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7 Tips For Doing Business In Thailand

This country of 68 million smiles offers great business opportunities in one of the world's most increasingly vibrant economic zones.

One of the most commonly cited social and economic development success stories belongs to Thailand. The country best known for tourism and great eats has made tremendous progress, rising from a low-income society to an upper-income one in less than a generation.

According to the World Bank, Thailand ranks as the world’s 46th best nation for ease of doing business, and third in Southeast Asia. Ulrich Zachau, World Bank’s country director for Thailand, credits the sustained standing to the “continual focus on reforms to promote a better business environment, in addition to implementing public infrastructure investments, developing skilled-workers through quality education and promoting innovations” thus improving Thailand’s competitiveness in the global arena of commerce.

While the Asian market is improving and still opening up by reducing the number of processes required to set up a new company, entrepreneurs need to also know a few subtle things before engaging with and in Thailand, so they can avoid much embarrassment and difficulties.

1. First King First
Do not make any negative comments about the country and its monarchy. If you insult the crown, you will unquestionably lose any chance of building good relationships with his subjects and it could possibly even land you in jail. Make sure to regard images of the royal family with respect.

2. Don’t Jam-pack Your Schedule
Schedule only up to two meetings per day. Why? Traffic in large Thai cities, especially Bangkok, is so bad that many Thai business execs conduct more meetings from their cars via mobile phones and laptops than they do in the boardroom. Still, face-to-face meetings are preferred to other more impersonal methods such as email.

3. Think digital
With many increasingly tired of being stuck in a jam, traditional Thai businesses are seeking the best way in setting up an e-commerce venture, with faster and greater reaches. Therefore, no business plan is complete without a strong digital component, seeing as PayPal just recently revealed ambition for greater growth of e-payment usage in Thailand.

4. Learn to Smile, All 13 Ways
Thailand is called the Land of Smiles because the Thais really do smile a lot. However, no two smiles are the same. Locals have different terms for different types of smiles — 13 to be exact. From the victory smile and the inappropriate-hidden smile, to the smile of diffusion and the nervous-apologetic smile, use your common sense to decipher how a person feels, rather than include a smile as a vital factor. Then again, remind yourself to smile always, as a non-smiley person is often judged as an unfriendly person.

5. High-placed Hierarchy
Hierarchy is still an important aspect of Thai business culture. The eldest person in the group is often the most revered. Therefore, decisions are made by the people at the top with hardly any consultation of middle or junior management. If you want to build a long-term relationship in Thailand, make sure you too are respected and are courteous when dealing with your colleagues and others. It is also not unusual for Thais to ask several personal questions in order to establish where they fit within the hierarchy, so don’t take offence if they blatantly ask about your wrinkles.

6. Social business
As you can see, business relationships develop slowly in Thailand. Thai people prefer to build personal relationships before raising important business issues. Normally, several meetings will take place before anything gets started. Initial meetings will almost always take place over lunch or drinks as entertainment is greatly valued by the Thai people. If you are invited to someone’s home, it would be polite to bring them a small gift of chocolate or a basket of fruits. Don’t be surprised if the gift is set aside. Thais don’t open gifts in the presence of the giver, so if you are given a gift yourself, you should act in the same way.

7. Don't Let Them Have The Last Laugh
Just like smiling, laughter comes easily to the people of Thailand. However, if a Thai person starts laughing for no apparent reason, it is likely that he or she is embarrassed and you should change the subject immediately. Thais avoid confrontation at all costs. Likewise, they find it difficult to accept open criticism so if you want to say something nasty, do it in private or you'll have the whole table bursting with laughter.