Indonesian Meetings

Hierarchy also plays its part in the meeting situation and it is important that the right amount of deference is paid to the senior people present.

An Indonesian delegation will often enter the room in a hierarchical fashion, the most prominent members entering first. The conduct of meetings can sometimes seem very formal to some western business people who have a naturally more informal approach. Try to maintain an upright, alert body posture and avoid slouching in the seat, crossing legs or pointing the soles of feet at anybody.

Business cards are essential items as they give the information necessary to decide who the senior people are present at the meeting. Cards will be exchanged at the beginning of meetings. Take their card with your left hand and, after studying it carefully, place it in your card wallet or on the desk in front of you. (Your business card should be of high quality and contain as much information as possible, including your title, corporate position and educational qualifications.)

Initial meetings can often be dominated by seemingly inconsequential, small talk which has little if anything to do with core business matter. These introductory sessions can be an essential part of the all-important relationship-building process and should not be rushed or viewed as inconsequential. It is during these sessions that the whole basis for future co-operation is made.
Time is elastic in Indonesia – in fact, it is referred to as rubber time. Do not be surprised if meetings start late or finish late. Time is not important – the relationship is the key issue.

Gift Giving

The issue of gift-giving in Indonesia is somewhat contentious as the country has, for years, had a reputation for large-scale corruption reaching from the highest levels of government down to petty bureaucrats and department managers within corporations.

Whilst it is true that such corruption exists, it is also true that the giving of small gifts to help develop and maintain business relationships is also an indigenous Indonesian custom. Gifts are not usually exchanged during first meetings but can be offered at subsequent events. To avoid any hint of corruption, give small, corporate gifts.

Gifts should always be wrapped and will rarely be opened in front of the giver. Avoid giving any form of alcoholic gift to any Muslim colleagues or clients. If offered a gift, accept reluctantly and with humility.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Indonesia

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Indonesia is complex. That is hardly surprising given the fact that the country spans thousands of islands, has over 300 languages and population of about 243 million (which is rising rapidly.) Navigating your way around Indonesia is both literally and figuratively difficult.

However, Indonesia is a country which has tremendous economic potential. The Indonesian government is working hard to try to reduce the country’s dependence on exports of (raw) commodities and to diversify into both the manufacturing and service sectors. In addition to this, vast sums are being pumped into the basic infrastructure of a nation which has suffered from some core infrastructure weaknesses for decades.

About 50% of Indonesia’s population are under the age of 28 which means that the country has a huge demographic dividend with large numbers of people about to enter the workforce. This younger generation is aspirational and consumerist in nature. It could be argued that internal demand for goods and services in Indonesia is about to explode in the next decade.

Many observers believe that, provided some form of political stability can be maintained, Indonesia represents a country with massive growth potential. If Indonesia is to achieve its potential it needs a great deal of external stimulus and support. It needs Foreign Direct Investment and it needs skills and expertise. Indonesia probably needs your goods or services and you are advised to seriously consider Indonesia as a future market if you are not already operating there.

However, Indonesia is a thoroughly Asian country with a rich and unique business culture. The Indonesian approach to business is heavily relationship focused. You need to take time to develop deep and lasting alliances and you need to really understand Indonesian business culture if you are to avoid alienating potential partners.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Indonesian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips