“In the next five years, we plan to file for an IPO, register an order book of Rs 10,000 crore and surpass our turnover of Rs 2,500 crore.” - BS Kapur, Director (Operations), Totem Infrastructure Ltd
With a motto that reads ‘Passion to Deliver’, it comes as no surprise that the story of this company should unfold with a professional who decided to turn entrepreneur, diving into a space he believed held immense potential, fuelled by passion - the passion to make a difference! Founded less than a decade ago, Totem Infrastructure Ltd has had a dream run; today, it has projects spanning the length and breadth of the country. BS Kapur, Director (Operations), takes CW through the paces:
There’s a unique quality about the inception of Totem Infrastructure Ltd. Can you please take us through the company’s journey, highlighting the opportunities and challenges along the way? The journey of dreams to reality began less than a decade ago in 2002; it was all about the dream of an individual to create an organisation, rather an institution by itself. Totem is the brainchild of a technocrat turned first-generation entrepreneur — Salalith — who wanted to cater to the fast-growing needs of an economy growing at breakneck speed. In recent times, India has emerged as a land of opportunities in the infrastructure sector. Banking on the huge potential offered by the sector, Salalith capitalised on his professional experience to launch Totem.
We started with highway projects and today serve four major verticals: transportation (highways and railways), irrigation, power, and urban infrastructure. Some key projects completed by us include the four-laning of 40 km on NH 6 in Wainganga, Maharashtra border; four-laning of 52 km on NH 3 in Pimplegaon - Dhule, in Maharashtra; an internal railway line for the Bhilai power project in Chhattisgarh; and the NTPC raw water reservoir at NTPC Sipat in Chattisgarh.
We’ve shown a significant presence pan-India by taking up various projects in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. And we’ve registered over 80 per cent growth year on year. As a growing company, we’ve faced many challenges along the way, right from raising funds to hiring the best people in the industry. Our biggest challenge has been to develop and establish our credentials in this booming industry which we’ve done by completing some prestigious projects successfully. This has put us on the fast track in the race to the top. All said, Totem is still a young player in the field and in its nascent stage; it has a long way to go.
Tell us about some of your current projects in irrigation, national highways, railways and the industrial sector. Also, are there any big projects in the pipeline?Some current projects include the eight-laning on Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad, a highway project worth Rs 300 crore; the new railway line in the Howrah division of Eastern Railway, a railway project of RVNL worth Rs 90 crore; the Omkareshwar Project Canal System (Phase III) in Madhya Pradesh, an irrigation project of the Narmada Valley Dev-elopment Authority worth Rs 310 crore; two power projects with NTPC involving infrastructure works for thermal plant and ash dyke, STPP stage and modern foot over bridges (FOB) with escalators and lifts over a four lane in the urban infra vertical. Additionally, projects to the tune of Rs 2,100 crore as well as some BOT toll and annuity projects are in the pipeline.
You attribute your success to your skilled workforce as well as state-of-the-art machinery and equipment. Please elaborate. What makes Totem stand out from among other contractors in this space? Totem lives by the true spirit of its punch line ‘Passion to Deliver’. With experienced professionals, strong systems and state-of-the-art equipment, the company stands for high-quality delivery within the stipulated time and cost. Totem has been a powerhouse of innovative and experienced professionals. Our greatest asset is our top management comprising highly dedicated, motivated and energetic people with diverse experience in government, public and private sectors. All those who worked with us have been instrumental in Totem’s rise in the infrastructure space; they’ve not just been employees but key elements contributing to Totem’s march forward at all times. Also, the sheer range and profile of projects handled over the years clearly reflects the dynamism, enthusiasm and strong will Totem stands for.
Our use of state-of-the-art machinery and equipment has been a constant in all our projects. We own the latest, most sophisticated construction equipment worth over Rs 96 crore, including the Linhoff hot mix plant, Dynapac sensor paver 13.5 m, Schwing Stetter concrete batching plant, Puzzolona crusher, excavators by L&T Komatsu, Volvo and CAT, graders by Volvo and L&T Komatsu, and so on. In sum, Totem has all the requisite ingredients for reaching greater levels of excellence: experienced management, a qualified workforce, state-of-the-art machinery, and an optimal mix of order book.
Totem Infrastructure was awarded ‘Emerging Infrastructure Company of the Year 2009’ by CNBC, in association with Essar Steel. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What strategies have you adopted to achieve your objective?Our work has been recognised and appreciated. In 2008, Chairman and Managing Director Salalith Tottempudi was awarded ‘Young and Dynamic Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh. In 2009, we were awarded ‘Emerging Infrastructure Company of the Year’ by CNBC, in association with Essar Steel, at the Infrastructure Excellence Awards. In 2010, we were ranked No. 205 amongst India’s best performing mid-sized companies by India Inc and were also awarded the Certificate of Excellence in recognition of exemplary growth and sustainable success in The Second Annual India Inc 500 Awards.
Our motto, ‘Passion to Deliver’ encourages us to dream big and aspire high by all means. So, in the next five years, we plan to raise an IPO, register an order book of Rs 10,000 crore and surpass our turnover of Rs 2,500 crore. We plan to foray into the international market to explore the possibility of strategic tie-ups with international conglomerates. We also plan to venture into the BOT space as well as other segments like high-rise buildings, elevated corridors, hydropower, etc.
Where do you see the Indian infrastructure industry headed? What are the challenges faced by the industry and what measures can be adopted to overcome them?Given the amount of foreign money flowing into India, and the country’s GDP clocking 8.5 per cent, the growth in infrastructure is but natural. Investments in the infrastructure industry in India are estimated to reach a trillion dollars over the next decade. However, the industry faces bottlenecks in terms of investment. Rising inflation could also be a problem as it causes the central bank to raise lending rates. The challenges faced by the sector are not just domestic but also international. Funding is a major challenge; it is hard for smaller, emerging players to get a stable funding pipeline. With manifold increase in construction activity in all sectors, there is an acute shortage of trained manpower, which is being increasingly felt over the past few years. The requirement is mostly for civil engineers and construction artisans like carpenters, masons, bar benders, fitters, as well as for quantity surveyors, safety personnel and quality control professionals. While many companies have taken up training at an individual level, what is really required is a major thrust from the central and state governments to push this issue.
What are your views on going green? While it’s easy to pay lip service to the concept, how much of it is actually implemented in your infrastructure projects?Though ‘going green’ is the mantra the industry seems to have adopted, at ground level it is far from being realised. Indeed, the focus on green must only increase going forward as it is bound to have an impact on the overall image of any enterprise. As of now, corporate houses don’t seem to be serious about it and any corrective directives issued by the Ministry of Environment are seen as arm-twisting tactics. India Inc is yet to embrace this concept fully.
At Totem, we are connected to everything involved in a project, and that includes Nature as well. Our commitment to green is reflected in the projects we take up such as ash dykes for power plants that use surplus coal ash from the same plant, highway projects using ash even in high embankment, etc. Further, we also train ourselves to take up work on green buildings. While we believe in fuelling the economic engine of India, we also believe in the restoration of the environment; hence, going green tops our agenda.
Establishment: 2002Centre of operation: GurgaonTop management (promoters): Salalith Tottempudi, Chairman & Managing Director; Kavita Tottempudi, DirectorNo. of employees: 300Turnover: Approx Rs 600 croreCurrent order book: About Rs 1,800 crore