In the next in a series of interviews with prominent civil engineers, JANAKI KRISHNAMOORTHI meets Dr Gopal Rai, CEO, R&M International Group of Companies.
If you are proficient in your subject and believe in what you do, you should go ahead irrespective of what others say, asserts Dr Gopal Rai, Chief Executive Officer, R&M International Group of Companies. This has been his guiding principle in a career that is just a decade old. Focused on a specialised fieldretrofitting and rehabilitation of concrete structures by composite materialshe has put several distressed structures and bridges back on their feet and enhanced the load capacity of others. His projects, which range from residential, commercial and heritage buildings to bridges, include the Mithi River runway bridge, railway over bridge at Dronagiri in Navi Mumbai and Syndicate Bank quarters in Ghatkopar, in suburban Mumbai.
Dr. Rais forte and his companys core business is external pre-stressing using composite laminates, a new technology he developed while doing his doctorate at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Mumbai. Bringing this technology to the industry was a big challenge, states Dr. Rai, who even today spends around eight hours a month on research. That is the only way I can upgrade my knowledge and techniques, he says. I am now working with several experts on various technologies related to civil engineering.
His achievements today may come as a surprise to many as he was not considered a bright student in his schooldays! I was more interested in playing and enjoying than studying, he admits. In ninth standard, I scored just 39 per cent and when I asked my father if I could become an engineer, he told me I would be lucky if I got a peons job. This remark by my father, who rarely scolded me on my poor performance, hurt me deeply and thereafter I began to study hard, recalls the engineer whose education began at a municipal school in Chembur and ended at a prestigious institution like IIT. No doubt, he draws inspiration from his father, a schoolteacher who instilled the right values and direction in him. Even when I fared poorly in my studies, he supported me and continued to motivate me in different ways, says Dr. Rai, who is now building a beautiful bungalow in his native village Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, making his fathers dream come true.
Heading a Rs 30-crore business at the age of 35 and promoting lesser-known, less-tested technologies is no cakewalk. Who will believe a 35-year-old talking about new, high engineering techniques? asks Dr. Rai. This is why I have tried to demonstrate the techniques, with trials sometimes at my own cost and by taking risky assignments. Many thought I was crazy! In 2008, he constructed a three-storey building in Bengaluru, damaged it and then successfully retrofitted it with fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) technology to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology to the industry. It was Asia's largest and a one-of-a-kind pushover test. Now, there is more awareness about FRP and more players are in the field. The specialised retrofitting industry has grown in the past five years from Rs 200 crore to Rs 1,000 crore, he reveals. So has his business. I owe it all to my family who encouraged me wholeheartedly and to my team of 18 engineersfive of whom are IITianslabourers and well-wishers, says Rai. Read on to learn more about his pet technologies, his experience and views: