- Anil Agarwal, Managing Director, Kridhan Infra Ltd
Kridhan Infra, originally founded in Mumbai as Readymade Steel (RMS) in 2006, is an Indian-promoted global construction service provider, having evolved from a steel solutions provider to a foundation engineering company. With its presence in India, Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia, the company has become a high-quality service provider in foundation engineering.
Anil Agarwal, Managing Director, Kridhan Infra Ltd, shares more in conversation with SERAPHINA D'SOUZA.
Kridhan Infra has pioneered the concept of ready-to-use steel. Tell us more.
We conceived the idea of readymade steel understanding the shortage of ancillary in infrastructure companies in India. Globally, contractors specialise in their job of design and implementation and not in providing services that can be outsourced like ready-mix concrete (RMC), readymade steel and other value-added services. In the 1990s, India saw the first RMC plant, similarly in the field of steel usage; until then, the concept was primitive - you buy a bar, bring it to site, do the processes manually, and delay the entire construction time.
With the idea to target such bottlenecks, Readymade Steel was formed in India in 2006 with the agenda to keep adding newer products and be a leading infrastructure solution provider in the country.
The tallest and longest structures in the country have been our clients. The first monorail and the elevated corridor of Nasik are both landmark structures that have used this.
Also, with ready-to-use steel, you pre-order it, we cut it, bend it and deliver it on site just in time, and it can be directly applied. So you don't need space and much manual labour. For example, one floor of Kohinoor Square would manually require around 400 workers a day to process the steel; we did it with 100. So you save time, labour and efficiency. Also, wastage in terms of cutting on site can be controlled to below 1 per cent.
Kridhan Infra's subsidiary, KH Foges Pte, has a track record of successfully executing over 250 projects in Singapore. What has been the strategy in acquiring the Singapore company and how has it contributed to Kridhan Infra's growth?
In 2010-11, we realised that, in India, foundation engineering was becoming a logjam. India's construction sector specifically was going through a bad phase, which led us to explore Singapore in 2011-12 with the motive to bring-in value-added services from the overseas market and offer them in India to speed up construction and provide better quality products.
With readymade steel, we brought down the construction cycle by almost five days, but there was more to be done.
We knew the acquisition of a construction company in Singapore would help us get there in terms of adding more valued services and products to the construction cycle. With a base in Singapore, we will always have a 10-20 year edge over India. In Singapore, our company had done commendable work in pile foundations with pile sizes as much as 3-m-wide 90-m-deep; India's maximum till date has been 30-40-m-deep and 1.5-m-wide. We have gradually grown to being a rebar coupler importer and provider. We are among the top three rebar coupler providers in India and almost every metro in the country uses Kridhan couplers.KH Foges helped us grow by almost 100 per cent in the first year of acquisition itself. It has given us access to the emerging market of Singapore and this acquisition has transformed the company.
Also, through the Singapore subsidiary, Kridhan Infra has bagged orders of Rs 247 crore in Singapore for EPC works and foundation engineering...
KH Foges in Singapore has bagged this project to construct a viaduct and flyover in Singapore. We have received this contract from one of the leading contractors in Singapore and this project will mark our entry into the construction sector as an EPC contractor and works provider.
What about taking up EPC projects in India?
The EPC project taken up in Singapore is our first project. Our strategy is to first acquire a job expertise in Singapore, use it for a higher skill, and then bring it to India. We are currently in the process of acquiring a civil engineering company that will give us the credentials to start participating in bids for EPC jobs, and will then take up EPC works in India. We will mostly look for infrastructure-related jobs, which are directly associated with government projects.
How has your experience been working on projects internationally?
In a place like Singapore, you make all efforts to get an order and; once you secure it, you execute it and complete it without any concerns such as payment, etc. In India, the challenge is not only to get an order but to execute it addressing various parameters that can conveniently effect the timelines of the project. And, once everything is done, you are not sure whether you will get paid or not. So, your progress depends on the client. In terms of technology too, Singapore is a process-oriented country - we don't just start a project; we spend at least 20 per cent of the time first in planning it. Once we start work, there are no changes. In India, there are too many changes. However, things are evolving. The requirement of material is more planned, a lot of international consultants and contractors have come in, and things are slowly moving.
Tell us about any challenging landmark projects.
In India, we are currently doing foundation engineering jobs for two landmark projects. The first one is a river beautification job at Gomti, wherein we are doing a diaphragm wall of 16 m below the ground. This is a challenging project; the only other river beautification job completed is that on Sabarmati; this is the second one of that scale. Another project is the freight corridor for which, again, we are doing the foundation engineering. While executing this project, an obstacle that the earlier piling contractors faced was hard rock. To tackle this, our Singapore team advised us on the kind of tools and machines to use. We introduced new tools not currently used in India, and developed a special kind of roller bits, which we often used in Singapore. And, we did one pile a day vs one pile a week as done earlier.
In terms of construction equipment, what is the company's requirement?
When we do an EPC or foundation engineering job, we try to mechanise all the equipment in advance; for example, instead of making the pile cage on site, we order it from a readymade steel manufacturer, who manufactures a pile cage, column or beam cage in advance and delivers it on time. We try to do precast elements in other EPC sites as much as possible, to save time and have better quality.
Tell us about the company's performance and your expansion plans.
We aim to be a leading foundation engineering company in India, and to grow our order book of Rs 700 crore, which is purely foundation-related. We aim to bring global technological advancements and infrastructure solutions to India. We are aggressively talking to some precast providers to provide precast all over India. We have also signed up with a dredging company in China to bring them to India to ease the bottleneck in dredging-related work. We are waiting for some projects for dredging work. Going forward, too, we will continue to look at bringing companies to India as a JV partner, and bring in newer things, such as in dredging, precast, tunnelling systems, etc. But all this will happen eventually, when India is ready to take it.
Year of Establishment: 2006
Top Management: Anil Agarwal, Managing Director; Siang Thong Yeo, CEO, KH Foges Pte; Ang Boon Hai, Director, KH Foges Pte
Areas of operation: Foundation engineering (bored piling, driven piling, micro piling, soil investigation, soil improvement); civil engineering; steel products.
No of Employees: Around 720
turnover: Rs.651 crore (FY15)
Orderbook: Rs.700 crore
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