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Doing Business in Thailand

Advice for those thinking about a move to Thailand with the intention of setting up a small business
Author Post
2011/08/25 | Doing Small Business in Thailand.

So you have visited many times, love the place and have decided to move here with the aim of settling down and starting a new small business. Sounds easy when you say it quickly; it is not but is well worthwhile if you have the staying power to endure the communication problems requiring the use of a translator who may or may not be an upstanding person.

Firstly you need money. For those over 55 the cost of living as a retiree in Thailand is relatively cheap and if you have enough money in the bank with regular income from other sources I recommend retirement as the option with the least headaches. If you want more and the challenge of doing business won't let you play golf, drink beer and chat with girls all day then go for it.
Make sure you have enough money in the kitty to meet living costs, house rental or purchase, vehicle purchase and the usual consumables. Then on top of this have enough for company setup fees, work permit fees, translation charges, initial accountancy, office or workshop rental/purchase plus working capital for the first year.

If you can afford to live like a king then you are probably not going to bother starting a business but if you are on a budget and need to generate income then you will require at least 20 - 30,000 baht/month for cost of living, 1 million baht for a new vehicle [say 500,000 baht for used], 60 - 80,000 baht to cover company setup and associated fees, 20 - 40,000 baht/month for an office and this, of course, depends upon which area you choose as a location.

Working capital depends upon the type of business but if you plan to employ a manager, English speaking PR/secretary and 10 workers a conservative estimate of monthly salaries is 170,000 baht. On top of this there is worker compensation/welfare compulsory payment of 5% and monthly accounting fees which can run to 20,000 baht depending on the capability of your PR/secretary.
Basically this means that when you get here you need to have access to around 4 million baht [US$ 140,000 at current rate of exchange] to cover yourself for living, setup costs and working capital requirement for the first year. Not a lot if you compare with the setup and first year expenses in a wealthy, or once wealthy, Western country.


Many first time expats seem to think that everything they purchase will need to be put under the name of a Thai person; this is not true. With a non immigrant, marriage or retirement visa you can own a car and motorcycle, rent a house or purchase a condo. Foreigners are not permitted to own land or a house and lot.
Company setup is slightly more complicated and as most small businesses are normally set up under Thai company rules then you will own 49% and need to find one or several trustworthy Thai people [who preferably do not know each other] to own the remaining 51%. Certain types of business may be 100% foreign owned but which ever route you decide to take be sure to employ a decent lawyer to take care of the details on your behalf.


When you get to Thailand join a local expat business group or network with other business owners to build up a list of good local contacts. Do not rely on your new girl or boyfriend for anything to do with setting up a new business, renting or purchasing big cost items; it is not difficult to do it yourself with the assistance of Thai professionals and advice from other successful expatriates. Good luck in your new venture!
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