Thu, 01 Jul 2010

Indonesia is starting to get the attention it deserves and can no longer be ignored by multinational companies seeking growth, according to James Castle, an American business consultant with 30 years experience in the country.

Castle, founder of the consultancy CastleAsia, told the International Herald Tribune that Indonesia’s visibility in the Group of 20 and its economic resilience during the global downturn over the past 18 months had started to attract attention from companies across the globe.

“After ’98 and the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia just got ignored. Now it’s in the discussion.” he told the IHT.

“Some companies may for very good reasons decide that now is not the right time for them to come here, but they will have made a conscious decision. Indonesia can no longer be ignored. If you’re a global company, and you’re not in Indonesia, you really have to ask yourself why, or why not.

“Most big companies are looking at Indonesia and trying to find opportunities here. And if they’re not, they should,” he added.

Castle said Indonesia had attained a stature similar to that of the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and might even have an edge over China and Russia in social and political stability over the longer term.

“I think both China and Russia have tremendous political obstacles to overcome, though meanwhile they both can be very good places to do business,” he said. “Large companies will have the resources to go into all these countries if they want to. So it’s really just a question of, Is that particular market ready for us right now?’”

Castle acknowledged much work remained to be done for Indonesia to become a true economic power, including infrastructure and regulatory reform.

He said the government had been too slow to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles, and that a consensus must be formed. He cautioned business leaders considering the move to Indonesia to be ready to face some frustrations.

“You can’t do something here overnight. You can’t fly into town, set up a company and be operating in 48 hours like you can in some countries. Singapore is friendly in that way. So are some of the Middle Eastern countries. But they don’t have the market,” Castle said.

“Study the market very carefully. Don’t come in with a very short-term objective of getting something going in three to six months. Don’t cut corners, don’t get frustrated by the bureaucracy, because you will get through it.

"One of the reasons a lot of the new investment here is coming from people already in the market is because some new-to-market companies give up too soon. Indonesia is a little harder than some of the other markets to get into. But it’s worth the effort.”