After expanding to several European, African and even North American countries, LittleBIG Connection continues its international growth on the Asian continent. A year ago, Tanguy De Grandmaison set off to take the reins of the Asian HQ in Ho Chi Minh City with the aim of developing the APAC region. He shared his experience with us to help those who may wish to develop their business activities in the area.
Hello Tanguy! Could you tell us about your professional journey?
I have always worked in IT, in different business-related roles. I started off in Ireland in a company which focused on electronic document management, then I returned to France where I joined Logica (now CGI) as a Key Account Manager. These different consulting experiences allowed me to master challenges associated with Information Systems departments within major groups.
Wishing to enrich my experience by moving on from consulting, I joined a digital agency, then moved on to the leaders of B2B data, Dun & Bradstreet. This allowed me to bolster my knowledge on all things digital and data, both essential for all modern-day companies.
In time, I joined LBC. This came quite naturally and allowed me to use all the knowledge I had acquired in my previous roles in digital, data and the IT market.
What is your role at LittleBIG Connection?
As APAC Regional Manager, my role involves supporting our clients through the changes in the Asian consulting world, bringing them agility and access to the best experts through our platform.
It’s a daily challenge because our clients are spread over many different countries and since our objective is to become the regional hub for IT skills, we are committed to supporting them in all their locations.
On a personal level, it’s highly enriching to discover all these different cultures and their vision of the consulting world. Every day brings new discoveries and surprises.
LittleBIG Connection also offers future partners wonderful opportunities wherein independence, initiative, solidarity and entrepreneurial spirit will motivate them in their work.
Is this the first time you have worked in Vietnam?
Yes, it’s really my first expat experience. I lived in Ireland for a year after university but since it was so close to my home in France, I didn’t really feel like an expat.
Going to live in Ho Chi Minh City is a real challenge for me
This experience drives me to excel and get out of my comfort zone both professionally and personally.
This kind of experience forces you to challenge yourself and not rest on your laurels. This opportunity will allow me to discover new cultures and ways of working, it’s incredibly exciting! What’s more, I am married with 3 children and my family accepted the challenge of joining me in Vietnam, so they’re also discovering a new universe! It was a great opportunity for us as a family.
What does this mean for you in terms of responsibility?
After 6 months in Asia we are starting to become well-known and recognized in the market, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong. The hard work is starting to pay off!
However, we are far from finished in Asia where the challenges we face are manifold. I have to make sure that we can support our clients and our community throughout the whole APAC zone. This means we must be sure that we address their challenges at every step of the way, ensuring the appropriate legal, cultural and functional accountability of our platform within local constraints.
Another important point for us is that our existing clients in other parts of the world still get the same user experience, regardless of the country.
In short, it’s a great entrepreneurial adventure in a quickly expanding market with the LittleBIG Connection team ever-present to help everyone meet their objectives. Therefore, I can count on the support of a team present at every moment to help us meet our objectives. Despite the distance and time difference, we maintain a close, solid relationship just like a big family.
What is life like in Vietnam? How is the weather?
Ho Chi Minh City is a super-fast-paced city which combines modern with traditional. The city never sleeps. It’s a bustling hub, perfect for those who enjoy the effervescence of big Asian cities. It has a great atmosphere; Vietnamese people are very welcoming and helpful.
Nothing is impossible here, there is always a solution.
The climate is very different to what I’m used to in France. There is the rainy season (July-October), the dry season (December-March) and a very hot period from April-June. Let’s just say we won’t freeze to death any time soon…
What are some of the biggest cultural contrasts compared with France?
It’s a very friendly, patient and positive culture. What I’ve noticed most is that there is very little room for individualism. It’s a society based on groups or families. And it’s very difficult to get access to these groups if you don’t know anyone on the inside who can introduce you.
There is also a very strict hierarchy of respect. There are different levels of respect if you are 40, the eldest sibling, married with 2 children than if you are 20, single and an only child. This is all very codified, there are different words to address someone based on the level of respect you must show them.
This has a direct impact on LittleBIG Connection especially for Freelancers. They work in the same way, by groups. It is therefore imperative to be able to create trusting relationships within these groups in order to offer them our platform.
What does LittleBIG Connection bring to the Asian market?
As I said before, the objective is to be recognized as a real skills hub in Asia. We bring a real added value to the market by encouraging our clients and our community to work together, whilst constantly bearing specificities of local markets in mind.
In Singapore and Hong Kong, the markets are mature, international and resemble the French market in terms of challenges. For example, a large proportion of experts based in Singapore are foreign nationals (Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, European and North-American). They are thus subject to the extremely tight Visa rules of the Ministry of Manpower (MoM). We allow companies to tap in to external skills without being bound by this constraint.
Vietnam is a country experiencing an economic boom and is still undergoing restructuring. Requests for freelancers or consulting companies continue to increase every year. Our platform allows our clients to structure their intellectual services purchasing and find the best skillsets in this young and developing market.
Can you give us some tips for new expats in Ho Chi Minh City?
My first tip would be to know how to involve yourself in local life and accept cultural differences. Secondly, immersing yourself in the local culture will allow you to flourish both professionally and personally. Next, check that your core business matches the economic and intellectual resources of the market. And finally, give yourself the time to adapt and you will feel like you really fit in.
Anything you found particularly remarkable?
A tradition that took some getting used to for me is the afternoon nap. If you turn up at a company for a meeting between 1pm and 2pm, the offices will be dark and the employees will be lying on their desks with their heads on cushions. This only lasts 15 or 20 minutes and when they wake up, they go straight back to work. Something to consider!
LittleBIG Connection now operates in Europe, Asia, and has just started in North America! At the beginning of 2019, Léanne took over managing LittleBIG Connection in Montreal for the North American market….
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