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Glints of Issues Singapore Startups Face When Building Software Teams in Indonesia

Keith Tan
October 16, 2017

This series of Blog Articles is aimed at educating our readers about the issues and challenges they may face when setting up a software team in Indonesia. We peel back the veil on the glints of issues you will face as a Singaporean. (Ps: Glints are sparks that come and fade, and these issues are very much solvable)

Fact: Indonesia is fast becoming a red-hot destination to hire top tier software developers, but Singapore companies face glints of issues.

The management team at Wonderlabs has been doing software development in Indonesia (Jakarta initially, and now in Jogjakarta (of Yogyakarta) for over 8 years now. Here is one problem we faced

Issue #1: "Time is a circle"
The first glints of an issue you will face is the difference interpretation of time. Time is relative in Indonesia. While Indonesians view time based on a cyclic interpretation, Singapore working culture views time based on a linear interpretation.

This means that Singapore companies value the importance of a defined start, a result and then defining the work steps to reach the result. The common phrase often used: "Time is money". This may not be the perspective that an average Indonesian takes.

 ADVICE #1: Do not get pushy. Indonesians mostly become confused and even frightened by such behavior because it contradicts the local culture. Singapore companies should not expect things to run as smoothly as they do at home. 

ADVICE #2: What we've done with good success is to explain the reasons behind the need or impetus for something to be completed by a certain date. Your Indonesian team of software developers need to understand that your promise means a lot to you. Once trust is built between you and your team, then great things can be achieved as a harmonious team.

Remember to always try and reach a consensus. Indonesia has a consensus based discussion culture. In fact, one of the constitutional principles is to make decisions based on consultation and consensus (“musyawarah dan mufakat“). Bear this principle in mind and you will overcome all these glints of issues which you may encounter in your Indonesian journey.

Last Word: One of the things we do at Wonderlabs is to also educate our Wondernauts (our software developers and technical talents) about how to deal with non-Indonesian clients.

PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia and Vietnam. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.

Why Singapore Startups should consider setting up here

"I started Wonderlabs because I experienced the problems of building and managing a distributed software development team in Indonesia from 2011 to 2015. I wanted to make it seamless and frictionless for companies to build and manage teams. On the other hand, I found that there are so many amazing software engineers in Indonesia and Vietnam and wanted to connect them to employers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta" - Ivan Chang, Executive Chairman, Wonderlabs Group

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