To overcome the challenging labour situation, we have maximised the precast elements of metros
ECONOMY & POLICY

To overcome the challenging labour situation, we have maximised the precast elements of metros

- Nalin J Gupta, Managing Director, J Kumar Infraprojects J Kumar Infraprojects has a hold in various sectors like metros, flyovers and bridges. The mass exodus of labour and trained technical personnel coupled with the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain has se...

- Nalin J Gupta, Managing Director, J Kumar Infraprojects J Kumar Infraprojects has a hold in various sectors like metros, flyovers and bridges. The mass exodus of labour and trained technical personnel coupled with the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain has severely affected work in these sectors. With the removal of lockdown, the declaration of the pandemic as a force majeure event and the announcement of various relief measures expected to expand prospects for the construction sector, Nalin J Gupta, Managing Director, J Kumar Infraprojects, shares the status of the company’s projects as well as new projects in the pipeline. As recently as October, you were felicitated as a Top Challenger for your company’s performance in FY2019-20. How has the pandemic affected your order book and inflows? What has been the composition of the company’s order book during the pandemic? Our order book as on September 30, 2020, is as below: The pandemic had no impact on our bid pipeline or order winning. So far, the company has won orders in excess of Rs.13 billion and is L1 for projects worth over Rs.14 billion. Our order win target before and after the pandemic has not changed. Your company was left with only 20-30 per cent labour strength at all its sites across the country by the end of the April-June quarter. How have labour costs affected you this year? Has technology played a role in alleviating this? Yes, it is true that there was large-scale migration of labour. However, the situation has normalised now. Importantly, there was no negative impact or escalation in labour cost because of the same. At present, labour strength across all metro projects has reached to higher than the pre-COVID situation. Righ now, labour is more than 12,500. To overcome the challenging situation, we have maximised the precast elements of metros as precast has less labour requirement than in-situ construction. We have made the complete station or viaduct precast except the foundation and piers. This has considerably reduced the labour requirement. How do you foresee the role of technology in the changing scenario? We are always open to technological adoption. Over time, we have constantly invested in technology and assets, which have helped us improve our overall operational efficiencies, be it lower manpower requirement or project completion timelines. Our huge asset base is testimony to our technological inclination. Any new technology that will help us improve efficiencies is always welcome. For planning and monitoring, we are using advance planning tools such as Primavera and Microsoft Office. J Kumar Infraprojects is working on various projects like the Mumbai Metro Line 9 and the Thane Belapur Flyover. How did COVID-19 impact work on these projects? What measures have been taken to ensure timely completion of projects and avoid cost overruns? The pandemic had an impact on all projects and our projects are no different. The Government has also declared the pandemic as a force majeure and has extended timelines for all infrastructure projects. After the lifting of lockdown and normalisation of workforce availability, our team is working round the clock to ensure completion of projects within stipulated timelines. We are a pure EPC company and all our contracts have price escalation clauses; as such, we do not foresee any cost overruns accruing to us. The Metro Line 9 project is progressing well. During COVID there has been some slowdown but progress has picked up and project will be completed in scheduled time. A series of reforms were introduced by the Central Government to increase participation of EPC players in the tendering process of construction contracts like the relaxation of eligibility criteria for HAM/BOT projects, reduction of performance guarantee, etc. How feasible are such concessions and how did these help your firm during the pandemic? We welcome the Government’s renewed focus on the sector. Though we are not in HAM/BOT projects, the decision to reduce the BG requirement will help in the medium to long term. Further, it will help companies like us to bid and execute more projects because of availability of BG. Tell us about the new projects in your pipeline. How is the company planning to keep pace with the economy opening up and delivering on its project commitments, as well as pushing for growth? There is an increase in bidding activities, which is likely to intensify further in H2 FY21. The company has currently bid for ~ Rs.60 billion: Surat Metro; Mumbai Line 2B and the Delhi Saharanpur Flyover Project. Our target is to maintain an order book of around Rs.130 billion to Rs.140 billion on a closing basis for FY21. We expect to achieve a total order inflow of around Rs.40 billion in FY 2021. To share your views, write in at feedback@ConstructionWorld.in

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