IHORSE: INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDERS
Prashan Sithi and Cédric Morvan are the founders of the European branch of iHorse, a company specialized in strategic consulting in the IT and Digital Sector. The key to iHorse’s international success lies in their use of local expertise to develop their business in each country where they are present. Read on to find out more!
How did you get involved with iHorse?
In the beginning, neither of us were in the IT universe. I (Cédric Morvan) worked in a chemistry laboratory of the Scientific Research National Center in partnership with Louvre Museum analyzing pieces of glass from churches from the late Roman Empire. It was my first professional experience.
At the end of my contract I decided that staring at a laser in a dark room was not for me. I decided to try something new. A friend introduced me to Prashan Sithi. That’s when my career switched from Chemistry to Information Technology.
Before iHorse, Prashan was studying to be a biomechatronical engineer. He joined the team invited by his brothers, that are also founders of iHorse.
When and where iHorse was created?
iHorse was created in 2007 in India. In 2010 we opened offices in the United States and Canada. We have 200 people working for the company in India, primarily on our development team. The French branch was officially created in 2016, but the company have been present in the country for six years.
All iHorse locations are subsidiaries of iHorse India. We are present in two big cities in South Eastern India, Puducherry and Chennai, where our development and management team is located. The focus of our European and North American subsidiaries is on marketing, sales, technical consultancy and design.
How are you financed?
All of iHorse’s development has been auto-financed. Each director invested from his own pocket at the beginning. Now they continue to invest their energy to help the company evolve.
How iHorse differs from competitors?
iHorse offers strategic consulting in the IT sector. One of the main differentials is that in every country we are based we hire local team members with a deep knowledge of the market. It helps us to understand and adapt our work to the culture, lifestyle and particularities of each market. We also think that it is important to send our international teams to India to have direct contact with our partners and clients there.
“One of the main differentials is that in every country we are based we hire local team members with a deep knowledge of the market”
What pushed you to become a French enterprise?
For legal matters, customer confidence, tax systems, and for plenty of other things it’s better to be a registered company. New customers are more confident if you are, for instance, a SAS in France, or a Limited in the United Kingdom or in the United States.
How have you developed your business in France?
France is a demanding market and represents a commercial challenge for our high-quality services. Only very few foreign businesses of our size and in our field continue to be successful here after one year. We’ve succeeded by quickly identifying our weaknesses and errors and finding solutions. For example, we recruited specialists with international experience, particularly French expats on our production sites in India. This allowed us to increase our level of expertise and simplify our communication.
Are there disadvantages of being a French company?
Taxes and legal requirements are a bit complicated. India functions more like the USA, Canada and even the UK when it comes to these matters. In France you have different amount of taxes, rules, government presence etc.
For our team in India it is hard to understand why taxes are so high. For example, to hire an employee in France the employer has to pay nearly twice their salary as cost for the company. Another difficulty was working against the negative perception of the quality of Indian work in France. In Anglo-Saxon countries it’s viewed much more positively.
What challenges did you come across internationally?
The main challenge is related to governmental changes. With Donald Trump as the new United States’ president we don’t know what to expect in the future. I’ve heard of a company hiring employees from the United States and sending them to India to avoid outsourcing their IT work.
We also have Brexit to think about in Europe, which raises a lot of questions. The British business directors are very open to other markets, so we don’t foresee many changes for us, but we will see what happens.
In France we also have a new president, Emmanuel Macron. If the president’s plan is followed through, taxes for companies will decrease from 33% to 25%, which would be great for us.
Do you have cultural difficulties working abroad?
For me, there are not that many cultural differences working with Western countries. On the other hand, we are trying to work in Africa and it is a challenging market, because of the large extension of the continent, the different languages spoken. Wars and political instability are also obstacles; however, the continent is growing fast with good long-term opportunities.
Did you know that in many African countries the population have smartphones but no landlines or computers? They need mobile applications, payment gateways and web platforms. We can offer this by working with them to develop solutions.
How was your experience with Beeleev?
We did a business trip with Beeleev to London, where we made one serious lead to start growing our business in the city. Now we are planning to open an incubator in southern London with five or six companies. We are also trying to contact communication agencies to see how to replicate our way of working in France. It’s a very competitive market because there are already many Indian companies in London.
What direction is your company heading in next?
We are convinced that the future of iHorse is directly linked to startups. For the last two years we have assisted them to scale-up by offering services at every level: judicial, strategic, financial, technological, commercial etc. We offer this assistance in the form of iAcceleration, a program that helps start-ups reach their goals through a 360-degree approach.
“We are convinced that the future of iHorse is directly linked to startups”
How do you build your network?
Between having a presence in France for the last five years and continually working to meet people and please our clients, we have grown through word of mouth. We have also used web-mining, social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and networking platforms such as Beeleev.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs going internationally?
In our opinion, the first essential thing is to know well the country where you want to expand. The best advice we can give is to hire someone local and base your work on his expertise. Otherwise you won’t know how to act in front of clients and partners or what are the real possibilities of the place.
What did you wish to known before starting a company?
It’s a long journey to be successful and it’s important to know that it will cost you a huge amount of time to develop your business. iHorse is still young in France, so it’s difficult to find time for our private lives. We hope, in the next few years, as things are set in place, that we will find more personal time for ourselves and for our families.
A final advice for entrepreneurs getting started?
- Don’t be afraid of failure, it helps build the business
- Train your employees well and know how to delegate responsibilities
- Have a good system of reporting and follow-up with your teams