Antoine was one of the first members of the BrainGain family. After graduating from Paris HEC (one of Europe’s top business schools) with an MSc in Management, he headed out to Bangalore at the start of 2015 to work with Exotel , one of India’s first cloud telephony startups, on a 6 month internship.
Antoine found a spare half hour in his busy schedule to jump on Skype to talk about his experiences before Bangalore, what brought him to the Silicon Valley of India, and his plans further down the line.
Matt: Did you have any international experience before heading out to Bangalore?
Antoine: Yes, I had been out to Bangalore for 4 months as an exchange student at IIM Bangalore (one of the leading business universities in India) while I was studying at HEC Paris. I didn’t spend that much time in the city though as I managed to organize all my classes into two days, giving me 5 days each week to get out the city and travel around India.
M: Why did you want to work abroad?
A: Working abroad means a more challenging work environment, and that makes every day more exciting. While I’m young and don’t have kids, I can be adventurous and have more life-changing experiences.
In the long-term, I believe that Europe is a declining continent and it’s best to go to emerging economies to get experience while they are growing.
As long as I’m happy in my environment, I don’t really care about the location. For that reason, I wouldn’t say that I’m a traveler; I’m someone who likes to live in a new city or country and somewhere that I’m out of my comfort zone.
M: So why did you choose to head back to India after university?
A: While at school, I also did two 6 month internships in the US and traveled to Australia. Throughout these travels I’ve discovered that I much prefer to spend time somewhere like India because of its history and culture. In Australia, everything was too recent. Even the oldest of buildings weren’t much more than a couple hundred years old! However In India, culture and infrastructure have existed for thousands of years. I really feel more at home here.
Before coming to India with my university, I’d never been outside of the Western world. I strongly believe that job markets are not split between countries, but the world is a global marketplace (aside from visas problems). Whilst young, I want to experience what the world has to offer and how to experience change between cultures.
Also, Indians speak English, making it easy to conduct business. In Europe, being tri-lingual (Antoine speaks French, German, and English) is considered to be an impressive achievement. However, the regular guy on the street in India probably speaks about 4 languages, with one of them being English.
M: Was Bangalore your first choice city in India?
A:Yes, Bangalore is the easiest city to live in by Western standards. It’s very westernized and the most similar to an American city. Bangalore is also 1000m above sea level meaning it has the best and most livable climate of any Indian city.
Also, Bangalore has the most active startup ecosystem in India, but it is still quite small. Everyone knows each other here (Bangalore) so it’s easy meet some very impressive people. It also felt like these people weren’t too far out of my reach. With extra work and dedication, I feel like it’s possible to get to their level.
M: Do you feel you learned a lot from your time at Exotel?
A: Yes. I worked closely with the founders so I got great insights into what it takes to run a startup. I was given a lot of responsibility and helped create Exotel’s HR department. I built processes and implemented policies whilst learning along the way. I learned that the HR department is crucial in creating the company culture, and my interest in recruitment was definitely sparked by my time working with Exotel.
M: What has been the most challenging part about working abroad and what are the main differences?
A: Aside from internships, I didn’t have a huge amount of experience in my home country. I feel the biggest differences in business occur between the type and size of a business. For example, startups are run the world over in a completely different manner to small-medium businesses.
The main challenges were cultural differences. For instance, there was little punctuality, and people constantly agreed to do something only to never follow through. There were several times where I would schedule a meeting and no one would turn up. However, this meant I had to create new strategies to entice my co-workers to meetings. This was initially difficult because I spent a lot of time of time in Germany where everything and everyone is incredibly punctual. These are two extremes.
M: Do you have any plans to continue your international career?
A: Yup, already at it!
M: What were your high points?
A: The amount of smart people around me. I always felt like I was the dumbest person the room (and that’s a good thing!).
M: What were the low points of your time in India?
A: It goes without saying that I got food poisoning.. twice. However, these were from more expensive restaurants. I never really had a problem with street food.
It was also difficult heading home because a flight was basically one month’s paycheck. Earning in Indian Rupees meant that you had very little spending power at home.
M: Any words of advice for those looking to head overseas?
A: Go for it! Anywhere. Get out of your comfort zone. You will grow and learn much faster.
Antoine’s journey to Bangalore and his experience while in the city is exactly the experience we want people to have when they come for an international work assignment with BrainGain. He came here, rose to the challenge by taking on responsibility, built up a skill set, and then moved onto a new position with a great company and continues to work internationally. This is the trajectory we would love to see everyone have, and seeing Antoine and his ability to do this is a true inspiration to us all.
While finishing up his internship at Exotel, Antoine was offered a new position at Belong , a recruitment startup based in Bangalore, that’s disrupting the recruitment industry throughout the world. He headed home for a few short months before organizing his visa and getting back out to Bangalore to continue on his professional journey.
Hat’s off to Antoine and his pursuit of living the dream. We wish him the best in his journey and we’re excited to see where this next stage of life takes him!
Have any questions for Antoine? Please let us know in the comments, we’re happy to get him to reply to anything you’d like to ask!