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Quality, timely deliverables and cost management—these three attributes define the focus of Chetak Enterprises, a leading player engaged in the development of national and state highways across India and Africa. The firm has developed over 1,000 km of highways in India and is currently executing projects worth Rs 60.63 billion. Known for its strong presence in developing highways on a PPP basis, it also has a separate EPC division for the development of roads on EPC mode in India and overseas. Neeraj Vijay, Director, Chetak Enterprises, shares more on the company’s plans, in conversation with SERAPHINA D’SOUZA…
How does the company seek to ensure quality, with timely deliverables and cost management?
Proper planning, micro-level monitoring and inventory control are the key to timely execution of projects. Cash-flow management is of utmost importance. In this regard, detailed planning before start of work and quarterly, monthly and weekly target framing with optimum utilisation of resources is important. This must match with the fund flow. Further, timely completion of design, drawing work and finalisation of subcontracting agreements plays a crucial role in achieving targets. It is not just one or two factors but optimum (not maximum) utilisation of various synergies that helps us achieve our deliverables.
How have materials that are high in quality but low in cost helped in landmark projects executed by the company?
Quality and cost are two important facets that can never be corelated in absolute terms. Quality and optimum cost, coupled with timely execution, are to be synergised for landmark output.
One of our recently completed landmark projects by us is the 21.6-km stretch (Dasna-Hapur) of Delhi Meerut Expressway, which includes a 4.68-km, six-lane elevated road. In. the project, segmental construction was ruled out because of restricted carriageway and ultra busy road. So, we adopted a new construction methodology of casting maximum components offsite, which included fabrication of pile cages, precast pre-tensioned girders and precast post-stressed pier caps. Erection was undertaken by gantries. We used high-grade RCC (M-55) with micro silica and admixtures, resulting in early demoulding and use of steam boilers for gaining early strength.
The use of high-grade material looks to be a costly affair in absolute terms, but this resulted in considerable saving of time and we could complete the 4.68-km elevated structure in less than 20 months. The extra cost invested turned out to be cheaper as it ensured timely execution in a HAM project. The project has won several awards and accolades for this innovative design and construction methodology including Gold Award for Innovation (Construction Technology) from MoRTH.
Similarly, for Shimla Bypass, we designed a cable-stayed bridge with steel girders to make the structure light, as achieving M-55was not possible in the cold weather. To conclude cost alone is not the criterion for prudent construction planning.
What about innovative technologies used in landmark projects for faster execution?
Along with proper planning and micro-level execution and monitoring, as mentioned above, deployment of required resources on time and optimum inventory control were crucial. As far as technology is concerned, we use the most modern software; project planning and execution are done through SAP for better management controls across the company.
You also have an in-house structural design team that works on innovative construction-friendly methodologies….
Yes, the company has a strong team that oversees the designs being prepared under the aegis of expert consultants. The design stage is of utmost importance for any project as the philosophy adopted at this stage ensures timely and cost-effective completion.
Tell us about your equipment and other requirements for ongoing and upcoming projects.
We have a fleet of equipment ranging from 250-300 TPH crushers to hot-mix plants, concrete batching plants, PQC pavers, and all other equipment needed in road construction. Purchase and procurement decision-making for equipment is done at the time of project award and is centralised at head office. The total requirement of equipment for a project is decided based on the terrain, project size and quantum of work, and time required for completion. There is decentralisation of power for demand assessment and for taking stop gap requirement on rent, but purchase of major machinery is decided at the apex level.
What is the importance given to labour safety and training?
Safety is considered an integral part of execution, operation and maintenance. We do not consider it something additional that is imposed upon us. By providing necessary PPEs, demarking construction zones, adopting a traffic management plan and conducting quarterly safety audits, a safe environment is provided for personnel working on site. Safety induction and training with mock drills are regularly provided for the personnel by our dedicated safety team. In our Internal Audit of every project, which we undertake every quarter, safety is a dedicated chapter.
Which execution model do you prefer—EPC, PPP, HAM, BOT—and why?
Every model is good and provides ample opportunities to contractors and developers to deliver. Having said that, HAM is the most balanced model as it takes into account the interest of all stakeholders. It gives enough liquidity to the developer and the financial risk is shared by the Government. For a company with strong financials and good execution capacity, HAM brings on the table what other models cannot.
At present, what are the challenges or painpoints for companies like yours in the construction sector?
The main challenge is the reluctance of financial institutions to invest in projects as they are averse to the idea of HAM and BOT. HAM is the most balanced in terms of risk and finances. It is known that the Government cannot fund the entire infrastructure needs of the country and, therefore, private parties must join in to speed up the development. The biggest pain point today is that the failure of one company becomes a benchmark in the eyes of financial institution and makes them apprehensive towards the entire sector or towards all companies.
How is the company performance? What are your expansion and growth plans going forward?
The company has performed well over the years and we have been growing at over 25 per cent YoY in the past two years. This year, too, we are expecting a similar jump. We are executing project in Africa as well, but construction of domestic projects contributed the most to our turnover. As far as further expansion is concerned, we are planning to go at a similar pace in India and explore more opportunities in Africa.