Shashank Vaidya shares his take on operating a professional Construction Project Management Consultancy Firm. Established in the year 2009 with the vision of being “The Engineering Consultant of Choice”, GEM Engserv worked on several marquee projects. They have set benchmarks for quality and helping clients deliver on their promises. The organization places high importance on a “Safety First” approach. It carries pride in ensuring a safe working environment for its teams, workers, and clients.
With their corporate head office in Navi Mumbai, GEM Engserv carries a rich experience of providing engineering and construction management services to big names. Their clientele spreads across the residential, commercial, infrastructure, hospitality, educational, logistics and warehousing sectors. Their project presence spans geographies such as the USA and Canada, the UK and Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia as well as Nigeria, Gabon and Ghana. Based on the philosophy of “Value Addition Through Engineering Expertise”, engineers of GEM Engserv commit to their ethos and core values.
Even though the past 4 to 5 years have been difficult for the industry, the company experienced steep growth equivalent to 30% CAGR. Having laid a robust foundation, the firm is now actively looking for strategic investors to partner with them. They want to take the organisation to the next level.
Over the years, GEM associated with several landmark projects for their blue-chip clientele. These include Godrej Properties, HCC, Tata Housing, AFCONS Infrastructure, IRCON International, Tata Projects, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust, Mahindra Lifespaces, Konkan Railways.
In a recent interview with Biltrax Media, Mr. Shashank Vaidya, Director, shares his and the company’s story as well the plans they have for the future.
Tell us about the journey of your organization and how did it all begin?
Shashank: Both Jagdish (Raje) and I were somewhat disillusioned with our position in the corporate world. Out of the blue, we got an opportunity to provide service to a Construction Contractor in the USA. With no background whatsoever in running a business, we accepted the challenge and set up Gem Engserv. From an employee count of just 2 in August 2009, we steadily grew to become a 320+ strong company today. Throughout our journey, the belief that ‘we can do it’, characterised our approach to any new opportunity, or adding a new service to our portfolio. Luckily for us, we have had far more successes than failures to sustain this growth.
What are three key challenges that our industry faces today and how can these be tackled effectively?
The real estate industry has received a series of shocks in the past few years. Each event has helped increase the level of professionalization in the industry. To my mind, the key challenges that we face today are:
(i) dependence on manual labor
(ii) Ever increasing expectations of the customer at a lower price
(iii) shortage of project management professionals.
What traits and skills do you think are necessary to succeed in this industry?
There are two major characteristics that make the construction industry different from many others. One, natural events have a great role to play and two, there is a large gap between theory and practice. The first one introduces many uncertainties in design and construction. The second one makes the stakeholders sceptical about theories and concepts. Experience and judgment play an important role in successful management in construction. I think a deep understanding of the fundamentals and assumptions behind any theoretical proposition is important to spot when an outright theoretical or academic approach is likely to fail and when to embrace the ‘practical approach’!
What is your view about Construction Technology (digital systems) taking away jobs?
The rate of change in Civil Engineering (construction is a part of that) has been traditionally slower as compared to other industries. However, the advent of computers, telecommunication technologies and now the new digital tools have caused many rapid changes than innovation in construction technology itself. While the loss of employment is already affecting other industries, it has not yet made a major impact on the jobs in construction. However, we can not remain unaffected by it. Sooner than later, AI and digitization is going to greatly impact the way we construct, it is inevitable. We need to be aware of the changes and prepare for the disruption.
I think a deep understanding of the fundamentals and assumptions behind any theoretical proposition is important to spot when an outright theoretical or academic approach is likely to fail and when to embrace the ‘practical approach’!
What do you think are the key management ingredients for smooth project execution and meeting project deadlines?
If we analyse and understand the main reasons why projects get delayed, we can address this issue. As per my experience, major reasons for project time overruns are listed below:
- An over-ambitious (impractical) timeline itself
- Changes during execution (design, specs, scope, etc.)
- Ignoring the interest of some key stakeholder (which results in disruptions)
- Ineffective project monitoring, control and failure to implement course correction in time
- Lack of alignment of goals of all stakeholders with that of the project
What are some of your core philosophies?
I have tried to put in practice some of the guiding principles, such as ‘say what you do and do what you say’, ‘use failures and mistakes for growth and learning (fact-finding vs fault finding)’ and ‘put the profession above your personal interest and even the interest of your customers’!
What’s your organisation’s business expansion and growth plan for the future?
Like most others, we are recovering from the fallout of the Covid 19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown. We hope that the economy will strongly rebound, and we will cover lost ground in the next financial year. The organisation is working towards ISO:9001 certification and hope to get it soon. We continue to refine the digital solutions that we developed. We get them implemented on the field a lot more. A few more interesting modules and functionalities are also on the drawing board. We hope to roll them out in the next financial year. Due to the growth in our domestic business, our share of export of services has steadily reduced. We plan to invest in the export of services to reverse this trend.
What advice will you give to those who are starting their career in construction?
Each industry has its own unique requirements, challenges and rewards. In the construction industry, most action takes place on the project. More problems arise on the ground than on the drawing board. For any construction professional, a hands-on experience of site work is absolutely essential. The sooner one gets this exposure, the better it is. I, therefore, urge all graduate engineers to spend a few years at the site to understand how things work on the ground. It is a physically demanding job with low returns or rewards. However, it is an investment that does pay a handsome dividend in the long run.
E-mail: GEM Engserv
Contact: +91 77770 16824