Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Brigitte et Luc Zeller

Senior executive deputy director for the Asia zone, Veolia Environment - Head of corporate innovation & renovation, Nestlé greater China region

They perpetuate the lineage of EMLYON entrepreneurs for the world.

Brigitte and Luc Zeller have several lives: the one written in the EMLYON directory, and to which we need to add ‘’EMLYON Forever ambassadors for Asia’’ and ‘’councilors in family mobility’’, since they are constantly solicited by students or graduates on the point of leaving for Asia... as they themselves did twenty years ago.
Luc was the class delegate, and Brigitte was studious at her marketing lectures: they can thank EMLYON for providing the opportunity to meet, and for the allure of international affairs. Whilst Brigitte continued her studies with an MBA in Toronto, Luc did his National Service as Cultural Attaché in Vancouver: the same desire to go far away, the same country, but they were nonetheless 2,000 miles away from each other!

When they came back, the young newlyweds set up in Lyon, both beginning work for a group, in the marketing department of the (now transferred) Grocery division of Danone for her, and financial analyst for Veolia-Dalkia for him.

When you are a senior manager in a big group, you must accept that you are just passing through: you have to produce results and plan for your transmission.
In China, we see a lot of family companies who are partners of Joint-Ventures. We sometimes feel the frustration of creation and transmission to our children. We bear those entrepreneurial hopes for them.

The birth of their youngest child on Bastille Day 1992 announced a small revolution: after the purchase of a local biscuit firm with Nestlé, Danone offered Brigitte the opportunity of leaving for Prague to create a marketing function and train the Czechs. Dalkia had landed a contract for urban heating systems... so Luc followed her. « We discovered the politico- economic development of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall. We felt that we were part of a historic movement, it was fantastic. »

And from that time, they never ceased accompanying the location strategies of big European groups in emerging countries, reconciling their respective careers and a good deal of mutual consideration.
In 1997, they set course due East: Danone proposed Brigitte assume the responsibility for Asian marketing in Singapore, and Luc followed once again, as Financial Controller for Veolia's Water and Waste Activities. « We were discovering South-East Asia in very pleasant conditions! »

But 2002 was a difficult one for the family. Brigitte took over the management of biscuit development for emerging countries. Based in Paris, she never stopped travelling, until she threw in the sponge. «The family was split up. Brigitte came back exhausted, and everyone cried when she left again. But we never imagined coming back to live in France. » Luc was promoted with Veolia to Shanghai, and this time it was Brigitte who followed as Director of Marketing for China with Unilever, then for Lipton Asia. Their daughter came back to France for her studies, whilst their son chose to learn Mandarin and to go to school in the English system.
In 2005, there were some more migrations: Brigitte, who had been recruited by Nestlé, went to Beijing. Luc commuted back and forth for two years, until Veolia moved its Asian head office.

They have been experiencing the fascinating effervescence of Asia for twenty years now, with a front row seat. « We had both evolved in a field which we are passionate about. It is really stimulating to work in a country which is expanding so rapidly, on markets which offer myriad possibilities. Ideas and projects advance quickly; everyone is impacted by entrepreneurship and by high-speed. »

For twenty years, they have also experienced the frantic existence of Beijingers: travelling, the pressure of competition and results, rest day on Sunday, (often devoted to their Chinese lessons), the pollution, but also the big reforms led by Xi Jinping.

Luckily they have their house in Pézenas, in the South of France, where they go to rest; where their daughter Maud was married before leaving for Singapore, with Mourali, whom she met in 2010, during their MSc... at EMLYON! It's the fourth generation of the Zeller family to graduate from the School, after Great-uncle Antoine and Uncle Bernard.
A wonderful family history!

EM Lyon: Grande Ecole 1981
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14