Portraits

Rémi, creator of French Toast in Singapore

Rémi Malachin is the creator of French Toast, a young singaporean company specialized in the teaching of French language. Rémi arrived in Singapore in 2008 to work as an architect. Since then, he has sucessfully converted himself in a new profession. Portrait of an entrepreneur full of ideas, engaged in promoting French and turning it's learning into a pleasure.

Rémi Malachin was in no way predestined to open a French learning school. When he arrived in Singapore, in January 2008, it was to work as an architect, a logical move after his studies in this field in Nancy. But in Singapore, his career path has switched rapidly: He met his wife, founded a family and eventually stepped back from a field of expertise where he didn't find enough perspectives. He once contemplated the idea of creating is own architect firm, but such a project was far from being family compatible. While realizing freelance missions as a designer, he started to give French private courses. He soon found it very attractive and his teacher schedule filled in rapidly. In 2010, he decided to make the big jump and created French Toast, a Training center exclusively dedicated to French Language.

Learning French must be fun

For Rémi, it is essential that people learning French do consider it a pleasure: « 90% of our students are studying French for themselves, sometimes because they are interested by French Culture, sometimes because they are preparing a trip or planning to study in France, sometimes because they have french speaking friends or they have fallen in love for a french speaking person». The name of the school, French Toast, and it's logo, a toast painted with the 3 colours of the French flag, are representative of the very environment Rémi Malachin strives to create: « a comfortable and convivial environment that is also a place to have discussions and talk about French life; Interactive teaching methods that are spurring the envy to learn and practice.»

The students are apparently appreciating the concept. Their number is increasing sharply. When the school opened, in January 2011, there was just 1 group of 11 students. In August 2011, the number of groups had jumped to 15, with more than 200 students of 25 nationalities. As the original premises had rapidly become too small, French Toast has recently relocated in a new space.

What is the link between architecture and French teaching ?

"As curious as it may seem, I have the feeling that, in some way, my studies in Architecture did prepare me adequately to switch from one way to be creative to another, and become an entrepreneur. If you exclude the contents which were specifically linked to architecture, the training I received was focused on project management and the multiple ways to change perspective, a must when you are designing interior maps. Those skills have been very helpful to run a company».« the creation of a school, represents a lot of work; I have done everything from A to Z, from the early selection of the best teaching methods to the development of an integrated management tool, the recruitment of french teachers and the interior decoration of the building ».

Extending to Asia

Rémi never runs short of new projects and ideas. He is currently working on a fidelity card that would provide his students with a bunch of services and products from a restricted number of partners, and an additional way to envisage France. He is also exploring new channels of communication to promote French Toast, for example using Groupon. For the future, he is thinking of new openings in Singapore and maybe of further developments in the region through franchising.

 

► FrenchToast website:

 

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Portrait: Nicolas Ribeyron, Regional HR Manager Imerys - Pigments for Paper Asia Pacific

Nicolas Ribeyron is Regional HR Manager of Imerys-pigments for Paper Asia Pacific. He tells us about his challenges and projects within Imerys. This is the portrait of an HR Manager with a strong social ambition and the willingness to promote bold projects to stimulate the engagement of all employees.

Can you tell us about Imerys activities ?

Imerys is the result of the absorption, in 1999, of English China Clay by Imétal. The group has since specialized in industrial minerals and encompasses extracting, transforming and commercializing minerals such as kaolin (incorporated in paper and ceramic), clay, calcium carbonate, graphite….

The Calcium Carbonate, in particular, extracted from marble, is incorporated in a variety of products such as paper, plastic, paint, glue or diapers.

What are the main fields of expertise within the Group?

The group activities are well summarized in the motto « transform to perform ». Imerys looks after all operations of extraction, treatment and packaging to provide ready to use products to its customers (mainly industrials).

Its key fields of expertise cover: extraction (geologists and mine engineers for the optimization of open mines), manufacturing, supply chain (critical given the volumes processed) and marketing (to add value to the customer’s product chain).

