Born and brought up in Arras in the north of France, Nicolas Grossemy moved to India in January 2014 for a six-month internship, and immediately fell in love with the country.
“At first it looked like a big bazaar. I woke up the first day hearing cows making noise on the streets. I was really charmed with all the colors, the culture, diversity and opportunities here. I knew it couldn’t be just a six-month stay!,” he tells Little India.
The 26-year-old entrepreneur talks about his French gourmet fast-food chain in Bengaluru, adjusting to life in India and more:
Food Truck in Bengaluru
I hold a Masters in International Management from one of the top business schools in France. I always wanted to start my own venture, and came to India not only for the experience but also to explore opportunities and see how I could contribute to the country’s development.
I was interested in entrepreneurship and had three years of experience in the food and beverage industry in France. So I decided to look at opportunities to bring French street food to Bengaluru. I felt it was the perfect time for me to start because people in this city are very open to trying out new cuisines.
I started a French gourmet fast-food chain called Le Casse-Croute along with three other French partners in 2015. We began with a food truck, and then opened an outlet in 2016. We mainly sell sandwiches with homemade bread that we bake daily. People really like it because it’s a unique product with unique flavors.
It took us some time to set up the business. The administrative process here is time-consuming and, therefore, frustrating. But you have to learn to adapt and understand how the people live here. You cannot change the whole system.
Networking is important here. It can help you find the right person to get the job done.
It can be difficult if you don’t have the right contacts. For the food truck, we gave the vehicle to a garage but the guy in charge didn’t do anything for two months. So we decided to go to another garage on the recommendation of a friend and it turned out to be the best choice ever! Patience is one of the key attributes to be successful here.
We’re now looking to expand, and plan to have multiple outlets in Bengaluru and eventually other cities.
Life in Bengaluru
I don’t think living here is a huge change. You have to adapt to the culture and understand how people live in this city if you want to stay for a long time. People could get tired of the administration or the chaos on the roads or calling the supplier multiple times to know the status of the order.
I had to be cautious about what to eat so that I don’t fall sick. However, if I ever decide to move back to France, my biggest takeaway from India has to be chicken biryani! Bengaluru is a growing not only in terms of population but also infrastructure. I’ve seen many new hangout places opening that could actually be in France, really modern and well designed.
I like the fact that I get to meet people from all corners and learn about their different opinions, experiences in life. Bengaluru is also well connected to other cities in South India — a big advantage when you want to escape for a weekend.
I don’t like the frequent power cuts during the monsoon, otherwise the weather here is nice and enjoyable. I also love outdoor activities like running, cycling, and swimming, but it’s quite difficult to indulge in such activities here due to the polluted environment. I still find a way to undertake sporting activities, but mainly indoors. Bengaluru and its outskirts have nice places for outdoor activities, I wish there was some regulation to control the high pollution levels.
An Unending Adventure
What I love about India is that not one day is the same as the next one. There are always challenges and unexpected things happening. The lifestyle is completely different. Living as an expat in Bengaluru is much more exciting than living in Paris or any other place in France. It’s full of surprises – there may be a bandh tomorrow, or a festival that you don’t know about.
It’s like going on an adventure where you learn and discover new things every day. You learn to do things that you never would in France. You learn jugaad, and the art of finding a solution by yourself. Being an entrepreneur here is a fantastic experience. You learn aspects of the business that you would not necessarily explore in France.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at email@example.com to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.