Running a Development Shop in Thailand With Gustaf Bystrom

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Case Studies, Podcast0 Comments

We are back in Southeast Asia! Today we have one of our GFAVIP members, Gustaf Bystrom and he is sharing about how he manages a development team in Thailand. While we have already had a podcast about incorporating in Thailand, he also mentions some of the practical advice for doing it – as well as some priceless tips on how to do it as a foreign company with special permits and licenses.

Gustaf is a very kind hearted guy and I really appreciate him coming on the show and sharing. We did this live as part of a monthly workshop for GFAVIP members and had question and answer with him afterwards which we couldn’t use on the podcast – as it was a bit private and intimate info!

Now, let’s tune in today’s podcast interview with Gustaf talking about managing IT developers in Thailand, boom!

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Intro Gustaf

    You’re a GFAVIP member, thanks for that buddy and a great supporter of the GFA cause- so please tell everyone a bit more about yourself and what you’re doing

  • How you got to Thailand

    What was the story of you first getting there?

  • Fixed Office, Full Time Staff

    So many business owners we know work with part time, freelancers, or remote staff – but you are “all in” – you have full time developers in an office in Thailand – why did you make that decision?

  • Choosing the location

    How did you pick the office location? Any strategies you can share with others looking to open an office in Thailand

  • Registering a Company

    So you have a proper company in Thailand? How was that process

  • Finding Developers

    How do you find the local developers in Thailand? Is there any challenges in recruiting

  • Managing the staff

    How is it to manage Thai employees? I think the trend we have found on GFA is that many cultures in Asia are a bit more shy than in the West. Do you manage the staff directly, or a foreigner, or a local Thai person is managing the day to day staff flow?

  • Benefits of having a Full time Thai Company and Operation

    What are some of the benefits? You have a long term visa for Thailand I assume?

  • Disadvantages of the setup you have

  • Holding companies and operating companies

    Don’t want to pry too much on the show – but you opened a HK company with

  • About your company - you can finally talk about it (I saw on Facebook)

  • How can people find you

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

BOI – board of investment
√ Adding annual leave, team events – to attract staff
√ His product in Australia – pendata
Karsten’s podcast about registering a company in Thailand

Episode Length 33:16

Thank you Gustaf. I am just so lucky as a human being to know such amazing people and have them share to all of us. Hope you guys also appreciate that. For me, I can’t wait to grow my businesses even more in South East Asia – but it seems like such a complex place with all these different countries, languages, and policies. Mainland China has an advantage there as it’s such a huge market as 1 country and language – but of course the foreign internet basically doesn’t work in China!

Where are you enjoying most of your business dealings? Have a favorite place, maybe leave us a comment and let us know!

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Podcast Transcription

“So, with things like you’ve been able to work from home, once in awhile, it’s great and uh having a few extra annual leave days and is uh just little things like that.”

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Aureliapay. I use it personally for sending money to my Chinese suppliers from Hong Kong. It’s a cross border payment solution between China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. So, if I need to make a payment to a Chinese supplier, I just hop online to place the remittance, pay to the Aureliapay Hong Kong based big account and Aureliapay will settle RMB within the same business day. So, check them out online at A U R E L I A P A Y .com or check them on their link at our show notes.

Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice and now your host, Michael Michelini.

