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Emmanuel Bisi, Entrepreneur of The Month (IFCCI June 2017)

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Emmanuel Bisi and I am 39 years old. I was born and raised in France. But my roots are French, Italian and Polish. My wife is Australian, born in Saudi Arabia to parents of Indian origin. We have 2 young children who were both born in India. This makes us true global citizens. I created my company, Expandys, in London in 2010. And I opened the Indian branch in 2014. My professional ties with India however, have been since 2005.

What is Expandys about?

Expandys is a consultancy company, which assists SME’s to develop and expand their business operation internationally. In addition to our offices in London and Bangalore, we also have 3 liaison offices in Paris, Barcelona and Morocco. We specialize in sectors such as Aerospace, Consumer Goods, Textile, Food & Beverage, Life Science & Health Care, IT & Communication and Infrastructure. Our team comprises of experts in these sectors who are able to provide our clients with pragmatic solutions to produce practical results.

When did you first think of becoming an entrepreneur and how did your journey start?

As far as I can remember, even as a child, I was always fascinated and intrigued with entrepreneurs, particularly International Business. Going to Australia to do my Masters in International Business, gave me the exposure to pursue my dream and implement my vision.

I started my entrepreneurial journey with the acquisition of an entity in London for which I was working as Country Manager. This is how Expandys was born. It was established in 2010 in the UK after which I decided to expand my operations to India .

What do you think makes an entrepreneur successful?

I believe an entrepreneur needs to do three things: First, set a clear vision and direction for the company. Without a solid vision, the company has no chance of moving in the right direction. You have to demonstrate your leadership and lead your team to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

Secondly, it is vital to recruit, hire and retain the best talents possible. This part is critical; without a strong team you cannot succeed. Take the necessary time to surround yourself with the best people who have the rights skills and fit with the company culture.

Last but not least, an entrepreneur needs to make sure there is always money in the bank. Majority of the ventures fail due to cash flow issues. You need to make sure that you always have sufficient reserves to keep the business going without wondering if you’ll be able to keep the lights on.

What are the main challenges?

One thing any entrepreneur will tell you is that, things never go as planned. So it is both a responsibility and a challenge to be truly and profoundly optimistic. You need to have the ability to always see the glass half-full and bounce back, no matter what.

Moreover, entrepreneurship isn’t about having ideas, it’s about making ideas happen. And for this, good and timely decision making skills are vital. The challenge is that, most of time you are on your own. So you need to ensure the right systems are in place, to have the relevant information on time, to take important decisions.

What are the positive aspects of being an entrepreneur?

The exciting aspect of being an entrepreneur is to make your vision a reality. Furthermore, leading a team and helping them to achieve their optimum capability is very rewarding. If you help them to succeed they will in turn help you to achieve your goals.

Good decision making as mentioned earlier is always critical. So when you see the results of good decisions being made, it gives a feeling of achievement and freedom.

Also, when misfortune strikes within in the company, as an entrepreneur, it usually means a lot of stress and struggle; however, when there is good news or an achievement, the joy is multiplied by the number of people in your team.

What is your advices to French entrepreneurs who would like to set up their Business in India?

First you need to understand that the perception of time in India is different as compared to countries with a Judeo-Christian culture, which have a linear approach of time. Therefore, set your deadlines with safety margins to ensure you finish your projects on time.

Secondly, you need to know that Business relationships in India are created through informal meetings with an aim of establishing trust. I would therefore advise entrepreneurs to share details about themselves and their own family but also enquire about the person they are meeting with.

Thirdly, bear in mind that most Indians are extremely skilled negotiators. You therefore need to know exactly what you want and to negotiate diplomatically but firmly.

Fourthly, I would say that it’s vital to show patience. Be persistent but patient, so you can gradually create a climate of confidence with your clients and suppliers. Once the relationship is established, you’ll be able to count on trustworthy partners with a long lasting business relationship.

My last advice: Be flexible. Indian people are overly optimistic. They are ready to get involved in innovative projects and make ambitious propositions. Take the “Jugaad” on, which has now become a management movement taught in many prestigious Schools/ Universities. Expect that the means used are not the ones you were thinking about. It’s about thinking outside the box.

Besides loving what you do, I think you also need to really love India to succeed in the country. India is indeed very different from anything you can ever experience in Europe. Being an entrepreneur in India is both an empowering and a humbling experience.