Watch out for the Crocodiles

Doing business in Mauritius can be dangerous for the unwary.

“What business opportunities are there in Mauritius?”

I get asked this question ALL the time.  And it vexes me.

For the following reasons:

  • If I know of a really good business opportunity, why wouldn’t I take advantage of it myself?
  • How do I know what a good opportunity is for the person asking the question?  Each person has their own unique talents, knowledge, personality and bank balance.
  • It is only a good idea if it is executed competently.
  • Because Mauritius is a very small economy, many good ideas won’t work, no matter how competently they are executed, because our demographics are not up to it.
  • The best opportunities are pursued from Mauritius but not to Mauritians.  The world is much bigger than Mauritius.  With the technical tools we now have available, this market is far more accessible than before.  If you have a business that works this way, it can be transferred very profitably to Mauritius, where taxes are lower, and the lifestyle is great.

If you are going to start a business in Mauritius make sure that you have a good chance of getting your work permit approved by the Board of Investment.  Ask them what they don’t want to see.  Use examples.  For example, if you want to start a restaurant in Grand Bay, the chances are slim that it will get approved, even if you know you are the best in the world.

If you are going to buy an existing business in Mauritius, be bloody sure that what you see is what you get.  This is common sense and does not imply a higher level of dishonesty than that found elsewhere.

Your legal recourse as a foreigner is technically the same as that of a local.  But remember, you are the newbie in the swamp, and the locals know where the crocodiles are.

Mauritius is a small business community.  As a result, it is really hard to keep a secret.  Any good idea will be copied, or attempts will be made to do so.  Competition is quickly identified, and dirty tricks abound.  Everyone knows someone in a high enough place to trip you up, so say nothing, get on with your job quietly, and wear flat shoes.

Resilience is probably the biggest personal requirement for setting up a business in a foreign country.  The waves of bureaucracy, followed by countless lessons to be learned by hard experience, and enhanced by maneuvers to thwart you, will be exhausting.  If you give up easily, give up now.

Apply common sense.  If you are going to set up an Art Shop in Grand Bay, thinking that tourists will be flocking to buy cool images of beautiful Mauritius, do a bit of modeling.  Have a look at how many Art Shops there are.  Then look at how busy they are.  Then work out how many paintings you have to sell each day to pay the rent.

If you currently have a business on a laptop, this will possibly be the easiest to move.

That way, you keep your feet out of the swamp, and the crocs go hungry.

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