Mike: Okay, everybody. Episode yao fa fa or in english 188. Wendy just told me 188 is a lucky number it means, work and then get rich. So, I hope everybody listening is already rich and if you’re not, you’ll be rich. Well, that’s financially or with your personality. Life is more than money, I think, but we are doing good here at Global From Asia, feel like making a podcast every couple of days here. We have some amazing content as always, the e-commerce series is been moving at full force, get in deep into business deal conversation with applicants and I am really, really amaze, at amazing people that listen to this show. And ahh and trust us enough, trust me enough to wanna be a, equity partner I know business partner, a lot of people had issues, you know everybody have different ideas, so we’re trying to make things as clear as possible as we discuss this deals and I can’t wait to keep you guys up to date. Again, that’s e-commerce series but of course, I get to ahh vent a little bit, share a little bit on this original interviews series here at Global From Asia on Tuesday 10 am Hong Kong time. This week we have Gustaf and Gustaf is a doing some amazing things here with running development firm, developing company in Bangkok Thailand. So, we’re back in South East Asia. We were in Vietnam couple of shows ago we went to mainland China about manufacturing in our pack and down to South East Asia and Gustaff is really enjoying work with this team in Philippines, in Thailand, excuse me, we’re talking about different country I’m losing my train of thoughts here. I’m actually so happy that we’re doing this at Global From Asia, I mean started here, started in Hong Kong and mainland China now. Were hop in over different part of South East Asia got even more like shows, like this coming up in different parts of Asia. So, with this show, we actually did this as a GFA VIP members call. So, this was done live, with members we have PG entrepreneur Andrei Martin and few other members on live. So afterwards, we asked some questions some actually I couldn’t even include in the show. I’m really sorry was a little bit deep into some tax stuff. We couldn’t disclose that but with this interview it’s amazing. So, if you’re curious about running into development firm in Thailand or even just doing business, again, we had some previous shows with Carlston about how to set up a company there. We talk about a little bit today with Gustaf it’s more on the managing staff, and managing operations and licenses, culture things like that. So, thanks Gustaf for coming on. So, let’s get into the interview.

Mike: Alright! Thank you everybody for tuning into another Global From Asia. This is a members call as well as a podcast and we have with us Gustaf Bystrom and we gonna know each for couple of years now and it’s been great. You came to TCX Hong Kong. We have another one this October 2 and you, we got to hang out a bit there and you’re based on Thailand originally from Sweden and you run a development shop with local developers, developers from around the world. So, I’m excited to have you on the show sharing. So, thank you so much for coming, Gustaf.

Gustaf: Thank you for having me.

Mike: Yeah, it’s been great. So, maybe you could give us your story, how did you, how did you first get to Thailand?

Gustaf: Yes, so come from ahh software development background in Sweden, after freelancing for couple of years while travelling and I started the business with a guy which is now my business partner he is from Australia and ahh, as our business grew, we started to need more developers and ahh, we start working with a company Dhaka, which is still work with. We still have have a team in Dhaka but like when they come to the develop more advanced applications or web applications which is what we do most, it’s just to benefit a way or be able to sit down together, is a yeah ah it’s invaluable. So, that’s what we’re looking at different options on how to have an office and employ people directly.

Mike: So how did, how did you choose Thailand, is that preference of lifestyle, or?

Gustaf: The hassle have to do with it. We were like looking at all sides of Australia where our business partners from, it does really make sense either to I have to be there. Like, first of all the cost. Also like for me to I prefer living in a country where it’s a better.

Mike: Sure.

Gustaf: Better climate and all that. So, when you’re looking at different things, like spend some time in Bali before I liked it and I also considered Philippines which more popular than Thailand for reasons but ahh like the end of the day, like I really want to live in Thailand after the options. So, I really like Bangkok, it’s fun. I travel still here. So, that was kind of the final reasons we selected Bangkok.

Mike: Nice. So, let’s narrow down to Bangkok versus other cities of Thailand, is there a reason for the for ahh choice of Bangkok?

Gustaf: I think while, ahh we never really considered anywhere else, when you, Bangkok is where it happens in Thailand, really yeah, it is.

Mike: Okay. Yeah, I know there are some other software companies for like you know Amazon or other software center and they based there and happen based there. It does sound good. So, yea,h like you’re mentioning earlier, you are working mostly remotely before as it seems like you’re preferring this fix office which kinda goes a little against a lot of time. At least a try of this of what I’m following but I’m going your way a little bit to fix, more fix office but how what was the decision making or process that you went through to decide to make that investment or that fix office decision.

