Do not come to Indonesia alone – Chee Hou

Brand Activation Agency with Chee Hou

Chee Hou came to Indonesia 10 years ago as a software engineer from Malaysia. He returned in 2010 to start brand activation agency PiEE Internasional.

The start was humble – managing three employees from his apartment. Soon the business took off and today his company has 27 employees and an impressive clients list.

Chee Hou, what is your company doing?

We are a Brand Activation Company that use strategic communication concept and approach to build meaningful experience and engage the relationships between brand and its customers.

Our core competencies include : Brand Activation Strategic Planning and Implementation, Interior Architecture (Design & Construction), Event & Exhibition (Design & Construction).

Our main value compared to our competitors is the quality of the client servicing. We focus on it so that our clients would love the experience working with us professionally, and effectively.

Achieving high quality client servicing

Client servicing seems to be an area that most local companies have a lot of room for improvement.

There are some very professionally run local companies but they are not that many. The value that my company brings is that we deliver what we promised and we work hard to achieve that.

Mentality of the local companies is often different – sometimes they say “yes, yes, yes” but then nothing actually happens as planned.

I’m not trying to criticize but rather it’s something we need to take into account when doing business here.

 Mentality of the local companies is often different – sometimes they say “yes, yes, yes” but then nothing actually happens as planned.

How do you ensure “client servicing mindset” among your employees?

Definitely this takes some time to achieve. You need to share with them the reasons why it is important and what the clients are expecting from you – in the sense of quality, response time, and delivery.

Since we are only three years old, we are still struggling a bit with it. It’s not only about educating your employees but also the subcontractors and suppliers.

How did you find good local people to work with you?

First we asked from our friends here if they can recommend anyone. Recommendations from friends or business associates are the best way to get the right people.

We also go to the online web portals like JobsDB or Jobstreet to search for people. If you’re getting a local partner, let the local partner handle such things.

 

Finding clients for his brand activation agency

Do you mainly work with local or foreign clients?

Both. For exhibitions,we are handling a lot of inbound exhibitors – clients coming to exhibitions from overseas. We have the global network (from Pico – editor) that supports us and it makes the foreign companies comfortable to work with us.

As for interior architecture, we are doing mainly for the local companies, for example MAP (leading fashion retailer in Indonesia -editor). At the end of this month we will be completing the BNI Emerald Lounge (a bank in Indonesia – editor) in Galleries Lafayette, Pacific Place Mall.

How do you find local clients?

I found a lot of clients through marketing. As a foreigner, I need to do a lot of networking by joining business associations, networking meetings and gathering. Malaysian Embassy also holds gathering to bring Malaysian people together to celebrate Malaysian festive, and also some of the special functions.

I reckon that golf is the best way to get to know people. During a four hour game you have time to discuss a lot of things.

Also by given the best experiences to our clients, they will recommend us through their network and that’s also how we get to know new clients.

I reckon that golf is the best way to get to know people in Jakarta. During a four hour game you have time to discuss a lot of things.

 

Comparing Malaysian and Indonesian business culture

How would you compare managing Indonesian and Malaysian employees?

It’s hard to compare. I’m born in Malaysia and we share similar cultural background. Having said that, every country is operating differently – especially as Malaysia adopted British system and Indonesia adopted Dutch system.

Although Malaysian and Indonesian languages are similar there are also many differences in the interpretation. Same things can be understood completely differently and that’s a challenge for me as a Malaysian. I can even accidentally offend the locals.

There are also many things to love about Indonesian culture and main thing is to show respect to locals. You will be more successful here if you try to adapt rather than saying that you are right and they are wrong.

Encourage to reach consensus with the locals, being opened to new ideas, sharing, making sure everybody knows what has to be done correctly. Patience is the key.

Although Malaysian and Indonesian languages are similar there are also many differences in the interpretation.

Do you see any advantages that you’re from Malaysia compare to the people – let’s say – from Europe?

Because I’m from South-East Asia, I look similar to Indonesian Chinese and I can easily blend in. This makes things sometimes easier.

As a Malaysian, I don’t find any difficulties to adjust to life here. I worked here before and I came back to run a business. Having worked here before has definitely been an advantage to me.

(Indosight’s Note: business visa is the fastest and easiest type of visa for foreigners to stay or frequently visit Indonesia. Check out our business visa page.)

Relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia has been tense now and then. Has it anyhow affected your business?

The tensions are more political and made bigger by media. I don’t have any problems with my Indonesian friends; we don’t accuse each other of stealing each other traditions.

We as Malaysians need to admit that many of our Malays are originated from Indonesia hundreds  of years ago and share many of the similar traditions and culture. It is in a way similar to Americans and British.

The greater problems that concern my business is more to the government policies that sometimes are overprotective, and it may discourage the FDI into the country.

I suggest that foreigners don’t come to Indonesia alone and engage local partners. This is a much better way to succeed here.

I suggest that foreigners don’t come to Indonesia alone and engage local partners. This is a much better way to succeed here.

 

If you could turn back time and start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would do the same thing. First thing you need to do is to engage a business consultant, that’s the right thing to do. It will help you to find the right information, rather than relying on opinions of different people that may or may not be true.

(Indosight’s Note: we offer company registration and representative office service. Check out our company registration page.)

You just moved your office to a new location in Sunter (North Jakarta).

This area is good, our previous office was in PRJ (Expo Kemayoran). That was not very convenient and we needed proper infrastructure for our team to work in. We are comfortable in this building and can feel like home here.

What aspects did you take into account when choosing the location?

It depends on your budget. Having office in the city centre is good but it will cost more. We’re small business and our clients don’t come to our office every day.

This is a good area because of the easy access to the airport and other places relevant for our business. And our factory is also in Kelapa Gading.

What are the things foreign entrepreneurs should look out for when investing in Indonesia?

As usual, do your research. The more information you obtain, the more you get to know about business environment here.

The best option is to get a good local business partner that can handle the local authorities, law etc. and engage a business consultant.

Indosight

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