Your best business development ideas in the East Timor

Hi everyone,

As a foreign entrepreneur, launching a business in the East Timor is a fantastic project and an exciting challenge. Some ideas are likely to succeed. Some others are promising but may not work as well as intended.

In your opinion, what kind of business or industry is likely to succeed in the East Timor? What kind of industry or service currently unavailable or underdeveloped in the country would meet local needs?

On the other hand, what are the most common business types foreign entrepreneurs would be eager to launch in the country but with very little chance of success?

Thank you for your insights.

Hi there,

In my observations, the kind of business or industry that is likely to succeed in Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) is property. If you could manage to secure a parcel of land and build apartment on that piece of property, you would make a handsome profit. Gated apartment compounds are plenty, but demand is still high, particularly for expatriates. Two-bedroom apartment  rentals in nice location will easily cost between $ 2,700 to $ 3,500. Three-bedroom apartment  rentals in similar location can cost between $ 5,000 to even $ 6,000 or $ 7,000.

After property, I would say grocery business (like supermarket or mini market) have a high probability to succeed. Demand is high, but the challenges are also there.  Almost every grocery items are imported from overseas, mainly from Indonesia, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Australia, Portugal, etc. Having a good inflow of goods and knowing people at the customs will certainly keys to success. Goods can get stuck at the custom for a month or two, which will definitely hurt the business.

Then, cafe and restaurants are the third most lucrative industry. If you could find a nice place, with a good chef, good menu and reliable employees to work as waiters/waitresses, you will have a chance to succeed. In the past two years, I could see that the competition start getting tougher. More new restaurants are open, while few are closed. So, the competition is there, but with the right menu, good place and good service, you could still survive.

Other than those three industries, I would say other businesses like trading, printing,  travel agent, beauty salon, barbershop, advertising also have a good chance to succeed. However, human resources management could pose a challenge, though. It might be a bit difficult to find dependable local workers with the right qualification.

The kind of industry or service that are currently in high demand but a bit of lacking (I would not say unavailable) is civil work for the Government. High demand for heavy duty machinery or vehicle like dump truck, excavator, etc. These things are needed to build roads and bridges since the country is going through a phase of building its infrastructures. There are plenty of projects. However, extremely slow payment process (e.g. 3 to 6 months) can easily put a big dent on the contractors' cash flow, if not mess it up all together. The contractors must have strong financial back-up, otherwise they will find themselves declaring bankruptcy after 6 to 9 months.

I could feel that foreign entrepreneurs would be eager to launch business such as auditing but it seems not really successful due to limited market size. Even though the demand is there, but so far the only institutions that would need to be audited are Government ministries, UN and NGOs. Sometimes, they also already have their own auditors.

Those are my opinions.

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