Breaking the Monotony…

Being one of the proven players over the last six decades in the construction field, K Raheja has dug its roots deep successfully across all the segments of real estate. They only believe in moving ahead with times and they do so by adapting the new technologies. Elaborating more on the brand’s enormous success and future plans, MOHAN ABHICHANDANI, DIRECTOR-PROJECTS, K RAHEJA CORP spills the beans in this candid interview….

 

With six decades of legacy as a leading real estate conglomerate, how has been the Journey so far?
Founded in 1956, K Raheja Corp is one of the most renowned names in the real estate industry and has successfully diversi­fied into commercial and residential real estate, hospitality and the retail sector.

The real estate industry in India has witnessed a significant transformation, owing to internal and external factors, especially over last two decades. Whether, it is related to policy interventions such as DC regulations, MOEF and other statutory approvals like RERA, GST, etc., K Raheja Corp is and will always be committed to ensure that best practices are followed in the interest of employees, vendors and customer while running the show.

In India, real estate is the second largest employer after agriculture and is slated to grow at 30 per cent over the next decade. The real estate sector comprises of four sub sectors – housing, retail, hospitality, and commercial. K Raheja Corp is proud to have Mindspace, Shoppers Stop, Vivarea, J W Marriott Brand Hotels and Inorbit Mall as their brands representing the entire gambit of real estate sector under its umbrella.

What strategic measures are taken by K Raheja to be one step ahead of its competitors? How are you different from the rest?
We have taken several measures over a period of time to keep us ahead of the curve, however, the focus was always to keep us vibrant, and, energetic as a united team, and being an efficient leader was just a result of that process.

On the environment front, we signed a MoU with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) & Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) for the implementation of green building measures for all its projects in 2007, and have remained committed to it.

The company currently holds a total registered green building footprint of 4.07-cr sq. ft. On the HR front, K Raheja Corp endeavors to create and maintain a strong people-friendly culture that is inclusive and diverse. For the same, various initiatives were implemented to take care of the employees at all locations which has been a key measure for our success.

Keeping site offices hygienic, weekend offs for site personal, parental leave, abolition of prefix-suffix norms; the HR department is continuously involved in all aspects of making work-life balance, and, enhancing the skills of employees for making them more confident and energetic about their work.

The company also generates green power, which is the energy / electricity generated through renewable sources thus reducing carbon emission. We have set up one of the largest solar rooftop plants at Mindspace Madhapur, Hyderabad; with a capacity of 1.6 megawatt generating 25 lakh units annually. We have always endeavored to reduce carbon footprint and today, we are successfully able to save around 5000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

In a quest to give back to the society, K Raheja Corp actively takes up CSR Initiatives. The company in partnership with GHMC took up the challenging task to transform Hyderabad’s iconic Durgam Cheruvu from a marshy water hyacinth covered lake into a beautiful water-body.

Additionally, through Sadhana Education Society’s (SES), a charitable educational institution known for imparting quality and affordable education to marginalized students without any bias, and at affordable rates, has empowered over 50,000 students with the gift of knowledge in its five decades of existence.

Being developed and promoting eco-friendly building construction, what is your take on green building construction in India?
Green building is a popular concept in the commercial real estate segment in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and is still gaining acceptance in the residential business.  However, with more awareness, introduction of new concepts such as wellness standard, and net zero concepts, the industry is taking adequate steps keeping in mind the commercial impact, and, financial viability. Going forward with government initiatives and developer’s intent, the measures can be brought well within the affordability index for people at large resulting in s greater adaption of green measures for all segments.

Can you highlight some steel or composite structures that K Raheja has constructed or are going to construct in the near future?
We have undertaken special projects such as extension of our head office, wherein, we have used steel structures that are light in weight and easy to install compared to concrete structures. The project was executed in Bandra Kurla Complex, and, hence the commercial feasibility allowed us to go for steel structures to complete the work at a faster pace.

