Indonesia Overview

Do you want to do business in Indonesia but are having trouble connecting or moving a deal ahead? Perhaps you have met a potential new customer or business partner at trade shows or business matching but can’t make that connection go deeper.

Developing awareness about  Indonesia’s culture can help you to succeed in a market that presents different challenges.

“The most common mistake we see is Australians going too hard too early. They try to pitch their product without really understanding what their customer needs, or even understanding the customer at all. And then they’re surprised when they don’t get anywhere, when after initial interest things go quiet.”

Coming in too hard, too early is a common mistake for those of us who are used to a more transactional supply and demand approach to business. This approach is unlikely to work in Indonesia, and may put your potential customers off.

Cultural differences heavily influence how much extra time, energy and focus you need to put into four key aspects of doing business in Indonesia. If you are not aware of the differences and know how to adapt, you will struggle to find customers and make a sale.

What hurdles are you likely to encounter if you are planning on exporting to customers in Indonesia?

Finding customers: Indonesians prefer to do business with people they know and trust. This means it takes time to get potential customers to the point where they are prepared to consider you as a new supplier.

Making a sale: This may take longer than you expect as Indonesian companies tend to have more formal organisational structures with centralised multi-layered decision making processes. You may need to engage various people in the customer’s business to get a deal across the line.

The contract: In business, your relationship is the contract. You may be expected to be flexible and adjust if circumstances change. This means it is important to keep investing time in the customer relationship on an ongoing basis.

Communication: Indonesians are used to layered, nuanced communication. There is an aversion to saying no. This means you are likely to miss cues, confuse messaging, which leads to misunderstanding.

Finding customers: How important is it to build a relationship before customers or partners will work with you? How much time is required before a customer will talk business? How do you know if you are dealing with the right person? When can you talk about price?

Making a sale: How open will the customer be with you? How complex is the decision-making process for your customer? Does the person you’re dealing with have the final say? How many people do you need to engage? How long will it take to get a deal across the line?

The contract: What is the relative importance of a signed contract to your personal relationship with the customer? How reliable is your contract? Will your customer expect you to make concessions if circumstances change?

Communication: How different is the communication style? How much effort do you need to put into making sure you understand (and are understood by) your customer? Is your new contact comfortable with saying no?

We can help your with connection and collaboration to make your Indonesia business the success it should be.

This resource is brought to you by Bisnis Asia and the Export Council of Australia

Business Culture – Indonesia