My expat story. Mbah Akwa Hermann: entrepreneur vs corporate professional in India. Finding the right path.


I have many foreign friends that came to India, each individual for different reason as some of them came to work for corporations, some of them for tourist reasons, some to do social work with NGO. Completely different approach but all of them enjoyed life here in their own way. These two mindsets divide people into diverse activities and diverse money oriented attitudes. My today’s guest: Mbah Hermann Akwa from Cameroon is a passionate activist who had gained experience in both: non-profit organization as well as corporate world. Today he  is going to reveal what brought him to India and if he plays the “game” or if he rather creates the “game”? (corporate vs entrepreneurial attitude). He came to India in 2013 for one year contract with global known IT company just after finishing his leader’s term in a non profit students based organization.

Few words about Akwa

My name is Mbah Akwa Hermann, I come from northwestern part of Cameroon, grew up in south and littoral regions where I had my bachelors in Communication. I volunteered with AIESEC for over 5 years occupying key leadership positions (local vice president, project director and national president) both at local and national level between 2008 to 2013, before joining an Indian IT company which I worked till 2014. I am currently a digital marketing consultant based in Cameroon, Douala.

Photo source: private archive
Photo source: private archive
Joining corporate Indian world

The goal of every young graduate is to get a best fit job that can boost up his/her professional career. Yes, I was leading a nonprofit organization in Cameroon, AIESEC but you know the experience is different when you are managing student based organization which has as main goal to mold young people and make them ripe to fit the requirements of the professional world. Here we took fun in making mistakes and correct them, develop and owned processes, decide the vision of the organization and more. This was AIESEC, which to and extend it isn’t the case when you are a Newbie in Corporate society.

I joined the corporate world, because I needed this experience. AIESEC [student based non for profit organization] was the vehicle (let’s call it rickshaw since it’s within the Indian context) while the Corporate was my destination. As such, I was opened to all sort of learning experience and exposed not only to the corporate style which is more business and profit oriented differing my previous organization which was people oriented. Here you get bulled at and put into such spiral work pressure even at sleep you keep on working in your dream to spare yourself from another bulling. That is India.

Indian experience in one word

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! …  That is how I can describe my experience, had glimpse of how business is run in India and most especially how the IT industry has transformed the society and this great people. It seemed to be like programmed software, figures moving from one computer to another, phones jingling, people moving in thousands from one office to another, calls shouting on phones…It was such a robust set up strictly guided by processes to be followed diligently. Meaning even to have a cube of sugar in your coffee, there is a process to follow 🙂 In a nutshell I have no cons to tag to my professional experience the ills were part of the journey.

Balance in India

‘’Staying in India without being Indian is not a day job’’.  I lived in the southern part of India which I came to understand they are more conservative as compared to other regions. Come in with your Cameroonian, Nigerian, British or American accent. That is your business if you don’t speak waving your head from left to right or adding suffixes like Nà!! Noùhh!.  If you doctor told you not to eat spicy food, then this isn’t the right place to visit. The dishes are really spicy sometimes I felt apart from candy and ice cream, every other thing is spicy 🙂 They are such a great people with a big heart and that is what was most impressive to me but, an advice. If you get lost, use your GPS to find your way. You may be pressing the spoil button trying to ask your way to an Indian. By his good intention he may even get you more lost and frustrated unintentionally, they usually don’t have the courage to tell you they don’t know they feel is their responsibility to guide a stranger.

 At the beginning it was very tough integrating (being Indian), things that are normal back at home seems abnormal over there and vice versa. I remember seeing cows walking around without a herd man and was also glad to see women being given some privileges especially in public bus seats.  To sum it all, to survive, you need to be very discrete, learn some few words in local language, and make friends.

Appreciation and gratitude

Food!!! India has one of the best Cuisines. In fact every meal I took in India was delicious.  They have such a wide variety across regions, though rice is King of food in India.

Being Ready for India

Personally, I don’t think there is a special way to get ready for India, Just open your mind to accept things that appear unbelievable, and then all will be ok. So if you are out there looking forward to a trip to India, don’t hesitate. Keep Calm, get the next available flight and welcome to Incredible India. One more thing, if you plan to stay for more than 6 months or a year and have to extend your visa, the process could be very stressful. In a nutshell, India is incredible and I have always recommended India to many friends, every region has something different to offer and the people differ from one region to another, it feels like you are in a different country when you leave from north to south, from east to west.

On like every other country, security issues need to be taken seriously. Avoid going out late to spare yourself from physical aggression. In some places women are very vulnerable.

Sometimes it may seem that corporations become factories of human models created through culture “we are in control and we pay you to follow the rules we make”. Today’s story shows that an entrepreneurial mind cannot get fixed into corporate world (or if gets into one, it clashes a lot). I hope that many of you do not follow someone else dream but listen to your own dreams, passions and heart. If you like your job: good! No matter which path you choose. I wish all the best to Akwa, wherever we meet, whenever we meet.

I would love to hear your comments on this! Which of the mindset are you? What is driving you to follow 9-6 job or running a start-up?

Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of these two sectors? Maybe you switched from private job to your own business, or vice versa? Any regrets? – please share some comments. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.