restaurant, run by two Dutch guys who did not have a clue. They just did not have a business model, and could not come up with one when things were not working. I offered to try to save these guys, but they did not connect before we all had to go our separate ways.

    A few years before this, Dtoy's coffee shop was also on Kotchasarn. It was so empty most of the time that I was 50 or 100% of the clientele on many afternoons. I offered to help these guys too--thai wife (Dtoy) and Brit husband (Phil). There were two major problems that I could easily have solved. But with consulting in an unstable legal environment, one must either have a lot of trust or cash up front.

    Tons of places in excellent locations. But the owners just could not think about how to make things better even though a little observation and analysis would have told them at least some negative things to improve.

    The Burmese food place, also on Kotchasarn, also just closed (Feb. 2010). But right next to it, the Burrito place, which neighbors Mike's Burgers on the other side, seems to be full much of the time.

    For some reason working-class Brits with their fish-and-chips shops, and working-class yanks with their burger or mexican food places seem to make it in LOS.
    Last edited by wanderer; 16-03-2010 at 05:57 PM.

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat
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    A friend has just started up here doing something that he has done for years in Europe.
    His raw materials come from China and are wholesaled by the Thais, the Thais are making a business out of absorbing the outragious minimum orders from the Chinese manufacturers.
    Turns out that the Thais public up to now have had no exposure to this product and they love it. All the wholesaled raw material seems to be exported and although this product has been very popular in Europe for 30 years it has not been available to the Thais. And they love it.
    Falling asleep and waking up is not the same as passing out and coming to.

  23. #23
    Excitable Boy
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    Quote Originally Posted by wanderer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by FailSafe View Post
    Location, location, location is true in Thailand just like anywhere else- spend the extra baht for a better spot, even if it's rundown a bit or not as big as a place further down the street- you will more than make back the extra investment.
    "Location, location, location" is not necessarily true. As you know tons of underground parties and alternative clubs are located in warehouse districts in cities in the West. But they draw big crowds.

    One-off events that generally can't be held in more populated areas and specialty clubs are not really germane to the point.

    Obviously location is not a guarantee of success, but it sure is a major consideration.

    Using Thailand as an example, look at how (some) shops on large thoroughfares flourish, while their counterparts on sub-sois often flounder as no one even knows they're there.

    Yes, there are plenty of people out there that can screw up a wet dream, no argument, but (depending on business type) location can be the single most important factor to success.
    There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
    HST

  24. #24
    Scene, not herd.
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    Do something you are good at and enjoy.

    Do not rely too much on Thais.

    Keep complete control or as much as possible.

    Keep your head down and remain inconspicuous.

    Do not flaunt your earnings and manage your money efficiently.

    Do not trust anyone and I mean anyone, Thai or foreign.

    Make sure you are well acquainted with Thai business and labour law and keep as legal as possible.

    Can't think of much else at the moment, that should start you off.
    Hard hat, tabard, torch and cocky toolbag
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  25. #25
    I am in Jail
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog
    Right, anybody else got any tips?
    don't give the key of the safe to your Issaan whore

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