Entrepreneurial Spirit in India, From Real Estate Ventures to Management of a Rolling Stock Manufacturing Company- Mathias Coisne

FBO India's remarkable journey: Guided by Mathias Coisne's unwavering dedication to excellence in the Indian market, igniting innovation and driving the railway sector to unprecedented success and growth.

UJA | Mathias Coisne
Mathias Coisne

Deputy General Manager, FBO India

UJA- Can you explain to us why you have decided to come to work in India and how did you become FBO’s Deputy General Manager?

Mathias Coisne: Following my BBA graduation from Silpakorn University in Thailand in 2013, I was very attracted by the BRIC  countries. I was convinced that those countries would offer the most exciting opportunities for an international career. Through chance encounters, it was in Mumbai that I was allowed to start a real estate consulting business. The city’s economy was booming in most sectors, and the real estate market showed itself particularly promising.

I started from scratch and rented apartments to foreign students, and was quickly able to work with higher profile clients such as diplomats and expatriate CEOs/CFOs of MNCs, renting them what can be considered in Mumbai as ‘luxury apartments. After 3 years of operations, my agency’s property portfolio covered the prime residential areas of Mumbai. After building a trustworthy network and partnerships, I was able to close deals in Delhi from Mumbai. I have also rented several offices and commercial properties, and worked directly with Bollywood celebrities.

After 6 years, and more than 50 deals closed, I had also worked on dozens of deals that fell apart for one reason or another, often obstacles or last-minute deal-breakers on which I had absolutely no control. This experience as a real estate consultant in India has exposed me to the ‘art’ of doing business in India, not only in terms of diplomacy, but also to the subtilities of negotiation, and mostly in terms of persistence.

Following this enriching experience, in 2019, I sought a new challenge in the country. I applied to join the team of the advisory firm UJA. (Udyen Jain & Associates), a prominent legal, advisory, accounting, and audit firm for foreign SMEs in India). Despite facing stiff competition, it was my entrepreneurial experience in India that secured my position as Business Manager of the French Desk. 

Alongside Olivia Calvet, we were selected in 2020 by Business France as an official partner for tax and regulatory services (4-year mandate), We have actively participated in Ambition India events and considerably increased our clients’ portfolio; supporting French companies in India and Indian companies in France, in most sectors. 

Among those companies was the Indian subsidiary of the French group FBO (Forges de Belles Ondes), headquartered in Limoges. FBO was at that time a startup in India, in its key implementation phase in the local railway market, during the COVID crisis.

We built a professional relationship with the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Romain Flandrois., After two years as his consultant through the French Desk of UJA, approached me and offered me a position as his deputy to support him with the management of the day-to-day operations and projects of the company. Management role, which I have enthusiastically accepted. The perspective of joining a French startup in the booming railway industry in India was to me a thrilling idea, which appeared as an ideal challenge to pursue my career in the country.

UJA- FBO set up a subsidiary in India in 2018, how was this choice made?

Mathias Coisne: The FBO Group has existed since 1954 and has since then established its legacy globally in the railway industry. Before its implantation in India, FBO already had a presence in India through agents and distributors, and was supplying rolling stock for the Metros of cities like Kochi, Chennai, Mumbai, etc. The group soon developed a global vision and realized India’s potential, not only in terms of market size (3rd biggest in the world after the US and China) but also in developing a competitive technological hub to better address the rolling stock needs of Asian, African, and South-American countries.

It is following a meeting between one of the Indian agents, and the former President of FBO at a railway exhibition, in 2017, that the implantation project became a reality. Initially via a joint venture with this agent’s company. FBO Fittings & Systems India Pvt. Ltd. was incorporated in Mumbai in 2018. In 2019, the JV was dismantled as the vision of FBO’s management was for the long-term, whereas that of the agent was for the short term. FBO India was converted into a wholly owned subsidiary of the FBO Group. The same year, Romain Flandrois was appointed by FBO as Managing Director to run the subsidiary. Having extensive experience in the automotive industry in China, and India, he proposed to FBO headquarters to strategically set up a factory in Pune, the “Motor City of India”. Once he got the approval, he identified a suitable factory in Bhosari MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation), put a team together, built a strong network of suppliers with machining, welding, and forging capacities to meet the quality requirements of railway industrial standards, and started prospecting train manufacturers.

To be implanted locally, to be able to simultaneously fit the criteria of the Make in India initiative, and to bring French know-how, enables us to considerably stand out from the competition. Breaking through the Indian market in the long run becomes more practical and feasible.

It is first the governmental group BEML that chose to work with FBO in 2020, then Alstom in 2021, then Indian Railways, followed by the majority of the train manufacturers associated with the E-Loco, Vande Bharat, and RapidX projects. Those projects represent some of the biggest railway projects in the world.

The Indian government invests at an incredible pace to develop its railway infrastructure and modern rolling stock as the transportation needs of passengers and merchandise (fret) is growing exponentially every year, and this growth will continue in coming years. This is an opportunity that most international actors in the sector cannot miss. It is an ideal opportunity for India to use its resources and showcase its engineering pool of talents, to develop modern state-of-the-art projects, that will enable it to considerably reduce carbon footprints and to position itself as a leader to demonstrate to the world how the country can drastically tackle its environmental issues. (The carbon footprint of a plane passenger is 80% higher than that of a train passenger.)

Today, FBO India has 15 employees, is involved in most of the projects in India, and has customers in Thailand, Australia, Mexico, and the Middle East (today, 50% of FBO India’s revenue comes from exports). The key products of FBO are the electric and pneumatic windscreen washing systems, the pneumatic fittings with the «Vebeo» brand (pneumatic fittings developed specifically for the railway rolling stock industry, able to sustain high levels of velocities and vibrations, in all types of climates—present on 1 train out of 3 globally), but also sanding systems, levelling valves, security valves, footrests, etc.

FBO IndiaTeam in Pune

UJA | FBO Team
UJA: What strategy was adopted by FBO India to stand out from the competition?

Mathias Coisne:  FBO India stands out mostly because the company fits the criteria required under the Make in India initiative, and also because the company can design and manufacture parts and systems of high criticality locally, inherited by five decades of French know-how, approved by the SNCF (French Railways-a global reference in terms of railway norms and standards), at a competitive cost for the Indian railroad market.

We are also happy to share that our order book will enable us to cross 1.5 million euros in turnover for the next financial year. This means 80% growth as compared to this year, which also means that we will reach equilibrium within 7 years of activity. Considering the average of 10 years for a foreign company to become profitable in India (without the COVID crisis), we consider that we have gone through the most critical phase and are now defining our next expansion and diversification projects (defense, aeronautics, recycling, digital, etc.) through local acquisitions/partnerships, through the hiring of local talents, through the sister company of FBO ‘Boble’, and also through acquisitions of companies expert in high precision metallurgy in France by the Holdings Bachelet.ASP and Orestiade, notably the company FBMP in Lyon, and the company API Industry in Brittany, of which Romain Flandrois recently became Chairman. The strategy is to position FBO India as an Asia hub for all the activities of the FBO Group.

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For more information on this portrait or on UJA contact olivia@uja.in

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