Ingenia vs Recombo

I found the Recombo person used a lot of technical words I wasn’t totally familiar with, but have been learning about recently during my web design.  As he started describing what he was doing, it started to sound more and more to me like it was an aggregation hub.  In other words, a piece of software which automatically collects information from a variety of sources.  The model I see here is that each of these sources pushes out data (using an RSS feed for example) and this aggregator pulls the data together.  Seems like a neat thing, but as I mentioned before, I know someone who cooked up one of these sites using Drupal in an afternoon.  So my money isn’t on them, unless they somehow change their tune again.

As for Ingenia, I am worried about the prospects of a start up company doing business in South East Asia where cultural norms are very, very different than in the West.  Unless they have familiarity with the quirks of Vietnamese culture, they are going to find some very basic things quite frustrating.

For example, my wife just asked a Thai silk company to order some silk for her, a whole 10 yards of it (and a cost of $9 or so), and they told her no problem.  A week later and they still haven’t ordered the silk for her, and so she calls to find out why.  The reason?  She hasn’t prepaid for the silk.  Why didn’t they call to tell her that she has to pay?  Because my wife might lose face when they point out she made a mistake, and a Thai business would go out of business pretty quickly in Thailand if they forced their customers to lose face like this.

Knowing these kinds of cultural assumptions is key to doing business in this part of the world.  So unless Ingenia has some very experienced Vietnamese partners, they are going to lose a lot of money and productivity to these kinds of mistakes.

Does anyone here have any other cultural awareness issues that could affect business in various parts of the world to share?


1 Michael Awmack { 09.14.08 at 11:01 am }


Another cultural awareness issue that I’ve encountered is that in many countries of the world, talking “business” only takes place after a long relationship-building phase. It’s considered extremely rude to even mention business interests during this phase and doing so may put off potential partners/clients. This is particularly true in many Asian countries.

For this reason, anyone considering launching a venture in a country with this environment must be well-versed on the hospitality expectations of the country. In my experience, working in Malaysia, every visitor to the office meant that there would be an afternoon tea in their honour and depending on the visitor, there may even be a tree-planting ceremony for them (I was working for a biodiversity organization, so that explains this odd practice). Only after these activities would any business be discussed.

2 Gillian Gunderson { 09.14.08 at 1:05 pm }

New West school district had a business company that explored educational opportunities in China.

It took many trips and much “social” contact before business could be discussed.

3 Jagpal Uppal { 09.15.08 at 11:44 am }

Hi David et al,

Often cultural norms clash as companies begin competing outside of their original market. Having recently travelled to India to visit some family, I was amazed at how differently business is conducted.

Although there are larger retailers now entering the Indian market, my experiences were from the local bazaar near my village. It terms of culture and business, it is common for the businesses to offer the customers tea, juice and sweets.

As they build the relationship, the product dialogue and negotiations begin. There is no set price, just an introductory price (and as I found out….the price can be different when you have a local with you!) and the customer is on their own to negotiate.

Even if you don’t find what you were looking for or didn’t like the price, I was often buying something out of guilt and obligation as I had just eaten a snack and had some tea.

On another note about cultural norms, even symbols used in logos or marketing need to be researched. For example, the “owl” in North America is thought of as “wise”, whereas in India the “owl” is considered one of the dumbest animals and it is an extreme insult to refer to someone as an owl.


4 Deepika Sharma { 09.15.08 at 7:08 pm }

David, all,

I am Indian (and Jags narrations rings true in many ways) – I have lived 5 years in south-east asia – there is a whole world of difference in the way business is conducted in these parts of the world vis-a-vis the west. Whilst India has the small time trader on the one hand where a business relationship is built on personal front, there is laso the hugely professional & global Indian who works on international rules on the other! So within the same country rules change and there are several shades of grey inbetween. For prfessionals in India, things can look equally bizarre (ref your Thai example) when we cross border a few thousand kms east 🙂

Ingenia jumping on the Vietnamese bandwagon on the basis of two trips – might be a flimsy proposition …therefore (as I mentioned in reply to another post) placing all eggs in a single (overseas) basket for a startup needs reviewing.


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