Additionally, for one of our South Mumbai high-end residential projects, we opted for composite columns to reduce the column area thus increasing the net usable carpet area. Presently, we are in the process of evaluating the commercial impact and long-term benefits of using structural steel vis-a-vis concrete structures for our commercial projects.

What are the key challenges faced by developers in our country?
With steel structures, the execution timelines can be reduced with meticulous planning however, in India due to uncertainty of various approvals, the advantage of using steel structures get nullified, when, a project gets delayed and on the other side the budget receives positive commercial impact up to 30-40 per cent.

Other challenges faced by developers is with regards to the pool of good contractors, who, can execute quality job for steel structure fabrication and erection. Currently, efficient contractors are very expensive as compared to small scale contractors.

What are the main advantages of steel structures when compared to the conventional structures?
Steel can accomplish extremely long spans in structures, and, open-bay footprints without intermediate columns. The material is flexible in different ways to address design requirements, which makes them very good at resisting dynamic forces such as wind or earthquake. It can bend without cracking, which acts as a warning in seismic zones.

RCC structures can take up a good amount of compression but is not good enough for tension, whereas, steel structures can take up both compression and tension. Due to the dead weight of RCC, the foundation design is heavy as compared to steel structure.

How is technology changing the construction industry and the way we execute buildings?
While we are trying to explore many more technologies, we have used large-span formworks, jump forms, cranes, passenger elevators and custom-made aluminum shuttering. Our use of technology is not specific only to the core, and shell of the building, but we use it to maximize other trades as well and try to leverage those technologies in completing the building. We try to capture anything that increases productivity.

With BIM, we can now reduce the amount of efforts put in by consultants for coordination and the rework happening at site due to the coordination done earlier in 2D drawings. With the use of ERP modules such as SAP, the complete project solution; from planning to monitoring, contracts, billing and budget control can be available as 1-point solution.

With costing softwares such as Cost X, extraction of quantity for large scale projects can be done at a fast pace. Aconex helps in design coordination with mapping of changes over earlier layout. We also have a 3D scanner which can bring any heritage building with special shape onto the drawing table for planning the upliftment.

The usage of Drone in surveying and mapping out the specified area has become quite popular. Their value lies in being able to go where humans and heavy machinery can’t, monitoring progress in real time and the ability to make changes to the plan according to the drone footage.

Drones can also play a role in monitoring and promoting safety practices, as the surveillance shows whether best practice regulations are being adhered to, regardless of whether a health and safety official is on site. Our philosophy is to use technology optimally to achieve efficiency and reduce time and not just use them as replacement of human efforts.

Do you believe we have right kind of structural steel supply to cater various demands of clients?
This depends on the supply-demand ratio. We know that there is a wide use of structural steel for industrial and factory buildings, however, for the large-scale commercial, residential and hospitality segment, the volume is still not comparable with conventional structures. Going forward, we need more good suppliers and contractors to provide economical solutions with good quality products. The real estate industry is still evolving in India.

How does K Raheja plan to contribute to bring in a change in the real estate sector in the coming 5 years?
As stated earlier, keeping ourselves on toes is the motto we work with. Other than continuous improvement measures, we are keen to learn new technologies, upgrade the skill of labours by skill development programmes under our CSR initiatives, work towards more eco-friendly solutions while carrying out the construction, improve living standards by adapting wellness and other international standards.

With REIT, the next revolution mechanism in the real estate segment, we are ensuring that all our products are being upgraded and maintained to enter the segment with all the requirements. With that said, we are confident that K Raheja Corp will also contribute significantly in setting the tone for future of the real estate industry in India.

What message do you have to give to our leaders?
I would like to emphasize on having a wide range of suppliers and contractors to provide more economical solutions for making adaption of steel structures for the real estate segment. Unless the financial barrier is broken, it is going to be very difficult to promote steel structure buildings for commercial projects.

More government initiatives are needed to promote steel structures. Also, awareness among people at large for accepting steel structure buildings for residential usage needs to be created. High end residential units can reap the benefit of speedier construction with steel structures as the affordability is not the issue with that segment.