An introduction to a book by G Venkata Prasad, Founder & CEO, GVP Consulting

four decades of experience in the Indian construction industry
With four decades of experience in the Indian construction industry, I have had the privilege of working with formidable entities such as L&T, a colossal company. Throughout my association with the visionaries of the organization, I undertook multifaceted assignments, showcasing my passion for research and an unwavering drive to explore innovative avenues.

Driven by a continuous urge to break away from the ordinary, I felt compelled to encapsulate my wealth of knowledge in a book with above caption focused on the Indian construction industry. While human nature tends to highlight limitations, I developed a habit of actively seeking and exploring available opportunities to maximize their potential. This approach guided me through diverse assignments at project sites, headquarters, and management roles, each experience cherished with equal enthusiasm.

Over a span of three years, I meticulously compiled various facets of the construction industry. Subsequently, investing an additional two years, I transformed these insights into a comprehensive book. The structured content reflects a careful selection, ensuring that the book caters to professionals across all segments—owners, contractors, consultants, and other domain experts. It is also designed to captivate the interest of budding engineers and students, offering them a beacon of hope and inspiration to aspire for significant achievements in their careers.

Indian Construction Industry Growth Prospects – Infrastructure Projects

In the backdrop of India's current dynamism and ambitious goals in infrastructure development, the book sheds light on the nation's journey. The construction industry's share, constituting 13% of the global GDP, is a crucial aspect, and India, currently at around 8%, holds great prospects to reach this level. The government's tireless efforts are evident through substantial investments in infrastructure projects, marking a significant departure from the past.

Illustrating this transformation, consider the monumental shift in the railway sector. While it took 60 years to construct 10,000 km of railway lines from the legacy left by the British from the level of 54,000 km, today, we aspire to lay 20,000 km in just a decade. This ambitious agenda is embodied in the execution of mega projects such as dedicated freight corridors, high-speed rail networks, railway line doubling, and comprehensive electrification—each involving substantial investments in the order of lakhs of crores rupees.

Since Independence, India added 36,697 km of roads to the existing length of 21,040 km till 2002 (1.82 km on an average per day basis), 6,514 km in the four years (3.57 km per day) till 2006, and a further 28,800 km till 2016 in a ten-year time frame (7.9 km per day). Highways addition has further gone up by more than 50 percent, from 93,051 km in March ’16 to around 141,000 km as of December 31, 2021. The road sector further offers huge opportunities under the Bharatmala program with a completion target of 35,000 km by 2024–25 and with an investment outlay of about Rs. 20.34 trillion.

Around 702 km of the conventional metro is operational and another 1,016 km of metro and Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) projects are under construction in 27 cities. Before the year 2014, only 225 km of the metro network became operational in 10–12 years. However, with the frantic pace of metro construction in India during the last six years, over 450 km of the metro network has become operational.

This book includes a discussion on infrastructure projects in various segments, including urban development.

four decades of experience in the Indian construction industry

Future of Real Estate Industry

The 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects produced by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) notes that future increases in the size of the world’s urban population are expected to be highly concentrated in just a few countries. Together, India, China, and Nigeria will account for 35% of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. By 2050, it is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million, and Nigeria 189 million.

India’s real estate sector is expected to expand to US$ 5.8 trillion by 2047, contributing 15.5% to the GDP, up from US$ 200 billion in 2021 and share of 7.3% which triggers huge potential to its construction industry.

India’s Position on Global Arena

What does the growth trend in the Indian construction industry signify in the global context?

As of 2015, India's share in the global construction market was 2%, in contrast to China, Europe, and North America, which held shares of 37%, 20%, and 21%, respectively. Despite this significant disparity, it presents a substantial opportunity for India to embark on large-scale infrastructure, energy, utilities, and industrial projects, as well as diversify its real estate ventures across multiple cities. With this, India can make significant strides and catch up with other global economies.

