'Few foreigners in India-based set-ups have done quite well'

Expat talk

Born and brought up in France, Alexander Souter may just seem as one of the “many French expats in the city”, but a conversation makes one realise he holds Delhi close to his heart.

“I love Delhi. It’s such a historical city, wherever one turns, there is a monument like a tomb. The city appeals to me. Also, you get to learn something new every day as a foreigner, as it pushes you out of your comfort zone on a routine day. I was bit bored of the routine in London where I was working. Also, I wanted to see the opportunities on offer including the Indian market that is growing rapidly. The booming economy in India versus the attitude back in Europe and the US at the end of recession was stifling and that became the driver for me to stay in India,” says Souter who moved to Delhi in 2010.
Souter started his career in development – working with World Health Organization in Cairo, Egypt and the Aga Khan Development Network in France. He then joined Corporate Executive Board Inc. – one of the top 50 most innovative growth companies
according to Forbes Magazine where he focused on data and sales.

With his good friend and co-founder Saps, or Saptarshi Nath – Souter set up Overcart.com in 2012. Originally a platform that bought back electronics from the end consumer – Overcart evolved into one of the most innovative e-commerce asset-recovery platforms in India by liquidating unwanted stock from manufacturers, retailers, and distributors.

“We worked togethervirtually online as part of CEB as he (Nath) was in India and I was in London. When I moved here, that is when I met him for the first time and we were complementing each other in various roles,” he says.

“We stumbled on the problem of unsold items and electronics. For instance, being avid video-game players, we would play games and the cycle would be buying a new one, finishing it and then be done with it. To build on the idea, we quit in 2012 and built a company from there,” he adds. Souter explains, “First three years in Delhi, I was working for corporates with a lavish lifestyle, visiting India and getting to know it better. And last three years as entrepreneur has been completely different. No weekends and
no holidays but really getting to know the business culture as a start-up on a day to
day basis.”

Operating at the business level with manufacturers, distributors and retailers, Kalkaji-Okhla based Overcart managing director Souter says, “We give these guys a lot more money back and make sure that nothing ends up in the landfills or in the grey market.” With an estimated 100-odd members by the end of the year, Souter mentions that business has been 15 times in five quarters.

“A lot of innovation from India is visible and a lot of companies are coming up in India. That has been encouraging. Some of the street models like Zomato could not have worked in the US or England. The mixture between online and offline is very important in India. Few foreigners in India-based set-ups have done quite well.” He adds, “US,
China and India are the biggest entrepreneurs.

Market size in India is definitely bigger than European countries.”  Souter who married Swati, a Delhi girl, this year tells Metrolife, “It’s been a good experience. I didn’t have to adapt much. I come from a fairly multicultural background. We were open-minded about cultures. There haven’t been many surprises.” He elaborates, “The very strong family bonds is something which I noticed and how everything is very inter-connected. So, if you live in Europe, you may live in a building and not know your next-door neighbour for years, but the moment you move in Delhi, everyone knows you. Europeans are very individualistic. But Delhiites are welcoming.”

Though he mentions that “people are skeptical about a European building a company in India”, the way to work is “To have a local co-founder to do business and, know India really well before settling down.”


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