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Differences between starting up a company in South East Asia and Northwestern Europe

Rosanne Hortensius, Commercial Manager, Saleduck Asia | April 8, 2016
Rosanne Hortensius of Saleduck spells out the differences on how business in conducted in SEA.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

When starting up a new business, you should always take into account local differences and habits. Starting and running a company in Northwestern Europe can be quite different compared to one in South East Asia (SEA). For those from Europe that are considering a new venture in South East Asia, there are some things to keep in mind:

Setting up

In Europe, rules are rules and there is little to no wiggle room on how things can be done. Administration tends to be more automated and soft copies are generally preferred over hard copies. Most transactions are done online and as a result, the processing times tend to be faster. Things are more traditional in SEA. Hard copies are preferred and bureaucratic administration can last for months if one is not familiar with the process or doesn't have the right connections.The company stamp is king in South East Asia, don't leave home without it.


Different job portals are used to find a job or talented candidates. LinkedIn is really popular in Europe, whereas in Asia people mostly use Jobstreet. Recruitment companies are also used more often in Asia than in Europe. Also, the costs differ. In Asia, you normally pay a certain percentage of the monthly salary of the employee to the recruitment company. In Europe, a fixed placement fee is more common. When you are hiring people with foreign language skills, in Asia, you can expect to pay a good chunk of language allowance. In Europe, this is not the case.

Probation period

This is where things get a little dicey in Europe. Since you can only terminate one's services within the first month, you have to be quick on the ball in determining whether these employees suit your organisation. In Asia, it is not an uncommon practice to have a probation period of six months, giving more time for you to evaluate your workers. Termination is also done very quickly, with 3-day advance notification being the norm.

Flexible working hours

Public transportation in Europe can get you anywhere, almost from door to door. Cycling is also a favoured mode of transport with less cars occupying the road. In SEA, traffic can be really crazy during rush hour making commuting time impossible to predict. As a result, people try to avoid this traffic if possible and because of that prefer to start really early or quite late. Therefore, flexible working hours is a really important condition for Asian employees and companies looking to find quality human resources should consider offering flexible working hours as part of a job perk.


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