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Great lessons from our history


“Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together…, and argue that something will come to pass. Few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result.

This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward.” – From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Think of it, a project manager too is required to think like a detective and then actually put that thinking to use. The result in every construction project is known before it actually starts – people want to build something.

The project manager foresees each stage, executes it accordingly and ensures that it all leads to the desired result. And while doing so, helps making the work of others involved relatively easy.

This issue’s cover story pays tribute to this often unsung hero who combines great imaginative powers with formidable implementation skills. Surprisingly the Indian construction industry has awakened to the significance of project management only recently.

Believe it or not, our forefathers were great believers in project management, which they used to construct some of the best structures of their times. While some of these still stand today reminding us of our rich architectural and engineering heritage, most are in ruins. I had the opportunity of visiting one such site – the  marine fort of Sindhudurg.

It was built by the visionary king Shivaji to strengthen our coasts against the British and the Portuguese. Why does it merit a descriptive mention in this editorial? King Shivaji had actually appointed a project manager for it – a fact substantiated by historical records. He was Hiroji Indulkar, a skilled engineer and architect of his times.

A 48-acre island called Kurte was selected as the site due to its strategic location. The fort took nearly three years to build from November 1664 to March 1667. Indulkar’s project management skills can be gauged by the fact that work had to be done 24/7 on this large-scale project amidst hostile environment.

Natural forces like the sea, the wind and the seasonal torrential rains made it very challenging. Indulkar actually used the enemy surroundings to his benefit. While a team of 3000 men toiled in shifts, Indulkar hired 100 Portuguese engineers from Goa for their technical expertise. When the plinth level came to about 25 ft, the rampart walls started to crash down.

The midsea soil did not offer good foundation. Indulkar then negotiated with a nearby British warehouse. He bought tonnes of lead from there, got it melted and used it for the base! The rampart walls, with 52 bastions, continue to stand till date. Thus, whether it’s planning, resource management or crisis management, there are several such examples from Sindhudurg. Indulkar went on to use this experience to build many similar forts.

The point – while we glorify our history, it is more important that we also learn from it.

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Sept 2020
01 Sep 2020