Gustaf: Like mainly, at least to be able to sit down and solve the problem together. It’s so much easier than doing over a call then like, like you can really see each other faces, you can see if people understand what youre talking about but also like I run this remote thing for 2 years. I got like, you get really socially inactive and just like be able to get together in the office is a lot of fun. So, instead of this communicating with Slack. So yeah, it’s like social things as well, we remote office on days, average 2 days a week when we work from home or from somewhere else. Just to social, you know social things of this one.

Mike: Got it. So, you said 2 years working with team online, were these team members working online before or you brought them to be in fix office or these you hire them new for the fix office?

Gustaf: No, the remote team is separate team. We started here in Bangkok 2 years ago and that was all from scratch.

Mike: Got it. So, for the the location seems like Bangkok is the clear recommendation from you. What about district office, or you know office building strategies, ahh does it, does it matter there or is there some other differences that needs to know about the location of the office?

Gustaf: It’s a, ahh for now to be quite easy. There are different areas to consider but as the public transport in Bangkok is not as extensive as many other places. We kinda wanna be like long public transport line and I, which limit this to a number of places. So, I think you like, we all check out different areas and seems to enjoy and ahh yeah go from there but it’s like if you know all along the transport line, it’s fairly easy to get a new work.

Mike: Okay. So, you’ve been there, what is it called MRT?

Gustaf: One MRT. Well actually, they just open a new one, I’m not sure, what exactly is called, one sub line and back to skytrain lines and, along that it makes everything a lot easier. Also, for your staff to reach is next time to commute which is as well so you’re pretty sure we wanna be along those.

Mike: Make sense, you can take a tuk tuk, right? I like tuk tuks.

Gustaf: Yeah, tuk tuk, well like tuk tuk is our, by cheapest to get around, if you’re gonna do some public transport, like the tuk tuks are, taxis are by meter, tuk tuks are when when you are negotiation, but they always turn out more expensive.

Mike: I see. Interesting tip. So, to those who are not familiar, tuk tuk, it’s T U K T U K and it’s ah like a buggy kinda I mean it can fit a few people under. It’s kinda of a wide bicycle motorbike that I think 4 people could fit in or so or 2?

Gustaf: Yeah, you can get more people if you want, like 3 people sits fairly comfortable.

Mike: Okay.

Gustaf: They take us, they take in few people and squeeze in.

Mike: Got it.

Gustaf: But they, they don’t really make sense, as they can’t cut the traffic better than a taxi. So, it’s that what you wanna do like you should use one of the motorcycle taxis to get through it faster.

Mike: Alright. Got it. So, I thought tuk tuk would be cheaper but it’s cool to hear that taxis are cheaper and yeah we can see your office in the video here in Thailand. So, you have the proper, proper setup. So you register the company, you have all the licenses, you wanna share, what has been the painful process or do you wanna give us some insights on how that one?

Gustaf: It is a bitter work. We had some, with my business partner, had some contacts like similar set up but in a different niche. We kinda in touch with the accountant, lawyer, normally that’s the same person here in Thailand. That person is helping us with accounting, but also helping us out with the yeah set up like also my visa, and all that, when you have a good lawyer he will do everything for you.

Mike: Ahh great there, maybe any kinda insights like time and basic range of cost.

Gustaf: So, I’m not sure exactly where. I wasn’t really involved in that part or how long it takes but ahh there are few different options that we have but what you’re gonna have eventually, it’s ahh we use to have type of office here. So, that makes senses to us. But they have ahh, I know we will talk about this a little bit later but they have normal type of office that can only built by 49% by foreigners but they have something in certain niches, like software development, you can have, they can be fully-owned by foreigners so if you do comply the in terms of doing what, doing staff that they are actually looking for in Thailand and you can get some exemptions, it’s could be wide company, so which probably makes sense.

Mike: What is the acronym, BOI?

