Translating for Indonesia – What to Expect

There are plenty of countries that are ripe with opportunity in terms of business. Indonesia is one of them. But, how do you localize for Indonesia? Well. If there’s one thing we know by now, it’s clearly not as simple as translating a website.

Indonesia is a country that is known for its diverse range of cultures, languages, religions, and even politics. On the whole, it’s a completely different business environment and adapting to it isn’t exactly the simplest task on earth.

For instance, what works back at home or in any of your other local markets won’t likely work in Indonesia.

Case in Point

There was a time when Subway tried to enter the Indonesian market. It made complete sense. The country didn’t exactly have an existing brand that could meet this demand. So, subs were a fairly novel idea and one that was predicted to gain tractions.

But, here’s the thing – it didn’t gain traction as planned. Why? Well, you see Subway didn’t factor in the country’s culture, especially with regard to their dietary differences. Turned out that the local population simply wasn’t too big on sandwiches. The local diet leaned more towards noodles and rice and that’s exactly what people preferred. Bread was a novelty and not something people opted for on a regular basis. So, Subway doesn’t operate here anymore.

This is the same scenario no matter where. Brands that put in the time and effort to understand what the local audience wants are likely to lead the localization race. For instance, Google is not even an option for the Chinese because it simply doesn’t feel native enough. In Pakistan and India, gaming customers love foreign racing games because those are the only types of games that don’t involve linguistic interaction.

People, no matter what, at the end of the day, prefer the taste of their own culture.

Tackling Indonesia

According to a report published by Globalization Partners International, penetrating the Indonesian market involves acquiring a thorough knowledge of how its market works. The most basic steps involve adapting the language, your products, your image, and other marketing collateral to meet the needs of the local audience. There’s a learning curve that must be overcome and it’ not free of risks. For starters, payments are an area that you have to tackle. Indonesia has the 3rd largest unbanked population in Asia. That means there’s a huge number of people out there that do not engage in online transactions. So, cash payments are the way to go.

In fact, from the global perspective, the country is home to 6% of the total unbanked population. Yup, that’s a lot of prospective customers who aren’t going to use credit cards or other online payment channels. So, for instance, if you’re running an e-commerce venture in Indonesia, cash on delivery would have to be a default payment option. You would have to offer it for all your products.

The other thing to look at is pricing. Like a lot of Asian cultures, Indonesians are also very conservative about how much they spend. They are likely to travel a mile extra just to save a few hundred bucks on a more affordable alternative. Discounts are a big deal here. So, discount days at malls in Indonesia are almost like Black Fridays in the US.

A study from the Boston Consulting Group found that customers in Indonesia will actively hunt for deals and offers. There is a cultural component to this as well. Indonesia is mostly a patriarchal society. So, women here are given a certain amount of money by their husbands to run the house. Therefore, sticking to the budget is a must. As a result, most Indonesian women specifically look for cheaper alternatives in order to save up money that can be later used for personal indulgences.

There are several such cultural and social aspects that play a role in shaping how the Indonesian market functions. A deep understanding of all these aspects must be acquired before your business can even start the localization process.

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