Updated April 24th, 2024 at 17:58 IST

Massive Urbanization In Construction Industry Calls For Standardizing And Adopting Global Practices

India is urbanizing at a fast pace and UN projects that by 2050, the urban population will surpass its rural counterpart

Reported by: Digital Desk
15th Vishwakarma Awards by Construction Industry Development Council | Image:source

By Namrata Kohli

As India urbanizes, there is a there is a huge amount of construction underway of buildings, transport and infrastructure. This calls for an imperative need for standardizing and adopting global best practices in the Indian construction industry.


India is urbanizing at a fast pace and UN projects that by 2050, the urban population will surpass its rural counterpart. As India urbanizes, there will be a huge demand for residential, commercial buildings, infrastructure and transportation - in short, construction will be at an unprecedented level. All this makes a case to create best standards and practices in India’s construction industry.

The recent 15th Vishwakarma Awards by Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) set the agenda for best practices in the construction industry, highlighting the importance of new technologies, enhanced skill sets, and sustainable practices. CIDC was established by the Planning Commission, Government of India (now Niti Aayog) for the Indian construction industry in 1996, and serves as an apex organization, promoting activities for the growth and enhancement of the Indian construction industry.


Vinayak Pai, CEO and MD, Tata Projects, winner of the 15th CIDC Vishwakarma Doyen of the Industry 2024 award, spoke about how “the amount of investment both in the public and private sectors in the country is unparalleled across the world at this time. Every year the government alone talks about Rs 10-11 lakh crore of investment. That's only from the central government. If you add the state government and the private sector construction, it is Rs 25 lakh crore.” At his organisation, Pai is working to create an ecosystem where projects are planned well and delivered predictably. Says Vinayak Pai, “At Tata Projects we have taken the mantra of predictable project delivery. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time. Data from the central statistics organisation shows that more than 2/3rds of projects get delayed. The average delay is almost 18 months and there is a cost over-run of at least 30%, if you take the average of all projects. This data is not what the government or private industry can be proud of.” They are also trying to increase the use of Bio-Diesel and track carbon footprint in order to consciously reduce it.

A big issue the construction sector is plagued with is the problem of skilled labour, or the lack of it. According to E Jayashree Kurup, Editor CIDC Nirman, “Your educational institutes teach you the basics. But construction is not a theoretical field. A foreman can teach an engineer the practical aspects on the worksites, way more than the professor probably in the classroom. But for that they need to go on the field and work with the foreman and supervisors. So, we are strongly advocating internship and apprenticeship for engineers. This is very similar to what happens in the health sector. Doctors finish their residency before being awarded their degrees. The same thing needs to happen here because the downside to this gap between practical and theoretical knowledge is great. They are liable to make far greater mistakes if they do not have practical exposure...and when it’s about construction...thousands of lives are at stake.” 
The showstopper in this category was Chennai Metro Rail Corporation (CMRL) which was awarded the Best Metro Project for this Year. Says T Archunan, Director Projects, Chennai Metro Rail Corporation, “Skilling is the need of the hour. Our 22,000 labourers on the site needed to be tested, trained and certified. We realised that the skill level of the workforce is generally unknown. So not only do you want to update yourself with the skill set available in your workforce but also upskill them. And upskilling such a workforce in significant numbers is quite a task. When skilling is done, team spirit and productivity increases and the workforce feels more involved. Otherwise, retention is an issue because multiple worksites are active and contractors find it easy to poach the trained manpower. This may come down in the future. Secondly, the safety audit by third party auditors like IIT Chennai and CIDC shows transparency. And smaller companies will sooner or later realise that there are downsides to not following such practices. There are cost over runs, time over runs and quality tends to suffer.”


Health, safety and environment (HSE) was another subject which was discussed at this construction sector event. Says Kurup- “There are tangible financial rewards if you manage your employees’ HSE. Yes, the results show up over a period of time and not instantly. But today workforce is very precious. From an abundant workforce, we are now in a state of concentrated workforce. There are only a handful of states from where most of the workforce is coming. And there is so much employment in other sectors such as technology, engineering, MNREGA at the municipal level and so on. When such local employment is available, people don’t want to migrate to other places that is alien to them in terms of food, culture, language. Therefore, maintaining and managing the available workforce becomes important and therefore healthcare and safety practices.”

Lack of credible consultants is another bottleneck area. Capacity building is needed for the current employees to meet the contemporary requirements of the industry. According to Dr PR Swarup, Director General of CIDC, “After analysing various parameters such as carbon footprints, limited time etc, steel has come out as a winner and is being considered for its use in construction. Proper consultations with regards to its application is required. However, we don’t have those kinds of consultants. There is a gap between bookish knowledge and on ground reality in the construction industry.”


A large number of projects in different categories were awarded for various milestone achievements. Among them the New Parliament Building Project by TATA Projects Ltd., and initiatives by Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), were lauded for their exemplary execution and impact on India’s infrastructure. A critical aspect of the construction industry today is the health and safety of employees and conducive environment for them to work in. Some awardees were Project Safety Initiative by L&T Construction for leading health and safety practices on the construction site; Green Building Project by Godrej Properties for setting benchmarks in environmental sustainability in construction and Trenchless Technology initiative by Afcons Infrastructure Limited for efforts in minimizing environmental impact. The CIDC training creates categories of workforces such as Nirman Nayaks, Gunwatta Nayaks and Suraksha Nayaks, giving recognition to quality and safety parameters in construction.

Best practices now are not good to do but must do initiatives. Operational heads usually are so busy that they often do not have time to stop and think. That is why events such as CIDC Vishwakarma awards bring the big and small of the industry together, to learn from each other and jointly push the needle further.


Published April 24th, 2024 at 16:39 IST