Navigating the murky business culture in Indonesia can look daunting, especially for emerging startups used to well-developed infrastructure and unobstructive bureaucrats. The recent ban controversy on ride-sharing startups and the looming e-commerce regulations are just several issues that comes with the challenge to establish your startup in this lucrative market.
Due to the growing economic landscape and the regulations that comes with it, it becomes essential for startups to be aware of the legal requirements throughout the country in order to avoid falling into legal problems when they leap into trade. Here are some tips to stay in line with the law in Indonesia.
1. Establishment under the Right Business Structure
Foreign startups looking to establish themselves in Indonesia must structure their establishment wisely, since establishing your business in Indonesia takes more time than establishment in the neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Hasty establishments using “shortcuts” in Indonesia, while convenient, will only waste your time and money if found legally insufficient, or even worse, were found conducted using illegal paperwork.
First thing you have to check is where does your startup capital came from. The investment regulations in Indonesia are strict, and there are several businesses that do not allow 100% foreign ownership. Some of them are startup favorites, like the retail e-commerce field. You can get around this restriction by partnering with local investors in various ways.
The second thing you have to check is how much money you are willing to spend to establish your presence in Indonesia. Companies with foreign shareholders are required to have a minimum amount of IDR 10,000,000,000 or ten billion Rupiah as its capital, and you are legally required to deposit a quarter of it as paid-up capital. If you want to start a company with 100% foreign shareholders, that equals a deposit of two and a half billion Rupiah, or around US$ 175,000. That is quite a large amount of investment for startups trying to establish their business in an emerging market.
Other than capital structures, the issue that you should keep updated about is the laws and regulations in Indonesia. It is best for startups to obtain legal advice before establishment. However, well-known local law firms charge sky-high costs per hour for legal consultation. A tip for startups is to directly contact trusted local Corporate Legal Services company for advice on how the company can be structured and how will it impact the stakeholders. They will charge less, and they have good connection with the government. Their services can include the establishment itself and securing business licenses.
2. Protect Your Intellectual Property
Your business will have numerous pieces of Intellectual Property (IP), whether you know it or not. Trademarks can protect things like your logo and brand name, or a combination of the two. Copyright can protect the marketing text on your website, or the content of marketing emails, applications and mailers. You may even have products that are patentable, if your startup focuses on developing new and original inventions that is unique.
IP laws and regulations in Indonesia generally provides sufficient legal protection for your creations, as long as you are registered as the rightful owner, especially when talking about Trademarks and Patents. Like most Southeast Asia countries, Indonesia follows the first-to-file rule, which means that it doesn’t matter how long you have been using a mark, or how long you have invented a new invention, if someone else registers it first. It is best for you to file a registration for your logo and store name as soon as you started your business in Indonesia.
Even before you effectively start your business in Indonesia, it is advised for you to start the registration process of your logo or brand before you have a corporate presence in the country. Especially if you have established your start-up in another country. This is because the trademark registration process can take up to 3 (three) years to complete in Indonesia. In this digital age, information travels very quickly. Your brand can already be well-known in the Indonesia market before you even enter the country, and someone else may use that opportunity to register your brand under their name to capitalize on it. The same also applies with patentable inventions— if you don’t get in quick and patent your invention, someone else may sneak in before you and have a monopoly on producing and selling that invention.
4. Obtain Digital Consent using Clickwrap Method
5. Avoid Shortcuts
There are many services in Indonesia claiming that they can establish your business legally in a short period of time. Be very thorough in examining these proposals. These “shortcuts” may take care of the legal part of your establishment very quickly, but hasty establishments can lead to legal problems in the future that can cause your emerging startups trouble and bad reputation.
The bureaucracy in Indonesia is gradually improving, especially if you are establishing your business in Jakarta. The application system for business establishments, licenses and permits is computerized, and district offices now maintain a stricter attitude towards applications. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from spending extra money to establish your business quickly (unless you get caught!) But as Indonesia grows day by day to become a more organized country, it is better for you to stay in line with the law now, rather than run into legal troubles later.
For foreign startups, it is best for you to have incorporated yourself in your origin countries, so you can follow the proper steps in starting your business in Indonesia, while strengthening your hold and knowledge on your target market in the country at the same time. You can also establish a representative office of your foreign company before establishing your company here, to conduct market research.
6. Know Your Obligations (Legal Compliance)
So you start your startups in Indonesia. Of course to make sure your business run smoothly and attracting more customers is at the top of your priority list. But also take your time to make sure that you are fulfilling your legal obligations. Keep track of the changes in your company’s structure, and whether that you have to legalize those changes. Keep track of the reports you have to submit periodically to the government. Keep track of your foreign employees and whether they already secured their work permits.
You might think it is troublesome, but it is much easier to keep track of your legal issues since the beginning of your startup, rather than hobbling around when you have a deal coming up and your legal documents have expired. The bureaucracy in Indonesia still take time to process things especially concerning the legal status of your business. Sorting your legal matters so close to business deals can be complicated and exhaustive.
A tip: have a local that you trust to act as your proxy in Indonesia to take care of legal matters, or find a local Corporate Legal Services that can act as your secretary or retainer so your legal documents are kept up-to-date, and your legal obligations can be fulfilled on-time in an efficient way. You can save a lot of money by asking for a retainer service, since they will charge you per month in a reasonable rate, and proportional to the use of their services.
HOW CAN SMART LEGAL CONSULTING HELP YOU?
SMART Legal Consulting is an Indonesian Corporate Legal Services. We provide Company Formation and License Services to startups looking to establish themselves in Indonesia. We provide retainer services to maintain their legal compliance in Indonesia. Our services for foreign startups also include securing Expatriate Permits for foreigners looking to work in Indonesia.
If you need immediate assistance, please contact the SMART Help Desk at: