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Kaustubh Raikar

Talking About Life’s Engineering Saga – ‘TALES’ is a segment that exclusively focuses on structural consultants across the nation wherein they share their engineering journey in their own words.
From the transformative role of customised rolled steel sections in industrial and infrastructure projects to his advocacy for regulatory control in civil engineering practices, Kaustubh Raikar, Executive Director, Structwel, provides a unique perspective on the current state and future potential of the steel sector in the country. Join us as we explore his journey, challenges, and unwavering passion for steel, unravelling the intricate tapestry of his experiences and vision for the industry.
Your College: Sardar Patel College of Engineering, Mumbai & Virginia Tech, USA
Years of Experience: 20 years
Your Idol/Mentor: My Father
Your Mantra for Success: Intelligence with Integrity
You Want to be Remembered As: As someone who did a good job & gave his 110% towards his client, i.e. ‘the structure’.
Steel Projects You are Currently Working on: Navi Mumbai Airport Cargo Project, a few more Air Cargo Structures in India, in international locations Rail, Loco Production Facility in Gujarat, Data Centres in multiple cities,E-commerce Warehouses across India Manufacturing and production factories across India.

Your inspiration to take up engineering as a profession…
I was young (around 12 years old) when I went on sites with my father over the weekends. The motivation used to be the cold drinks that the contractor used to give me when I came. But slowly, I started seeing how my father commanded respect at sites and there was a huge team of engineers waiting for him to come and give solutions at the site. That was when I started idolising my father and decided to be like him one day.

Your learning curve from a student to a pro…
Once I finished college in Mumbai, my post-graduate studies at Virginia Tech in the US widened my thought process. After returning, I joined the family business where I started as a junior engineer and slowly climbed the ladder. Today, I lead a team of around 350 people.

Firstly, when I went abroad for my higher education, it opened up my thought process. I really liked the way international education coaxes you into thinking out of the box; staying focused on the fundamentals of engineering. However, real-world challenges are different, interpersonal skills and management are extremely important; to handle your bosses, clients, and labour at site, or manage issues beyond engineering.

The challenges you face as a structural consultant…
A major challenge is that engineers need to express themselves better. Ideas are only of use if they are presented properly. We are always working on new ideas and thought processes, so to convince people of these is a challenge, though, things are changing. In the last five years, we have seen changes in the thought processes of the client.

Clients, most of the time are very easy to convince, if you understand their needs and can propose new ideas or your thoughts in a simple manner. You will not face scepticism from your clients if you can clearly identify their pain points, and address them within the financial, time, quality constraints.

How do you see the adoption of rolled steel sections in India…
Customised rolled steel sections are the next big thing. Most industrial projects and infrastructure projects are shifting towards the adoption of steel, especially after the pandemic. The engineering and production of steel have drastically changed the cost difference between steel and RCC construction. Furthermore, the early business that comes out of these structures offsets the cost of construction. Currently, many clients also ask for aesthetics in buildings, so customised rolled steel sections, in the coming years will play a big role in enhancing the look of the buildings.

If you could change one thing about the construction practices in India…
We have no statutory or regulatory control over the projects in civil engineering. This is especially evident in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in engineering practices. In Dubai, for example, the government has stringent monitoring of the construction, quality, speed and time. A similar system in India would bring uniformity in projects across the county not just in a few metropolitan areas.

Simple issues such as testing of materials used in construction have still not been followed as per the code requirements in all projects. This has been left to the quality conscience of the builder who is building the structure. We see a lot of un-engineered structures, developing early age distress due to this issue.

How has your relationship been with steel…
I started my steel journey in 2009 with an agro-warehousing project.
The challenge was that the owner was competing with local farmers
and wanted an engineered structure to be completed at the lowest costs, quickly and precisely. I ran
36 iterations of the different models and structures that can be
assembled to optimise costs and construction time.

Since this same structure was going to be repeated in multiple locations across the country, a lot of effort was put into designing these steel structures. After so much work put into R&D with steel, I really fell in love with steel as a material. It seems so simple once you really understand the pulse of steel design.

Your best work in steel so far…
The best work is yet to come.
But we did a 13 m cantilever structure for the canopy at Taj Dwarka.
The architect wanted a cantilever tapering in both directions, without tie-backs. I was hardly 30 years old at the time and this requirement from the architect was overwhelming with the limited experience that I had.
It is a small component of the entire structure, but one of the best works of steel. This same structure has some other nice and intricate steel composite elements to take care of MEP services and long spans.

This steel canopy was resting on concrete columns. The connection designs for the anchor bolts were truly a challenge, especially with the amount of reinforcement that was present in the concrete column.

An international steel-specific project that inspires you the most…
The Eiffel Tower. To construct something like this in that day and age without a single misfit connection is in itself a marvel. When we see this structure, we tend to wonder how the engineers would have prepared the design and fabrication drawings, without the modern software and AI that we have today. This structure also emphasises the beauty that can be created using bare steel elements, without any cladding or other architectural materials to cover it.

In fact, a robust and strong material such as steel can produce such elegance and delicacy, which really inspires many architects and engineers to look for uses of steel in structures beyond industrial construction.

How do you update yourself with the changing time…
Through the internet. A lot of trends on materials and structures are disseminated through engineering groups on WhatsApp. Marketing from the suppliers also helps.

However, nothing can replace reading. Since many research papers and reading materials are available online, that has been a big source of information. You also learn a lot from having conversations with other industry leaders on different aspects of design and construction.

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