As per Deloitte’s Global Powers of Construction 2019 Report, the revenue share of the top 100 construction companies during 2019 stood at 1.462 trillion dollars. The table below shows the percentage of top 100 construction companies from different regions.

Country No. Companies Revenue Share%
Chinese 12 44%
Europe 40 24%
Japan 15 13%
USA 13 9%
South Korea 7 6%
India 1 1.4%
This report gives hope for Indian construction companies to join the big league by exploiting growth prospects. There are constraints to achieve this goal, but with the collective efforts of all the stakeholders, the shackles to professionalise the industry will be broken, and bring new construction technologies to India, along with skilling of the Indian construction manpower.

L&T stands out from India as the singular entity among a hundred companies, surpassing others in both profitability and market capitalization. Its success lies in adopting risk mitigation strategies like its counterparts, such as expanding its business footprint globally and diversifying into sectors beyond construction. The consistent achievement of remarkable financial performance by L&T over a span of eight decades deserves thorough analysis. I have delved into these insights and presented them in an exclusive chapter dedicated to illustrating the success story of L&T.

This report instils hope for Indian construction companies to enter the major league by capitalizing on growth opportunities. Achieving this objective entails overcoming constraints, and through the combined efforts of all stakeholders, the industry needs to be professionalized. This encompasses the introduction of innovative construction technologies in India, as well as the improvement of construction management, contract administration practices, and the skillset of the Indian construction workforce.

Project Time & Cost Overruns – Infrastructure Projects

The infrastructure and project monitoring report generated by the Ministry of Statistics and Program implementation as part of their annual report, provides the status of time and cost overruns of major energy, utility, and infrastructure projects. This represents the status of implementation of 51% share of the overall construction industry. In these annual reports, government infrastructure projects corresponding to Nuclear Power, Civil Aviation, Coal, Fertilizers, Mines, Steel, Petrochemicals, Petroleum, Power, Heavy Industry, Health & Family Welfare, Railways, Road Transport & Highways, Shipping & Ports, Telecommunication, Urban Development, and Defence sectors are covered.

Analysing over the last seven years' reports, it became evident that:
  • The number of projects under implementation has gone up from 782 to 1637.
  • The overall value of the projects has gone up from Rs. 10.2 Lakh crores to Rs. 22.3 Lakh crores, more than double in seven-years.
  • Percentage share of projects that suffered time overruns remained between 24% to 35%, and that of projects that incurred cost overruns stood between 23% to 29%.
  • There is no let-up in the situation regarding time/cost overruns in the seven-year time.
Upon reviewing the annual reports that track the progress of projects across various sectors with long-term durations, it becomes evident that cost and time overruns, though not initially reflected in the first two to three years of implementation, later emerge, and are consistently recorded. In a cluster of projects at different stages of execution—some in the first year, others in the second, third, and so forth—the delays in projects in their initial stages (first/second/third year) are not accounted for in the annual reports.

Consequently, only around 25% of the projects, when considered collectively, are shown to be experiencing time/cost overruns. In reality, as the projects progress in their execution status, it becomes apparent that nearly 100% of them are grappling with significant time and cost overruns. During my involvement in a major railway project initiative at L&T, I observed that all DFC packages executed by construction majors faced delays amounting to 100%.

Real Estate Industry Projects Implementation Status

The building industry constitutes 40% of the overall construction industry. Unfortunately, this segment is currently grappling with the substantial impact of severe project delays. Prop Equity, a premier provider of real estate data, analytics, and consulting services, has monitored the performance of numerous real estate projects in over 40 cities across the country. According to their latest report, an average delay of 34 months was observed in the 1.41 lakh projects tracked between 2017 and 2022, encompassing delivery of 13.56 lakh residential units.

Impact of Time/Cost Overruns

It is evident that this situation will result in substantial financial consequences for the owner, contractors, and all other stakeholders, and these repercussions cannot be recovered. Furthermore, delayed projects will also prevent the country from reaping the anticipated economic benefits.

