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BK Dhar, CEO of Mfar Constructions Pvt Ltd emphasises the importance of on-site safety, offers some insights about industry trends and discusses the way ahead

Mfar has now completed thirteen years in India. How would you describe the journey so far?
The journey so far has been very stimulating and encouraging. Mfar has managed to earn a name by benchmarking itself against the best construction companies. Designing itself on the Gung Ho* spirit, Mfar today employs state-of-the-art machinery, top quality building materials and advanced techniques.
The company shows concern for the construction worker by providing comfortable accommodation with lights, fans, bunk beds, separate cooking areas, bathrooms and toilets. Our labour camps are run professionally. The children of our workers are provided with uniforms, books, stationary, mid day meals and facilities like crèches. These initiatives have been well received and have become a part of the Mfar culture. Mfar has brought dignity and respect for the humble construction worker. (*Gung ho is an American term derived from a Chinese expression that stands for an enthusiastic, can-do attitude).

Your assessment of the industry on issues like commitment to environment, product quality, safety and occupational health of workers?
Safety during construction is a neglected area in our country, but the trends are changing gradually. Construction companies are now showing concern for the environment, occupational health and safety. No mega projects can take off without a clearance from the environment ministry. All construction activity is regulated by the Building & Other Construction Workers Act 1996 wherein great importance is given to occupational health and safety. Another right step in this direction is the Green Building concept which is gradually catching up in India. There are over 350 green buildings with over 230 million sq ft of built-up area being constructed all over the country. Similar to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has been formed and it awards silver, gold and platinum ratings to the Green buildings under the Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED).
 

What has been Mfar’s approach in this context? Tell us about the initiatives undertaken by Mfar Constructions to minimise onsite accidents?
Mfar is a recipient of three international certifications namely ISO 9001:2000 for quality, ISO 14001:2004 for environment & OHSAS 18001:2007 for occupational health & safety. And Mfar is the second construction company in India to receive all these three certificates. We put a great deal of emphasis on all aspects of environment protection, occupational health and safety of its workers. Our motto, ‘Safety First Quality Plus’, clearly shows our commitment to EOHS.
All our processes are documented under the quality manual, EOHS manual and various procedure manuals. These are strictly followed at all the project sites and by all departments. Implementation of the systems is verified through internal and external audits.
Since Mfar brought the safety culture from the Middle East, it has made efforts to change the situation here. We strongly believe that all accidents are preventable. Hence, all possible measures are taken to ensure that the work sites are safe and workers are healthy. Our commitment and success can be gauged from the fact that we have won various national & other awards in this regard.
Mfar takes a number of initiatives to protect and preserve the environment. These include: preventing land contamination, reduction in noise levels, prevention of air contamination through dust control & control of emissions, wood conservation, water conservation, power conservation and Green building efforts.

Do you think the construction industry will be the next to be hit by corporate governance issues?
International meltdown and the Satyam fiasco have occured mainly due to selfishness and excessive greed. The rules of the game have been to win at all costs and the winner takes it all. Corporate governance is not about breaking rules. It is a principled approach to steer a business to create wealth for the society as a whole. When greed and selfishness become part of corporate governance, there are bound to be very serious repercussions.
It is difficult to predict if the construction industry is likely to be hit by corporate governance issues. If unethical practices are followed, the results are likely to be disastrous. Past few months have taught serious lessons to all businesses and they are bound to correct themselves to prevent repeat of such a disaster. Corporate governance is the only way a business can be managed to meet the aspirations of the society as a whole in a sustainable manner. A key reason for the meltdown was the unethical practices followed by company managements. We can only hope that the industry learns from what has happened and takes corrective and preventive steps.

How do you see the industry evolving over the next five years?
According to the Construction Federation of India, the construction industry currently has a gross value of output in excess of Rs3,00,000 crore and accounts for more than 6% of the GDP. Construction investment accounts for nearly 14.7% of the GDP and around 52.4% of the Gross Fixed Capital Formation.
For the five year period (2007-11), investments in construction are expected to be nearly double those that were made in the previous five years (2002-2006). Assessment of key infrastructure, industrial and real estate investments, reveals that the industry is expected to witness total investments of Rs 27,00,000 crore during the five year period (2007-11) as compared to total investments of Rs 14,00,000 crore made in the previous five years. However, these figures are likely to reduce drastically due to the economic meltdown. Growth in the construction industry (at implicit annual growth rate of 13.5% over the next five years), is expected to be led by infrastructure and industrial investments, which are expected to grow at a faster rate than real estate investments. 

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