Gustaf: BOI Board Of Investment company. Okay. So then, you could become a majority shareholder of your as a foreigner of a Thai company if you’re showing to the local Thai government in economy that you’re adding value doing something innovative. Exactly, like obviously software development is like, Thailand little bit behind in that they’re trying to catch up, software development is popular or that’s what they can get ahh exemptions for us.

Mike: Okay. Interesting, and of course the key is for the developers. So, you seem to be having good experiences working with local developers, maybe you could first find them at all, how do you go about finding then, that’s a challenge I know, especially technical talent, must be difficult.

Gustaf: It ahh yeah it’s been, ahh it’s ahh bit bumpy ride. They seem to grow in here, there aren’t many developers around, so it is it’s been interesting, we’ve been trying to differentiate ourselves, a good company to work for being small and flexible work hours yeah and fun, also in English, English is, regarded high air, which is to learn english. We don’t really wanna pay higher salaries, in other companies. Because we don’t attract people with higher salaries.

Mike: True, true.

Gustaf: We’re happy to pay minimum, what the sellers are, but we would wanna pay minimum, that’s been, you can’t find people that way but ahh you you have to think, that’s ahh type of people you wanna try.

Mike: Yeah, of course I, I think to summarize, you’re trying to differentiate by being more international company with more, it’s like a good working environment, right? Rather than just attracting developers or staff just wanna make more money, which, yeah, I agree, it’s like the other side when you’re selling to customers, with customers if you’ve given cheapest, cheapest price, you always have your price lower, you don’t wanna be able to have some pricing power to allow youself to charge more or you know not be the lowest price. So you’re saying, you know, you don’t want to be known as the highest salary but more the providing so what are some things maybe you’ve noticed to some other staff or like, or mentioned they like working with you guys.

Gustaf: So, being flexible being able to work from home once in awhile is great. Also, a lot of companies here assume to work more than 40 hours a week, we don’t allow more than 40 hours a week. And ahh having a few extra annual leave days and just little things like, team events, that would be like, learning as well, having workshops and letting them to go conference, stuffs like that.

Mike: Cool.

Gustaf: That’s ahh all adds up to, great working environment, and the great experience. They are saying now, that’s it’s getting a lot easier when we have some material, working, we get a lot more applicants.

Mike: Great! What’s ahh if you don’t mind me asking, what’s the kind of arrange for developers maybe entry level, and some other maybe middle level or so, I know working course depends but do you have some numbers that you could share.

Mike: Great! What’s ahh if you don’t mind me asking, what’s the kind of arrange for developers maybe entry level, and some other maybe middle level or so, I know working course depends but do you have some numbers that you could share.

Gustaf: So, like, we more normally higher like lower, lower yeah like low to mid range experience, a lot because we’re building niche product, so we need to train them in a week. But ahh also, obviously, in terms of cost, but ahh, you can get this starts about 1,000 dollars for newly grads or little experience.

Mike: Okay, so in China and I think Philippines I would say my, even in the US I, but usually some kind of bonus, a lot of times. I think Philippines has a mandatory 13th month bonus, or payment and in China, it’s almost similar with the red envelope like Chinese New Year, which is, of course it’s up to employer, I usually recommend people the budget around the month salary, as well, do you have similar kind of bonuses or payments, and need be kinda expected to meet.

Gustaf: We have pay cash bonuses we tried to instead put that into like somewhere, we took the guys to Bali for a month last year, and we’re looking to do something like that as well now we get soon, so, yeah we, we, cash bonuses are some, some companies to fair the game, but it’s not a mandatory thing to do it.

Mike: Would that be a year end or there’s a like Chinese New Year or some kinda holiday, normally those are paid.

Gustaf: Normally, year end, I think that’s what we pay, it’s actually, about for a while now. But we have paid it for 2 years.

