Nongsa Digital Park: Tips & Tricks to start your offshore office!

Keith Tan
October 7, 2017


Vol.1: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

You've come to the right place if you have decided to start an office at Nongsa Digital Park in Batam! Even as Indonesia is fast becoming a red-hot destination for building an offshore office for software development, there are some challenges that Singapore companies  face when starting up in Indonesia. 

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. Today, we help companies build offshore software technology development teams in Indonesia. Here is one problem we faced:


Problem #1: Saving Face

Vol.1: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

To put it in the Singapore frame of mind, Indonesians are thinned skinned. They are mostly unfamiliar and extremely uncomfortable with the directness/bluntness and "in-your-face" nature of certain aspects of Singapore culture. Over time, we've definitely learnt the Indonesian way of communicating (i.e. diplomatic). 

This stems from the need to maintain group harmony. In Indonesia, this could be seen as avoiding the cause of shame ("malu") to others. Indonesians are a very harmonious and considerate people. As such, people are very careful how they interact and speak. If you are interacting with your offshore team at the Nongsa Digital PArk, then you would need to be careful with how your interact and speak. Self control is extremely important. For example, one should never ridicule, shout at or offend anyone, especially in public. Dissatisfaction with work output should always be hidden and addressed privately, in a one-to-one setting. 


Problem #1.1: Indirect Communication

Vol.1: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

One manifestation of the aforementioned problem of saving face is that Indonesians communicate quite indirectly. This is very CRUCIAL when you are managing your team at Nongsa Digital Park. The best way to put this is that Indonesians never wish to cause you to be upset (or ashamed) by giving them a negative answer. This is crucial because timelines and timeliness of delivery are very important aspects of managing software development.

One way to overcome this is to rephrase your question:

For instance, instead of asking "Can this be done in three weeks?" You might ask... "How long do you think it will take?", "Realistically?" When the answer comes as "three weeks", you might then counter and say, "Are you sure you don't need more time? It is OK if you need more time". This back and forth eases them into giving you their true estimation. In fact, there are actually 12 ways of saying "No" in Bahasa Indonesia!

[Note: All of this is a caricature of an extremely diverse culture - Indonesia is home to 17,500 islands (6,000 of which are inhabited) which are home to over 300 ethnic groups]

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 Singapore employers. Find out more about how we could help you recruit, build and manage your team at Nongsa Digital Park: 

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