The Way Forward - How can we improve the performance of the Indian construction sector, considering its various limitations? The book explores several avenues to address this question.

Advancing Construction Technologies/Practices by Associating with Professional Bodies

Professional institutes provide opportunities to construction industry professionals to volunteer their services in their chosen domains. I wish that proactive organizations would set an example by encouraging their staff to be part of any such organization and to contribute a little time from their busy schedule for the development of self, and own organization, and for the cause of the country.

Given the constraints of limited funding and expertise for establishing R&D facilities in construction organizations, this gap can be effectively addressed through shared responsibility.

I have furnished a quick reference list of prominent professional bodies that one can be affiliated with.

I shared in this book my enriching five-year journey with the Indian chapter of the USA-based Deep Foundations Institute, serving as the Director of Operations. In this role, I led efforts to implement new technologies, educational programs, and skill training initiatives within the deep foundation industry, which faces numerous challenges affecting the performance of major infrastructure projects.

Collaborating with over 50 experts spanning multiple domains globally, including India, and engaging with academicians in this specialized field, proved to be a rewarding experience as we advanced selected initiatives to enhance major projects’ performance in India.

Project Approach

In my experience, regardless of whether you assume the role of owner, contractor, sub-contractor, or project management consultant, you have the potential to play a vital part in shaping the appropriate project approach. This involves integrating the efforts of all stakeholders and fostering a team spirit to ensure successful execution of any project, resulting in desirable overall project performance. Such an approach will not only help in providing sustainable energy solutions but also in effectively managing adverse situations. To illustrate these principles, I drew upon examples from my involvement in a dedicated railway project as a member of the Contractor leadership team, and in a significant residential project where I held the position of Chief Operating Officer.

Skilling Indian Construction Industry

While global best countries cover above 50% of the workforce in formal skill training programs, in the Indian context, we hardly cover 2% overall, and it is lower in the construction industry.

Knowing this well, the Indian government set up a separate skill ministry way back in 2014, which created a definite organizational structure, and laid down several policies, but we have hardly made any headway in this direction. As on 2030, around 5 crore workers will be required in the construction industry, and the government of India has set a target of providing formal training to 31 million workers in five-years, starting from 2015, which means 60 lakh workers per annum.

Today, we have the capacity to train less than a lakh and we have just four major institutions like the National Academy of Construction in Hyderabad, CREDAI Kushal in Pune, the Infrastructure Equipment Skill Council (IESC) in Bangalore, and the L&T Construction Skill Training Institute, which collectively are meeting only a miniscule of the overall demand.

To bridge this gap, India needs to emulate successful models like Germany's Vocational & Educational Training (VET) program. In Germany, where 99.3% of the 3.5 million companies are SMEs, the VET program has been instrumental in meeting 60% of the country's employment needs as of 2015.

The book explores various possibilities to address the demand for formal skill training in the construction industry, drawing insights from successful global models.

Professional Engineer Certification

Indian is witnessing phenomenal scope for mega size projects, which is leading to many complexities in the execution of these projects. There is a need therefore for engineers to enhance their professional competencies. USA like countries offer well-regulated professional engineer certification programs and India need to catch up from their current practices. Finer details to achieve this goal have been covered in the book.

Nurturing Future Leaders

It is pathetic to know that most of the construction industry leaders have a grim view about the current generation young civil engineers. They are not happy because they are not hardworking, dedicated, less knowledgeable, worried that they do not stick the jobs. My observation is that this is self-inflected, and I convey this to senior management professionals representing various stakeholders of the construction.

On the policy front, though the government revised the AICTE curriculum promulgated in 2018, which recommends academia and industry collaboration by means of interactive/internship programs supported by the industry (to make young engineers’ more industry-fit), hardly any improvement is seen over the last four years. On the industry front, civil engineering professionals are mostly busy with everyday firefighting and in racing against time to meet project deadlines and other challenges. They hardly find time to provide any industry orientation to young students.

