Mr. Soundararajan

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Your College Name & Place: College of Engineering Guindy, Chennai
Total Years of Experience: 20+ years
Your Idol / Mentor: Dr. K Saravanan
Role Model: Tan Sri A K Nathan, a father figure to me.
Your mantra for success: Keep it simple.
You want to be remembered as :As a loving leader
Steel Projects that you are Currently Working on: A hospital in Cuttack, a church building in Chennai, the Qatar Airport extension and few projects in Singapore amongst others.

Talking About Life’s Engineering Saga. ‘TALES’ is a segment that exclusively focuses on the top Project/Structural Consultants across the globe sharing their engineering journey in their own words.
He is the perfect example of perseverance & determination… his love for his profession & affair with steel reflects in his work…
Here’s Mr. Soundararajan A, Head of Engineering, Eversendai Construction Pvt. Ltd. giving us a peak into his thoughts…

What inspired you to pursue engineering as a profession, especially during a time when engineering was still new?
I come from a remote village with mostly illiterate relatives who were masons, it was rare for someone to get a degree. I felt the need to master the field and take it to a higher level and wanted to go beyond the single-story structures my relatives were constructing and design multi-story buildings. This motivated me to pursue engineering, specifically civil engineering. I after my degree in civil engineering, I was thinking of taking up concrete structures as my pursuit since it has a lot of references. During my master’s program in the guidance of Dr. G M Samuel Knight, I was inspired by my friend working with Professor V. Kalyanaraman at IIT Madras (Chennai), who was part of the IS 800 revising committee. During this period, I had a lot of interaction with my said friend and Dr. Arul Jayachandran and the time spent was my first inspiration to become a structural steel engineer. This friend Er. Veerammal who was a medium for my inspiration in a way, became my wife later on in life.

How was your learning curve from being a student to a pro?
The learning curve has been quite remarkable. As an engineer, each stage brings different learning opportunities. In the initial professional years, one needs to have a demanding boss to thrive later. My boss during my initial days would push me to my limits. I worked long hours, sometimes until 3:00 a.m., with only a few hours of rest before returning to work at 9:00 a.m. This tough experience laid the foundation for my career. Every project I have worked on has presented unique challenges and valuable lessons, ensuring that my learning process has been consistently progressive.

What are the major challenges you face as a structural consultant?
As a structural consultant, one of the primary challenges is working with architects. While we highly respect their creativity, they can push the envelope a bit too and to collaborate with them can be quite challenging but having said that, it is a positive challenge. On the other hand, in India, we face a significant challenge with the authorities responsible for approving steel designs. These authorities often lack adequate knowledge of structural steel and tend to be more comfortable with concrete. This knowledge gap poses a major hurdle for structural consultants. However, once the industry develops a comprehensive understanding of steel, it will be a positive shift.

How do you perceive the adoption of rolled sections among the Indian construction community?
Sections are highly preferred within the Indian construction community. Many consultants opt for built-up sections, as this may reduce the tonnage of steel used. Due to a lack of skilled labor, the quality of welding and fabrication of these built-up members becomes a concern. Despite codes and stringent inspection protocols, there are instances where the quality may not meet the desired standards. Therefore, to address this issue, the industry should shift towards using more rolled sections. Once the industry has developed the necessary expertise, rolled sections will be the way forward.

If you could change one thing about construction practices in India, what would it be?
One thing I would change is the adherence to timely construction. We often hear about construction schedules like three months for fabrication, four months for erection, or eleven months for completion. However, in reality, only 5 to 10 percent of projects are completed on time. On-time completion should be a priority for contractors and clients alike. Additionally, maintaining high-quality and safety standards is another area that requires improvement in the construction industry. These changes would significantly impact the industry’s overall performance.

How has your relationship with steel evolved since the beginning of your career?
Steel has been an integral part of my professional life, almost like blood flowing through my veins. I have always been connected to steel, utilizing it in various projects and applications.

Could you share your best steel project so far and what makes it special?
The best steel project I have worked on is the Statue of Unity, consisting of two cylindrical cores. While the cores are made of concrete, the steel played a vital role in connecting the facade, which is a bronze shell, to the core walls. Every connection was different. This project involved a high level of coordination, with each member and connection being unique. Working closely with the Chinese vendor and collaborating with L&T for coordination made this project a standout achievement. The pride and satisfaction I felt upon its completion were truly remarkable.

Are there any specific international steel projects that inspire you for their structural elegance? If so, which ones and why?
There are a few international steel projects that have inspired me. One of them is the Burj Khalifa Tower. I had the opportunity to get associated with this project during the early years of my career. The sheer height of the tower, around 800 meters and the complexity of its design left me with a profound sense of awe. It was one of the tallest structures at the time, and its design showcased the possibilities of what could be achieved. It made me realize that the thought process is very important. Another notable project is the KL118, also known as Merdeka 118, in Malaysia. It is the second tallest tower in the world, and its predominantly steel structure demonstrates the elegance and innovation that can be achieved with steel.

How do you keep yourself updated with the evolving technologies and advancements in the field?
As a structural engineer, it is essential to stay updated with the changing times. One of the primary sources of knowledge is attending seminars and conferences. These events provide opportunities to learn from experienced professionals in various fields. In a span of a few hours, you can gather knowledge equivalent to years of experience from multiple experts. Attending these seminars, taking notes and deep diving into the topics discussed and then going back to the drawing board helps me stay updated and continuously learn.