I’ve spent the past year and a half of my life in Thailand, and the past 2 and a half years in different parts of SE Asia.
Coming from the UK, I’ve spent at least a small amount of time in Indonesia (Bali), Phillipines, Vietnam and most recently, Thailand.
The International Entrepreneurs Mission
My modus oporendi in a new foreign land usually involves meeting up with other travellers and entrepreneurs, scoping out the startup scenes, getting a feel for where market opportunities lie and generally just soaking in the vibe of each place.
The question I’m left with after travelling most of SE Asia with an ‘entrepreneurial eye‘ is simply:
Why Would You Start A Business Anywhere Else?
MergePay is a Thailand based business. Beyond the lifestyle benefits for a foreigner living here, which is what most people assume people head to SE Asia for, the financial numbers behind starting a business in this part of the world makes it pretty close to a no-brainer.
As a team or an individual trying to build or grow something valuable, which I assume is the intention of most entrepreneurs and business owners, a large barrier to growth is what’s commonly known as lifestyle overhead.
This is the personal cost –in time, energy, and hard cash– of simply existing on a day to day basis. Buying and preparing daily meals, access to social circles, life maintenance tasks like mowing the lawn and keeping your house tidy/in order – these are all tasks that can take up a siginificant amount of time, energy and of course cash.
If you use MergePay to track your personal income and outgoings (bills and expenses) then the ‘burn number’ shown on your dashboard partially shows your monetary lifestyle overhead, or at least what disposable income your overhead leaves you with at the end of the day/month/year.
But your burn number only shows a small part of the picture. The real overhead that comes with your lifestyle is your energy and time. I’m talking about your executive energy and those precious hours of flow that we experience from time to time. Combined, these elements are what lead to real change: in your life and those around you, in your business, for your plans and projects and so much more.
A 2-3 hour commute to the office would be considered expensive in terms of lifestyle overhead. It’s essentially down time, with an added dose of energy depletion thrown in.
Where The Real Value Lies In Starting A SE Asia Based Business
The real value in running a business from SE Asia does not really come from saving cash, although that is pretty easy for a western minded individual to do here. If you’re arriving from a city like San Fransisco, the comparative costs of accomodation and food in Thailand will blow your mind.
In many parts of SE Asia, the money you save on major costs like accomodation and food are often spent on convenience instead. It is the sheer availability of convenience that makes running a business in Thailand so appealing. Two quick examples from MergePay HQs location:
- Twice a week house cleaner – $80 to $100 a month
- Full time cook (2/3 delicious meals a day) – $150-$200 a month
One area in particular makes SE Asia a complete no-brainer for start up and small businesses: availability and access to extremely affordable work space, offices and co-working spaces.
Stay tuned for part two, where we break down the numbers behind work spaces and offices in Asia.