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Why Businesses with Remote Teams in Southeast Asia are Thriving The phenomenon of remote work is only going to grow, and it's clear the young, tech-minded workforces of SEA are quickly jumping on this bandwagon

By Alexander Torrenegra

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The recent wave of smart digital businesses going remote shows no sign of abating. That's because the benefits are numerous both for companies and their employees. These include proven higher levels of productivity, a happier workforce, cost-efficiency, and reduced environmental impact.

As significant as this trend is, however, it's not something that just happens. Building a remote team across several time zones will sometimes create a hectic and unwieldy environment for a business. Hiring within similar time zones, however, keeps everyone in sync and is a viable path forward.

Southeast Asia (SEA) has emerged as one of the most popular places to concentrate teams of remote workers, and the businesses that are doing so are thriving. The region boasts a booming tech scene, an expanding pool of young talent, and an increasingly positive attitude towards flexible work. Here are the top four reasons companies should consider setting up their remote teams in SEA.

Exploding Tech and Startup Scene

Several countries in SEA offer an incredibly healthy entrepreneurial environment: Singapore is the 6th easiest country to start a business in the world, and Malaysia comes in at number 13. With serious capital injections from Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent, SEA startups have the necessary ingredients to grow and thrive.

In many cases, the locally-established businesses are punching above their weight against global stalwarts. For example, Grab recently drove Uber out of the region to solidify its status as the dominant the ride-hailing company in SEA. The region is also home to eight unicorns, and there are expected to be 10 more by 2024.

With this flurry of startup activity comes opportunities for growing a network, which is one of the most important factors for remote startup success. Co-working and attending conferences both offer great ways to get in front of new faces and develop strong relationships. This summer, for example, Bali hosts Running Remote, one of the world's biggest annual remote work conferences.

Building a remote team located in a young yet fast-accelerating tech ecosystem like SEA means a myriad of possibilities for businesses and employees. Most importantly, it's possible to build a team well plugged into the latest innovations and some of the biggest startup successes. The relative infancy of the market combined with its high potential means faster growth and scalability for remote companies building there as well.

Access to a Huge Talent Pool

Southeast Asia is home to a young and tech-savvy population of 660 million, over 50 per cent of which are under the age of 30. And not only is this generation tech-savvy, but they're also great at building tech too: Singapore (#3), Malaysia (#26) and Thailand (#45) all appeared on the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index.

This group of talent is also increasingly adopting flexible work schedules. It's estimated that by 2020 more than 60 per cent of people entering the workforce will be located in Asia and are likely to favor flexible work schedules, a collaborative work culture, and growth over salary.

With the region's emergence as a hub of innovation and technology, many of its "Sea Turtles," the students who study abroad and then return home to start their careers, will be increasingly lured back to their fertile home ground.

Along with the wealth of home-grown talent, Southeast Asia is also home to many digital nomads working online. Thousands of foreigners are settling in cities such as Chiang Mai and Bali, largely due to the kind of lifestyle available for minimal costs compared to those in the US or Europe. Companies setting up remote teams in SEA also have their pick of this forward-thinking and travel-oriented generation of workers.

Amazing Lifestyle and Travel Hotspots

It's no secret that a happy team is a motivated team. Giving employees the option to work from wherever they want in Southeast Asia has a great chance of leading to seriously satisfied workforce with good work/life balance.

The region has bustling cities, beautiful beaches, rolling mountains and, in a lot of places, great WiFi. Its established digital nomad community means it's full of coworking spaces and remote work communities. Remote workers can make connections and not just feel like they're surrounded by travellers should they opt for Thailand over Singapore, or Bali over Kuala Lumpur.

Being surrounded by such endless options for amazing travel doesn't just mean employees are happy while working remote. It also presents some great opportunities for team events and meetups when a company brings everyone together.

Low Living Costs

Last but not least, living a great lifestyle in many Southeast Asian countries is significantly cheaper than in the US, Europe, or Australia. A typical monthly spend for digital nomads averaging around $1,000 in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, and even less for locals. Because of this, businesses are able to invest in bigger and more skilled teams than they would if they were hiring elsewhere.

Combined with other cost-savings which come with remote work, such as no office overhead, paying remote workers based in Asia could open up space for other company developments and investments otherwise not affordable. Not requiring teams to commute to an office saves them money too.

Remote Companies will Expand in Southeast Asia

The phenomenon of remote work is only going to continue to grow, and it's clear that the young, tech-minded workforces of Southeast Asia are quickly jumping on this bandwagon. Businesses looking to set up remote teams have every reason to consider tapping into this emerging ecosystem.

Southeast Asia is bursting with potential for growth and innovation while still offering the cost-saving benefits of an emerging market.

Alexander Torrenegra

Founder & CEO, Torre

Alexander Torrenegra is the Founder & CEO at Torre, and an investor on Shark Tank Colombia. He also founded voice-service companies VoiceBunny and Voice123. Alexander was awarded the TR35 Top Colombian Innovator of the Year award by the MIT Technology Review in 2012, and was later named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2015.


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