Starting a Business in Thailand

Written in 2009 and modified in May 2022.

by Sebastien H. Brousseau, manager of

Starting a business in Thailand

With the actual economical crisis, covid, people working from home, I see more and more foreigners wanting to start a business in Thailand. They should be careful as starting a business here, or anywhere else, is not necessary easy. It might even be more difficult for a foreigner to start a business here because of the culture, the language and the laws.

The following article is just some personal remarks to anyone wishing to start a business in Thailand. They come for my personal experience or what I’ve seen around me.

A) Make a research before starting something

Too many people are starting the same kind of businesses: restaurant, hotel, massage parlor, diving, etc. Remember that Thai salaries can be very low. Therefore, if they can copy you, they might be able to make the same products for a better price. Look around people having a successful business here: they probably have something different, use their own skills, invest time and money and probably work much more than you can think.

Making a research include to verify the best legal structure for you. Will it be a business under the name of your Thai wife? A partnership or a Thai limited company? How many employees will you need? Where will you find them? How much will you invest? You might have a great idea but maybe someone tried it before you and failed. Making a research doesn’t cost much and can save you a lot.

You will have to decide if you want to only invest or be a business manager. The lack of commitment of many foreigners into their businesses in Thailand is often deadly to their project. If you come in Thailand for fun and start a business as hobby, the pleasure might stop quickly when you will see the money disappear. A business will normally need a manager with a strong presence to control employees, products, marketing and the whole business.

B) Having a Thai partner

This is not essential but depending of the size of your business, it can facilitate things. Foreigners are restricted to do business in Thailand. A Thai partner might open you doors that couldn’t been otherwise. And the best Thai partner might not be your spouse…

There are important restrictions to foreigners in Thailand:

  • They need a visa to stay in Thailand
  • They need a work permit to work (there are exceptions)
  • They can’t own land (there are some exceptions)
  • They can’t own a business like Thais (there are exceptions too)

A reliable Thai partner can offer you a fast way to integrate your business in Thailand.

C) Having adequate funding

This is also another very important part. Many businesses disappear after few months to one year because they lack of adequate funding. Remember that the first year of business might be very difficult and you might not make any profit. On the opposite, you might have to invest more because you will have forget something or will have to adapt. Therefore, before starting a business, you should make a business plan and a budget for your first year of operation.

If you don’t have a lot of money, start your business with the lowest amount possible. Try to cut the costs, by having partners, sharing some expenses, renting equipment. And remember a general rule in Thailand: Don’t invest more than you can afford.

D) Don’t forget the marketing

This might be the key to your success. How will you market your business? Do you need to advertise it? Who are your clients/customers and where can you reach them, at the best cost?

I personally know a business that started few months ago. The owner doesn’t have a website or a phone number. He tried to advertise his business and paid money to do so but doesn’t invest enough time in order to succeed. I doubt that he will be able to stay open next year…

E) Legalities

There are several small types of agreements that must be evaluated. Example, if you lease an office or a working place, you might want to renew this lease without any problems. If you employ some people, you might want to sign some non-compete agreement in order to prevent them by stealing your materials, ideas or your clients.

You will also have to choose if you prefer to have employees and pay their social security and taxes, or if you prefer to work with contracts.

One thing is sure: It’s not easy to start a business in Thailand and think about it twice before doing it.

And if you want to make it right, thinking about the future, you should think about:

  • respect and promote labour rights by giving good salaries and working condition. Your employees might stay with you a longer time
  • give back some of your profits to the community and charity organizations
  • try to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gaz emission, and recycle your waste
  • better to keep quality and less clients than growing too fast, especially with the current economy

PS: Should you wish to find information about business in Thailand, check the corporate section at