When we established ArchiBat Asia back in 2007, China had already started five years of exponential growth that even the 2008 crisis could not slow. In this period China has extensively developed its infrastructures, building 33,000 km of highways, 16,000 km of railways…and architecture, of course, has developed according to this frantic pace. Chinese urbanisation rate was 37% in 2002, 43% in 2009, and it aims at reaching 75% in 2050.

Exploring China…with passion

Our Chinese adventure started in Shanghai in 2007. We started exploring Chinese market from our first small office in Moganshan Road rent in VEP, a design studio managed by Xiong Er, who is now leading Chinese luxury brand Shangxia belonging to Hermes Group.

We recruited a young manager in VIE (Volunteer for International Experience), Antoine Moyon-Dorfmann, who had already an experience in China. He had worked in an American architecture agency as Marketing Manager and already knew something about business in China. For a young manager with everything to prove the establishment of the new ArchiBat HR office in Shanghai was a rare chance and a true challenge. We trusted him and we extensively supported him. His passion for China and his strong will to settle there were both essential to his success.

Antoine Moyon-Dorfmann was responsible for creating the structure, management, business development, marketing and operations management. A difficult task that, nevertheless, he successfully completed. He was then soon assisted by two architects and consultants, Chizuko Kawarada, a French-speaking Japanese who then continued her career as director of Kengo Kuma Paris, and Stéphanie Boisson, a consultant trained and sent by ArchiBat Paris for one year mission.

Problems and challenges

Our first problem was creating a database of fully qualified, Chinese-speaking candidates, possibly already located on the Chinese market. Moreover, since those potential candidates had never been contacted by a recruitment agency before, at first they did not understand our role of consultants and what they could gain through us.

The second challenge was creating a team of skilled consultants, bilingual in English and Chinese, with a comprehensive knowledge of creative professions.

The third one was developing ArchiBat HR’s reputation and expertise, already known among French architectural design studios and French-speaking candidates, in China. Our aim was building the same reputation of excellence in China in order to stand out among our non-specialized and less dedicated competitors.

The fourth challenge was proposing ArchiBat HR’s services to Chinese companies, not used to rely on contractors for recruitment, and expanding to other fields beyond architecture as retail, hospitality, office furniture, events, marketing&advertising etc.

Last but not least, the fifth difficulty was Chinese administrative complexity!

Getting off the ground took Archibat HR three years. Thanks to our dynamic team, a platform of skilled and immediately available candidates and, finally, our ultra-efficient sourcing methodology we finally managed to escape the traps of entrepreneurship in China.

Our first success

Many companies decided to rely on us, but it was especially our collaboration with some big American and Chinese companies during the crisis between 2009 and 2011 that allowed us to fully develop our potential. In that period, American companies started to open their offices in China due to a crisis in the real estate market back in the USA, and of course, they needed to hire new people. Even Chinese companies entrusted us with the mission of recruiting foreign talents to work for them. Finally, since 2012, our clients have grown especially interested in the so called “returnees”, that is to say, those Chinese candidates who have studied and worked abroad, in North America, Australia or Europe.

One of ArchiBat HR’s key to success is our skill in using new technologies. When we started in China in 2007, Facebook was at its beginning, nobody knew LinkedIn and Wechat did not even exist. We were among the first to use those channels to optimize our talent research, business development and communication of offers.

Ten years later, now that every other recruitment agency uses those digitals tools, ArchiBat Asia still keeps a real competitive advantage thanks to its ability to be ahead.

Ten years later

Since 2016 we noticed a renewed interest in foreign talents since many of them left China in the last years. In fact, economic crisis or revival in different countries has always an impact on the flow of foreign talents who look for new job opportunities in China. The arrival of Spanish candidates, often confirmed, between 2010 and 2015, and that of American candidates, much loved by Chinese companies due to their experience on big projects, between 2008 and 2012, have set the rhythm and shaped our work.

All of this allowed us to propose new talents from all over the worlds. The increasing scarcity of foreigners in China since 2015 due to Chinese economic slowdown caused a shortage of foreign professionals so that many companies now are contacting us in order to hire foreigners even if they are not located in China yet.

We also noticed that recruitment needs in Chinese and western companies tend to become similar. In fact, Chinese companies are struggling to become more international and compete with western brands. In order to do so, they are equipping themselves with considerable means, especially in retail and luxury field, where creative talents’ salaries are clearly increasing.

ArchiBat Asia is now composed of 12 people reporting to Managing Director Antoine Moyon-Dorfmann: four confirmed consultants assisted by two researchers, two business developers, two assistants and our loyal office manager. All of them speak fluent English and Chinese, some can speak French, too. We recruit more than 300 professionals per year all over Asia, mainly in Shanghai but also in Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Singapore and Southeast Asia. 80% of the candidates that we successfully place are Chinese-speaking professionals and 20% are foreigners who possess a deep knowledge of China.

In 2017 we recruit talents not only in Architecture, our first expertise but also in all creative fields: Packaging, Graphic Design, Visual Merchandising, Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Advertising, Communications…

Thanks to our recruiting experience in those fields, we also launched « Absolute Linkers » for Administrative, Marketing, Sales, IT, Finance, HR and Digital fields, staying true to our « Out of the box » DNA!

These last ten years in Shanghai allowed us to witness the evolution of this huge area as well as to shape and refine our outlook on China. Its growth is still uneven and inflation weakens the progress of the country. Aware of this weakness, China is investing in new technologies, in the service industry and on people’s qualification level improvement. Considering this, China’s exchange with the world will do nothing but increase.