Mike: Okay. You kinda hint us a tip but you have this cool benefits for managing staff. I usually say, generally, I would, I think you would agree, Asian cultures a little bit more shy at least for the staff versus the boss, a lot of times they are afraid to speak up or speak their opinion to the boss coz they don’t want to disrespect, I’m not sure but at least in China, and other parts of Asia, we talk about this in Vietnam too, I’m not sure if it’s similar like that in Thailand, do you ahh agree or think or how do you, do you overcome it, localize, or you say, you tell me earlier international company, they like that, I mean maybe we can talk about a little bit of those some interactions on managing.

Gustaf: Yeah, it’s ahh you need to understand, like ahh as you say like, you’re in Asia, you need to understand that we are coming from different cultures, but like I have been from, from day 1, running this team as a western or international theme. Push them to be independent and all that. So, it might be little bit tricky in the beginning. Which delay the language barrier, sometimes, but like eventually the knowledge it’s fantastic. I’m not always here, but when i’m not they manage themselves. Its ahh I think can, to the guys I have somebody responsible for the development, I have somebody responsible for scrums, and I think that will help as well.

Mike: Okay, great! So then you are, your role at the office is, you are the main contact, you’re the main manager, main owner?

Gustaf: Yes, so, yeah, I’m running the team.

Mike: And then you have a scrum manager, develop manager, actually I’m not so sure on how to run development team myself, I’ve done some of my team project, I know that scrum it’s that like agile, like when you do 1 or 2 week plans, prints, sprints.

Gustaf: Yeah we run, yeah 1 week sprints. We deliver something at the end of the sprint. We commit to something that we’re gonna do that week. And the guys did sometimes themselves, when I’m not around but when I’m around, I’m part of the development.

Mike: Nice.

Gustaf: They learning themselves and I push them to, to evolve themselves, but when I’m around, I tried to bring my experience and to it as well.

Mike: Awesome! So, it seems, seems I guess it seems like you’re happy, how long have you been running, you said 2 years.

Gustaf: I’ve been in Thailand for 2 years but the whole show been going for 3 years, Bangladesh, it must have been 3 and half years by now.

Mike: Nice. So, then having this fix office is more like ahh established office has been effective or more effect, more helpful?

Gustaf: Yeah, I think, we get to ahh we get, we’re more productive and we, get through trickier things here, also just ahh makes me sleep easier at night as well to really understand it, can really understand what’s going on.

Mike: True.

Gustaf: So, even if I’m not here. I still like to travel a lot but ahh I’m not worried about, even for couple of weeks even though I’m away. I think it’s fantastic.

Mike: Very cool. So, then seems like you’re, you’re recommended to others, is there some, is there some stage you recommend to not do it? Wait on a certain level?

Gustaf: It’s ahh, it’s been a work, you need to understand, ahh I really like it. It is like starting up a company and where I think, it’s gonna be to get through and ahh but ahh yeah now, I, I love Thailand and I love living here, so l think, if that’s you wanna do, you should have know it.

Mike: Okay. That’s great and you mentioned earlier you were able to get a long term proper visa in Thailand because of the company, ahh, is that, that’s definitely benefit, is there another benefit, too? Do you wanna share first about the visa situation?

Gustaf: Yeah, you can issue work permit, and ahh 1 year business if you have a company. You need to on a regular company you need to employ at least 4 Thais with working permit, but that’s also something that you can do easier with foreign investment companies that will less restrictions.

Mike: Very cool. Yeah, just BOI.

Gustaf: Yeah, exactly, umm, the main thing is obviously if you wanna live in Thailand, and to keep your residents a year it’s ahh, good way.

Mike: Very good. Yeah, I know a lot of times, you are always topping around to do visa run and stuff, I think we both have been there, little bit tiring, it’s fun to travel but.

Gustaf: It is, yeah. You can’t live here a long time without getting into trouble on the visa rounds and just, but they, yeah. So we had I guess. Its ahh, yeah.

Mike: So any, any, negative, negative or disadvantages of – of what you have or?

