Starting a Business in Thailand

There are a number of things you could do if you’re looking to start a business in Thailand.

One thing you might try is a tour agency. Probably you or your spouse speaks English well enough to communicate with some of the 14 million tourists that visit Thailand each year. Probably one of you speaks Thai enough that you could also hit the Thai market, which – for some tourist destinations – is substantial too.

We briefly considered a tour agency but the business office in Phuket that gives out the tour agency licenses wanted 100,000 THB to start. It’s a guarantee in case someone sues you for screwing them over – or whatever else they want to sue you for. To me I looked at it as an excellent way for someone to make a lot of money from us – without going through us – they just complain to the business office – who gives them part of our 100,000 THB to shut them up.

I didn’t like that idea much. We didn’t open a tour agency.

You might open a restaurant. I’ve seen guys that helped their Thai wives open soup stands and small restaurants. I’ve seen them work a couple of times. Talking with other soup stand owners we learned they can make 15-20,000 THB per month if they do fairly well. Even in a place in the northeast. That’s pretty decent money. Pretty boring job though – right?

You could open a dive shop. Thailand’s south – Phuket and Krabi are full of them, foreign owned and some of them doing really well. As far as I know, Trang doesn’t have any foreign owned dive shops – and that might be a good place to go to open one. Trang has some nice water and islands. Stunning. And, they’re not overrun by tourists yet.

Koh Lanta has some foreign owned dive shops – and well, just about everything seems foreign owned on Lanta.

Bars. Many guys open a bar and think they’re going to make enough money to live on every month – and are shocked to find out they can’t. There is a LOT of competition in places like Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Samui. Why would the hoards of tourists come to your bar instead of others? That’s the part of the equation you’ve got to have figured out – or, don’t bother. If you can somehow convince 10-20 drop dead gorgeous girls to work at your bar – and show up every night – you won’t have any problems. Finding amazing girls that are somewhat reliable – is a nightmare.

That said, I know a foreigner in Patong Beach making big BANK with 3 bars he’s had for years.

You could do something online…

Blogging – is out. You can’t make bank just blogging. Your website needs to have a focus. Look at StickmanBangkok.com, Thaivisa.com, bahtsold.com – dying, but I think he’s still doing OK for now, ajarn.com. They have a focus – and it’s not blogging about day to day life in Thailand. Stick had a good idea with the story submission thing – and that’s given him lots of content for his site. Thaivisa has a few million pages now – thanks to forums. Ajarn.com has the name recognition for all teachers – as does that other teacher site… whose name escapes me now. Dave’s ESL something.

Blogging about your day at school, or bitching about the Thai experience – is going to get you squat.

You could sell something online. Someone from the northeast got in touch with me about selling their Thai Silk scarves and things. They created a real nice site and I hope they’re doing well. Problem is – to master Google, it will take some years. If you’re in it for the long-haul – great! That’s what it will be – a long haul. Still possible though.

I don’t know what else people would sell from Thailand except GEMS. If you are a gem expert – you owe it to yourself to move here immediately – to Bangkok or Chantaburi, east of Pattaya – and get a nice website going. You can make a giant killing. If you look at Ebay – Thailand gem masters are selling thousands of rocks each month. Rubies, sapphires, and other things I haven’t the slightest idea how to price, go for small and big money online. There are a number of Thailand based jewelers on eBay – look it up sometime.

Some guys come to Thailand to shoot erotica for their websites. That seems to be dying out – as there have been many busts of people engaged in that sort of thing. Some guys try to start escort services – which I can’t imagine really working either. Some guys bring their girls from their home country – Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Africa, Pakistan, to be prostitutes for the international travelers here. I can’t see that working for too long either.

There’s always drugs. Just about daily I’ll find something online about a drug bust in Thailand. As many drug busts as there are – many people are just not afraid of them here.

A group of guys told me that the gardener at a resort they were staying at, offered them some marijuana from his own personal garden. He showed it to them. That’s pretty damn bold for a Thai to do, right? Happens all the time I think.

What other business could you start from Thailand… hmmm. Visa runs I guess. A lot of competition for those too, I wouldn’t have any fun doing that.

There are reports of some expats up in the northeast – Khon Kaen, MahaSarakham, Nong Khai – that have some sort of scammy, find yourself a Thai bride type operation. I always thought a legitimate place located in the northeast would do really well. I have now had about a dozen guys write me to ask me to find them a future wife – all because of a post I made years ago, just joking that I’d do it for some outrageous amount of money. Apparently some guys will pay it – and be glad to. I think that could work – go ahead and run with it – I don’t think we’re going to do it. I’d like to see someone offer a good service like this.

You’ve probably seen people that bring Apple iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macbook Airs over from the USA or Singapore, Hong Kong, or elsewhere – to sell them here in Thailand. I guess that might work – there are enough people doing it, they must be making some kind of money. I think that at a couple hundred bucks profit off one machine you’d have to sell 10 per month. Wouldn’t it be hard to import that many each month? Is it all worth it somehow? I’m not sure… I don’t like the reselling businesses much.

I’ve seen a couple expats start used bookstores. There’s one operating out of Chiang Mai. I don’t know that that is going anywhere, as ebooks are all the rage. I don’t see ebooks going all that well either – I have ThailandeBooks.com and it isn’t selling more than $100 per month in books. That’s not enough for anyone to live on!

On the other hand, writing books is a better idea, if you can write. There are many topics you might write about and create your own ebook or even ebook series. Seems ridiculous to pay $10 and more dollars for a paperback book – or an ebook. I list all mine for $2.99. Amazon adds $2 for books sold in the UK and maybe all over Europe – not sure. I make just $2 a book – but, that’s nice extra $.

Making movies would probably work. You’ve got millions of people here that would work for 300 THB per day. Are there any foreign movie directors and producers in Thailand? The Thai audience loves movies and seems to me it wouldn’t be that hard to create a movie Thais’ like. Maybe that’s all mob controlled – not sure. Likely it is I guess.

Oh, almost forgot – Teaching English online, or Teaching Thai online may work if you have the internet skills. There is a guy and his Thai wife that are doing this out of uhm, I forget – Sweden? He has ads all over ThaiVisa, and some other big sites. When he first started he was making $3,000 per month. That’s pretty good – right? By now he must be at $6,000 per month or more. This area is pretty wide open – and has been for the 6 years I’ve been in Thailand.

It does take a lot of effort and serious online know-how.

I have some great ideas for a business in this niche and it’s always possible I’ll jump into it. The amount of work scares me though – I have a lot of stuff going on and this would be a LOT of time invested to get up and running.

I probably see no better opportunity though. Well, not true. I see some more, a couple of killer businesses. But, I’m not sharing them – because it’s likely I will jump into some of them within the next year!

Ok – well, that’s my overview of creating a business in Thailand. Online there are still many opportunities – but you’ll need to focus on something that sells – not blog in general about life. Focus on something that isn’t already doing that well, or, go up against something that is killing it – and make it a long-term effort to be the best in that niche. Online classifieds is something that comes to mind. Bahtsold.com blows. ThaiVisa seems to copy the Craigslist ads. There’s nobody else in the space that I know about. What about the rental market? Someone could really specialize there and make a killing I think. Everyone – all expats staying for a while – need to find good house and townhomes to live… help them.

Ok – that’s all I’ve got. Hope someone got something out of this rambling!