How important is the pigments for paper Asia pacific division?

Within the pigments for paper Branch, we are employing slightly more than 520 employees and 300 contractors in Asia Pacific. Our organization is made of multiple small entities in Australia, China, India, Indonesia (JV), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore Taiwan and Vietnam.

Asia is, along with Brazil, the region with the fastest growth. China, for example, is one of the largest printing and writing paper exporters in the world.So yes, the Asia Pacific Division is very strategic to our business.

What has driven you to this position?

I joined Imerys 5 years ago, in charge of recruitment and after 6 months as a Personnel Manager in charge of several Business Units. Since 2007, I have got the opportunity to look after the HR of various teams in Asia: to conduct multiple recruitments in China, India and Thailand and to participate in a very interesting due diligence process in India.

As soon as I started with Imerys, I made no secret of my desire to go on expatriation and live in Asia. When the opportunity eventually arose end of 2008, I didn’t hesitate.

Where does this project to live abroad stem from?

Prior to Imerys, I worked with Schlumberger and Tiscali. With Schlumberger, I had the chance to start my career through a trainee program in New York, where I was in charge of promoting the activities of SEED: a foundation connecting schools to Internet in developing countries.

This first experience was extremely interesting. The project itself was very exciting: aside from classical HR aspects, I was in charge of coordinating more than a thousand volunteers in 30 countries and I contributed to the website’s content.  Living in New York was also a great privilege. When we came back to France in 2003, my wife and I already had the project to further experience an expatriation, but in Asia.

How did you manage to adapt to your new work environment in Singapore?

Very simply. The region is full of cross cultural challenges: in each country of the region, within my own HR team, with the management. It proves to be a daily source of enrichment, full of great challenges to deal with.

How would you describe the main challenges you face, as HR Manager in Asia Pacific?

There are three key areas which definitely represent essential stakes for the Pigments for Paper Asia Pacific Division: safety, develop cross functional teamwork and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Safety is, in our field of activity, a fundamental preoccupation: guaranteeing the security for all our employees and contractors working in our mines and factories. We have been successful recently (0 day lost in 2009 due to industrial injury), but security remains a daily challenge. We are now focusing not only on preventing accidents but on identifying whatever sources of risks; which happens not to be an easy culture to implement.

The goal is to induce actual changes of safety related behavior. We organize regular behavior based safety visits. The observation noticed during the visits are feeding action plans to improve our working conditions and industrial processes.

Teamwork. As Imerys is formed from a series of mergers & acquisitions, the group is characterized by a strong tradition of decentralization. This situation is altogether an asset (as regard to the autonomy of our teams and managers) and a challenge when people are supposed to work together and make the extra move beyond local boundaries. - How do we manage to do so? - Through an array of initiatives in various fields:  the development of cross functional projects mobilizing teams from different countries or business line; mobility, by promoting opportunities for people to move from one country to the other within the region; financial incentives, which have been aligned to  reward cross team cooperation; and communication, with the creation of a regional newsletter.

Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is a core component of Imerys way of making business. We translate this ambition in the region through the implementation of simple initiatives that are opportunities to federate our employees: internal sustainable development challenge for the best projects to improve work conditions, protect the environment, partnerships with universities and schools; greetings cards to support schools in China, Vietnam and Singapore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Drawing from Vu Thi Thu  - Age 13, Mongson Secondary School (Vietnam) used for the 2010 Greeting Card"

 

This year, for example, we have organized a regionwide "Minerals day", where we open our mines and factories to the public and to our employees' families. In Singapore, where presenting our offices would not present any specific interest, we chose to invite them to come to the Genesis school - that we are currently supporting - to make paper with the pupils. This event, besides financial support, was an opportunity for our employees and the media to discover the unique educative project of this school which provides children with special needs an opportunity to follow an academic cursus and, whenever possible, to bridge the gap with the general education system.

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