Gustaf: No, well now, it’s something rolling. It’s so good. I think it’s yeah. Really good. And its ahh, like it’s a lot of, it’s a load of paper works to set up but if you have an accountant or a lawyer that do that for you. Okay.also the accounting is quite substantial, writing an invoice and receipts smoothly.

Mike: Of you got it monthly.

Gustaf: While that’s also, that they, the accounting takes. Well I think to be mentioned of, I don’t think it’s a worry to set up here, bring about 50K US over the first year or so from that first year is a bit another thing that be considered.

Mike: I see. That is, that is piece of investment, when I do one, in China, I have to do 1,000 RMB which is about 15,000 US but ahh 50 is a lot bigger.

Gustaf: It’s obviously possible when we opted but you need to put it in the company.

Mike: Yeah, it’s ahh good to know. So then a little bit you’re saying about BOI, I know we did a Hong Kong company together, originally for your own, own use, is it Thailand company, or others are, what’s your, do you have holding structure for this company, or?

Gustaf: Yeah, so I’m using my Hong Kong company as a holding, like as, the company we have here in Australia is holding up. I used my Hong Kong company as a holding product. I also do some consulting and freelance work occasionally so that is from Hong Kong.

Mike: Got it.

Gustaf: Yeah, being great to work with you guys as well. So setting that up, it’s been smooth progress as well.

Gustaf: Yeah, it’s my yeah. It’s easier and more clear.

Mike: Cool. So, I saw your Facebook update last week and I know you have guys have an announcement, you’re seem allowed to talk about your product or I’d love to know more about your business, also hoping some listeners could people hire you for projects or you just do your own project, maybe we could share a little.

Gustaf: We do some consulting but we’re like work, on their own products. We finally get some attractions on one of our product in Australia, so it’s good, of course.

Mike: Alright. Hopefully helps you too, we’d love to hear it if you can share, it’s up to you.

Gustaf: It’s hard to explain but it’s on the advertising, is called for.

Mike: Yeah.

Gustaf: For auditing, it’s actually what they charge for, we built a platform which ahh when we take this data and present it in ahh, so, umm, we manage not to be signing up on for eh , in Australia. To just its ahh just be clear it’s ahh client of the separate companies but ahh we provide software development for them.

Mike: Great, great! Uhm and then how can people find, find you or your business online as website or social media anything that we could put on the notes.

Gustaf: So, yeah, we’re under

Mike: Okay.

Gustaf: Pendata something on Facebook and its ahh we do work a lot with the digital working solutions as well that were the name comes from.

Mike: Great.

Gustaf: So, yeah.

Mike: Alright.

Mike: Alright. Thank you everybody for listening I – I learn some new things board of investment annual leave, attracting staff, and some interesting things Gustaf is working on. He’s also our member at, you guys can support the show, email us the ultimate way. I know some listeners are loyal members of the GFA VIP membership, thank you so much for that and well we’re gonna keep on rocking it’s just going forward,. Fast forward here life is good summer’s almost over. Can you believe this, time has been flying, we’re in the middle of August 2017, but you know there was somebody just talk to me about the other day about a show, I record with John Medved in Hong Kong in 2013 October and Rhea Gonzalez got tons of value added that she’s quoting things that he was saying and that was my favorite part is, we’re talking about podcast, almost 4 years ago and there’s still hopping people on this day. And ahh hopefully change their lives, change the way people think, for the good. For the good, you know. If you’re listening to the show, still send me a notes. Why not show me a quickie mail, don’t write me 5 paragraphs, it’s a little bit tough on my brain, I’m kinda fried lately. They say I love the show I listen and I listen to this out rows,I wonder if you make it until the end of this show or not. I know some people walking dogs you can pop up your iphone or you listen to your itunes, go to your mail up and say whats up dude thats it. And I’ll try to email you back ahh we’re gonna keep pushing forward, thank you so much again. Thanks for listening and have a great week. Bye!

To get more info, on running international business please visit our website at that’s Also, be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

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