In most of India’s engineering colleges offering a civil engineering course, either the management encourages the students to opt for IT industry jobs, or resort to cutting down civil engineering seats or even closing this department. Since most of the performance metrics are based on job offers and salary packages, departments such as civil engineering take a backseat.

On the brighter side, there is a boom in the construction industry. However, colleges that follow the above trend may deprive the Indian construction industry with the required civil engineers, which can become a big threat to the construction industry (which is yet unnoticed).

In view of these limitations, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the National Academy of Construction (NAC) in creating and implementing modules that bridge theory with practice for postgraduate diploma students in the field of construction management. With the support of proactive industry professionals and the NAC faculty leadership team, a three-year consistent effort resulted in significant visibility.

Encouraged by this success, I aspired to develop another course designed to familiarize undergraduate students with the industry through structured programs spanning a four-year period. With the backing of like-minded professionals and support from the NAC leadership team, we aim to extend this program to a minimum of ten colleges in 2024. Our ultimate vision is to expand this initiative nationwide by leveraging the support of socially conscious organizations like the TATA Group.

Testimonials

"Building New India" thoroughly examines the intricacies of the country's construction industry, tackling crucial issues. Prasad offers lucid and impactful solutions to these challenges. This book is essential reading for all industry stakeholders.

K. Bikshapathi, Director General, National Academy of Construction

I had the pleasure and privilege of going through the book. It is in line with the goal of India becoming AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT. The book is a valuable input to all the stakeholders such as project owners, executing agencies (contractors and builders) and engineers, especially in the area of construction management. My compliments to the author for his efforts in bringing out the book.

Prof. V. S. Raju Geotechnical and Foundation Consultant (Formerly: Director, IIT Delhi; Professor & Dean, IIT Madras)

G Venkata Prasad's book is a knowledge hub for the Indian construction industry, benefiting government bodies, industry players, and students. It explores growth potential, government programs, skill development, and key challenges and enablers impacting project execution. The book also profiles major industry players and emphasizes ESG aspects, aligning with contemporary needs.

Anup Sahay, Head Corporate Strategy and Special Initiatives, L&T

I'd like to convey my admiration for the meticulously structured format of the book "Building A New India," along with the well-selected examples and seamless flow of content that encompasses the entire spectrum of the Indian Construction Industry. The book is easy to comprehend and efficiently communicates both the challenges and their respective solutions.

Shobha Regunathan, Founder, The Build ED & Former National Director for Project Management at Colliers International

Digital & Sustainable Construction

Over the last two decades, we are witnessing construction projects becoming more complex and larger in scale. The growing demand for environmentally sensitive construction warrants a change in traditional practices. The shortage of skilled labour and supervisory staff will only increase. The time has come for new ways of thinking to improve the industry. It has been the industry practice to aim for incremental improvements. This is because each project is unique, and scaling up new ideas is generally unfeasible, and hence embracing new technologies has remained impractical.

Further, technical challenges specific to the construction sector resulted in the slow pace of digitization. Finding solutions across different projects covering multiple sectors that are geographically dispersed — comparing a refinery project, say, with an airport— is no easy task. And given the varying sophistication levels of smaller construction firms that often function as sub-contractors, building new capabilities at scale is another challenge.

The book explores global advancements in digitalization within the construction industry and examines how India is adapting to these changes. It covers international practices, the current scenario in India, historical trends, and future prospects. A similar analysis is presented regarding the implementation of sustainable energy solutions to address the looming threat of climate change.

I am optimistic that the 266-page book will be a captivating read for professionals in the construction industry, offering valuable insights on how to enhance operational effectiveness amid considerable challenges and limitations.

four decades of experience in the Indian construction industry
For more details, please contact:
G Venkata Prasad, Founder & CEO, GVP Consulting
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