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Ops Talk; Good Times!

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Good Times!

The recent times have been quite happening for Unity Infraprojects Ltd. Niranjan Mudholkar caught up with Yogen Lal, the company’s COO, who talked about a recent achievement as well as how things have changed post recession

Perhaps the title for this page may have been different if we had done it same time last year. Thankfully, the industry is now quickly shedding the baggage of recession and looking positively at things. While a lot of exciting activities have been happening across the industry, companies like Unity Infraprojects have been taking up new projects quite aggressively while successfully completing projects in hand.
The company recently handed over the revamped Major Dhyanchand National Stadium to authorities on January 24, 2010 – well ahead of the scheduled date. “This has been a very satisfactory achievement for us particularly because Mr Leandro Negre, the President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has described it as the World’s Best Hockey Stadium,” says Yogen Lal, the company’s COO.
Close on heels of this achievement, Unity has bagged a prestigious order from the Ministry of External Affairs for the construction of the Indian High Commission Complex at Baridhara Diplomatic Enclave in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “It is to be completed in 24 months,” says Mr Lal, who literally squeezed in time for a meeting with Construction Week. And understandably so. This 20-year old company led by CMD Kishore K Avarsekar and driven by people like Mr Lal has been bagging several important projects recently. In the previous quarter, the company bagged a contract of Rs1145.88 crore in JV with IVRCL for the construction of a 8.3 km long tunnel in Mumbai. Unity Infraprojects is also re-developing the famous RN Cooper Hospital in the city amongst other projects.
So what are the key challenges faced by Unity? While Mr Lal is quick to mention commodity prices and costly manpower as the major issues, he also mentions that the recession has actually helped on both accounts. “Prices have stabilised to some extent. Secondly, skilled as well as unskilled manpower that used be grabbed up (before the recession hit) for high prices by big ticket projects in the Middle East and by real estate developers in India is now coming back to infrastructure companies,” he states. “Earlier, young engineers would prefer taking up easy going jobs with real estate developers rather than sweat it out on the field for infrastructure firms. That has changed now. Also, people who did not lose their jobs during recession are appreciative of that and it is showing. There has been a significant reduction in the labour costs and increments have become much saner in the management cadre.”
“Of course, having said that, the industry still does not have sufficient trained people,” he adds. Mr Lal feels that the current education system does not give enough emphasis to on-site training for engineers and this needs to be addressed. “We need people who understand the site. It is sad that the foreman has virtually vanished from our sites,” he remarks.
On the positive side, Mr Lal mentions rapid mechanisation as a positive development for the industry. “Availability of software solutions specifically developed for the construction industry is another good aspect,” he adds. “Of course, we still have a long way to go compared with the developed countries. But we have made a beginning,” he says before signing off.

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