Are you an Aussie with a fantastic business idea? You may want to consider relocating to launch your entrepreneurial venture, possibly even overseas and if so you’ll need to consider many potential destinations. Today, business leaders and expats alike are realising the potential of the Southeast Asian region. With regions transforming into mini-Silicon Valleys, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia are ideal agriculture, technology and real estate investment locations. This blog details the optimal Southeast Asian locations from which to launch your business and the benefits of doing so and why the Southeast Asian expat scene is developing so fast.
Benefits of Southeast Asian entrepreneurship
Southeast Asia is going through a period of rapid growth, driven by entrepreneurial innovation. The burgeoning industries include: technology, agriculture, ecommerce and real estate, among others. As the saying goes a rising tide lifts all boats and being in these fast growing economies can provide a vibrant environment for growth. Here are some key benefits of starting a small business there.
Cost of living
Something Southeast Asia is renowned for is its affordability. The reduced costs of living enable entrepreneurs to thrive. Countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam understand that to build successful businesses, founders must meet their expenses. As such, entrepreneurs can live a millionaire lifestyle for a fraction of the price.
For a mere $1,000 a month, you can rent a home with a pool or garden, and even hire a personal chef. This low cost of living is ideal for start-ups. The more you reduce your living expenses, the more cashflow you can funnel into your business. This allows your venture to grow organically. So, you will have more time to gain a client base and build up your product or service.
In recent years, Southeast Asian countries have seen an explosion in co-working spaces. These spaces are a cross between an office and a café. Their casual, yet constructive feel is extremely attractive to entrepreneurs. Another attractive feature is these spaces are cost-effective. Many co-working spaces offer an all-inclusive package for as little as $200 per person. These packages include amenities such as: hot-desks, private meeting rooms, conference spaces, kitchen and coffee facilities and much more.
However, price is not the only motivating factor. Southeast Asian co-working spaces provide entrepreneurs with access to high-speed Internet, in areas where the connection was previously not possible. Ubud in Bali is a prime example. Previously, Ubud was wholly ignored by business owners, due to very unreliable internet. Now, this remote tropical island has been transformed into a thriving base for many first-time entrepreneurs.
With the world at their fingertips, many entrepreneurs conduct business wholly online. However, while building their businesses, it’s also important for entrepreneurs to maintain social connections. It gives workers the opportunity to connect with fellow staff and clients offline. This is why cities like Singapore, Chaing Mai and Bali offer outstanding networking opportunities. These cities proudly boast more networking events than many of their Western counterparts.
Away from a familiar environment, and away from friends and family, you are forced to concentrate on business relationships. And, you will undoubtedly discover these relationships move quickly. You may meet some bloggers in the local coffee shop, for instance, or share a meal with fellow small business owners. Remember, that every business connection you make is valuable and can assist your growth.
Networking is simpler than you think. So simple, that many partnerships transform into lifelong friendships.
Territorial tax systems
Another key benefit of Southeast Asia for entrepreneurs is the territorial tax system. Under this system, neither Singapore nor Malaysia taxes your overseas income (where that income is not remitted to or received in that respective country). The prospect of keeping 100 percent of your overseas income, and the low cost of living, make Malaysia an extremely attractive option for entrepreneurs.
Malaysia also provides open borders for economic migrants. However, this is contingent on whether you can prove a long-term contribution to the Malay economy, via the MM2H (Malaysia My Second Home) scheme.
Some of the best places in South East Asia to start a new business in
Digital nomads are flocking to Southeast Asia in droves. It is considered one of the easiest places on earth to start a business. This is due to abundant networking opportunities, territorial taxation policies, a free-market economy and more. As a result, online businesses, like ecommerce and SaaS thrive. Here are the best countries to launch your start-up.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang is a destination of choice among entrepreneurs and investors. For years, it has been cited among expat business owners as the “next big destination” for start-up ventures. With a population of over 92 million people, Vietnam offers business owners access to one of Asia’s most robust domestic markets.
And as its population grows, it’s role in Southeast Asia will only increase. This makes it the perfect place to establish a firm customer base. In sharp contrast, Northern Vietnam has a reputation for being less business-friendly and more bureaucratic.
Da Nang’s exponential growth is driven by major investment into start-ups from venture capitalists. Along with this, a small business incubator and a new innovation fair aims to position Da Nang as the “innovation hub by the sea.” If you haven’t visited Da Nang you must! The city, on the banks of the Han River is modern yet enjoys stunning surrounding areas including world class beaches with the breathtaking Sơn Trà Peninsula on the cities edge and the historic Hoi An old town and Hue Imperial City both an easy drive away.
The thriving start-up scene is even enticing major international companies like Apple to enter the market. This isn’t surprising, as the country is fertile ground for new innovation and international business conferences. These include: DevDay, Google Dev, and more.
However, foreign investment in Vietnam has always taken a long time to materialise. So, we advise you not to expect any overnight successes. Although, with hard work and patience, you will establish your brand in a thriving economy.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Similar to Bali, Chiang Mai is somewhat of a Mecca for digital nomads. Chaing Mai is popularly known as, “the capital city of digital nomads”. This city is a rite of passage for many digital nomads to live and work independently.
International companies from the BBC to Amazon have hosted networking events in this city. And, co-working spaces have popped up all throughout the city to accommodate the influx of remote workers. Drawn to these collaborative co-working spaces, many “transient expats” choose to temporarily settle in Chiang Mai. The city’s low cost of living and easy-going nature makes it the ideal location for small teams to develop their business ideas.
Recently, Penang has become a haven for upcoming entrepreneurs. It is an extremely appealing place to launch a new venture, and it is easy to see why. Penang boasts stunning scenery, a diverse workforce and a culture that strongly encourages foreign business owners. The state benefits from robust government support and a fantastic local acceleration programs to nurture new businesses.
To a new entrepreneur, Penang can seem like an expensive place to set down roots. However, it is far more affordable than the majority of Western countries. The state’s capital city, Georgetown, has delicious, cheap food and a thriving street art scene, which is conducive to its creative culture.
To facilitate business growth, Georgetown boasts a myriad of co-working spaces and cafés. Located a short flight or train ride from Kuala Lumpur, Penang is the ideal place to establish a physical business or work remotely.
For decades, Bali has been one of Australia’s most sought-after holiday destinations. Everything from its tranquil beaches, to its stunning rice fields, make the island the ideal place to recharge. Bali is also becoming an entrepreneurial haven. It is particularly popular among those establishing digital businesses. Much like the nearby islands of Ubud and Canguu, Bali is emerging as a hub for digital nomads. To support this, many are now calling the island “Silicon Bali”.
The majority of entrepreneurial growth in Bali is driven by digital nomads and their direct offshoots. The country’s entrepreneurial community is so well developed that Ubud could transform from a cheap lifestyle destination to Indonesia’s answer to Silicon Valley.
Bali’s start-up environment is growing so quickly that many Southeast Asian expats are choosing it as the destination to launch their businesses. You will have the chance to network with a wide variety of start-up owners. As such, you will gain invaluable experience in building your venture.
The local and Southeast Asian expat community are very friendly, and more than willing to share their knowledge with you. This is extremely helpful, particularly if you are just starting out.
Are you considering launching your new business in Southeast Asia or becoming a Southeast Asian expat? For personalised advice and information on expat life in these stunning countries, call or email the Expat Taxes team.