Friday, September 28, 2007

Virtual Office: Office image and solution


Tipuk Satiotomo has a major headache. After devoting herself to being a housewife for several years, Tipuk, a public relations officer, yearns to be active again. She would like to start up her own business, especially since a large company has entrusted her with its public relations affairs.

It would be impractical for her to set up an office in her home in Bekasi, West Java. Tipuk, a mother of three, would like to have a decent office in Jakarta. She imagines the ideal office to be several rooms in a building that is furnished with standard office furniture, such as desks, chairs and communications equipment. It also would have a secretary or a telephone operator. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, she does not think she can have the office that she envisions.

Tipuk is not the only one to get a headache thinking about an office. Many people would like to start their own business but, for financial reasons, cannot afford to rent a house, a shop-house, let alone office space in a high-rise building, to use as their place of work. If only they were familiar with the instant office concept, or the virtual office, then their problem would be solved.

Indeed, providers of instant office services can be found in major cities like Jakarta, where rent for office space is high. CEO Suite was the first to provide this particular type of service. Today, however, more and more companies offer business services and facilities at relatively low rates. Such services are often advertised, offering virtual offices located in prestigious places such as in Jakarta's Golden Triangle.

Virtual office services are offered at rates ranging between Rp 500,000 and Rp 1 million monthly. Meanwhile, if you want to rent office space, the rates range between Rp 7.5 million and Rp 15.5 million a month. As the rates are in rupiah, they will not be burdensome to lessees in Indonesia.

Although the rates are relatively low, it should not be assumed that only minimum facilities are provided. Besides basic facilities -- such as a fully furnished office, electricity, air-conditioning, a telephone line, a fax machine and a photocopier -- receptionists and a 24-hour security system are also provided. There is also a lobby where you can receive guests and a meeting room, which you can rent on an hourly basis and use for internal meetings or for meetings with clients. To make all this operational, a virtual office comes with a secretary, who will take phone calls and receive your clients. For extra, telemarketing can even be conducted.

One instant office provider is Asia Suite. As advertised, Asia Suite facilitates businesspeople in organizing business activities, such as correspondence, communications and meeting venues.

The following may serve to illustrate the services that Asia Suite provides. Jeff, for example, has a software business with a workshop in his house. To facilitate his business, he uses the Virtual/Instant Office service from Asia Suite. One of the benefits of using this service is that Jeff no longer needs to take his business partners to his house, which is far from the city center, for business or coordination or for a product demo. His business partners simply go to the Virtual/Instant Office of Asia Suite, which is located downtown.

Jeff may use the address of Asia Suite on his business cards and on his letter head, therefore augmenting the value of his business prestige. If a letter addressed to Jeff arrives or if someone phones to speak to him, he is immediately notified by SMS so that he can pick up the letter or phone back the caller.

That is the main selling point of a virtual office. Besides providing facilities in office services, a virtual office offers a prestigious address. Understandably, in business, image and credibility are absolutely necessary.

It is also quality services and facilities in office matters that are offered by CEO Suite, a company run by Mee Kim. Born in Seoul, South Korea, in December 1962, Kim, who has lived in Indonesia for many years, used to be the senior manager at an Australian instant office provider assigned to develop the company's branch office in Jakarta in 1997. It was then that she became interested in starting her own business under the flagship of CEO Suite.

Learning from the company where she formerly worked, Kim offers a different concept in her CEO Suite. Most instant office providers in Indonesia, she says, come from big countries like the United States and Australia. However, in providing services, they usually stick to the business practices prevailing in their own countries. "There is a gap between the business pattern prevailing in Australia or America and the one adopted in Asia," she noted.

Therefore, CEO Suite offers not only a physical office service and all the necessities but also virtual office services. A client does not need to rent space but can use the address of CEO Suite as his company's address. The lessee gets a telephone number facility plus a secretary to handle all the company's needs. In addition, CEO Suite also takes care of other things for its clients, such as attending to tax matters and visa applications or finding the right local partners. "The pattern we adopt is a one-stop solution," Kim says.

The occupancy rate at CEO Suite, Kim claims, never drops below 80 percent. "There is a great demand for not only physical offices but also virtual offices," she said.

Following its success in three locations in the Golden Triangle in Jakarta, CEO Suite expanded its business to major cities of the world where business is flourishing, such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok and Seoul.

Unlike Tipuk in the illustration above, there is no longer any need for a businessperson to consider not having an office a constraint. Now that there is the opportunity to rent an instant office, which ranges from a virtual office providing basic secretarial services only to a small office large enough for three to 15 people, not having actual business premises is no longer a problem. You only have to take your laptop and you can have your own office and carry out your business.

It is true that unlike in advanced countries, in Indonesia the trend of the instant office has yet to develop well. However, many see the concept of a small office, instant office or virtual office as an attractive option given the fact that some companies are designed to be small-scale businesses or that some firms have trimmed their businesses for better efficiency. (Burhanuddin Abe)

The Jakarta Post
September 04, 2007

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