Technological development is happening in the construction industry and helping it in a great way. Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Shipping, talks to Entrepreneur about the recent initiatives taken by the government and explains how e-commerce or B2B platform is providing relief to the industry.
What are the major challenges for the government currently?
Challenges are to reduce the cost of construction and boost infrastructure. We have the technology but we need to align it with the best practices that are followed internationally.
How are you addressing these problems after becoming the minister?
Being a minister, as I announced to construct cement concrete highways and roads, cement prices rose up from Rs 300 per bag to Rs 350 per bag. I realised that there should be some solution to this problem. It was then our department started up with a portal called INAM-pro (Platform for Infrastructure and Materials Providers). It is a web-based common platform for infrastructure material providers like cement companies. In this portal, around 36 cement companies and 117 factories are registered. We have been able to sell around Rs 2.5-3 lakh of cement and had booked around 95 lakh tones of cement via the portal. These 36 cement manufacturers supply cement through their 107 plants that are based across India.
The system is based on cash and carry mode. Cement companies are facilitated to update their offered stock on the portal with the prices agreed upon with us. It is helping cement buyers to get products without hassles and delays with no chance of corruption.
Share other initiatives of your ministry.
New portal “contructionmandi” will help contractors, developers, builders and architects to get things easily done for the overall infrastructure development. I thank Walman Group that has come up with this portal, provides a digital online platform for B2B interaction connecting developers, builders, contractors, and architects with manufacturers and suppliers. The online platform will offer quick and easy access to essential information on large database of suppliers, material and product rates, new technology, market trend and competition across major cities in India.
Online platforms will help to meet huge shortage of construction raw materials. We will also start up with a new portal by taking the help of infrastructure consultants. We want our contractors to get full information about the government tenders easily. We are committed to bring transparency into the system. We believe in time-bound deliveries, resultoriented action, full transparency and zero corruption. We are focusing on these four things constantly.
Is it easy to complete the projects that were stalled due to red tape?
We have terminated almost Rs 50,000-60,000 crore of construction work due to several issues. However, we have started almost Rs 2,30,000-Rs 2,40,000 of construction work. We want that the old stalled work or projects should be started at the earliest. Our ministry has understood that 80 per cent of problems are associated with land acquisition. We get the forest clearance easily.
Moreover, the railways are also a major obstacle for us. But I have asked the railways to reduce unnecessary hassles. Additionally, the railways have now started their online system. So, factors that were delaying construction projects are now curtailed. I think the active participation of the government and private sector is necessary for the timely completion of projects. If we are able to complete our projects on time, it will help in cost reduction.
What kinds of projects the ministry is focusing at the moment?
For highway building, recently work order was awarded for Rs 1 lakh crore worth of projects that include Rs 10,000 crore projects in Bihar. Projects worth about Rs 60,000 crore had to be terminated, while the decision on about Rs 60,000 crore worth of projects will be taken soon.
We are currently working to build the Express Controlled Highway in Delhi for Rs 7,000 crore worth of projects. We will start this project soon. The Delhi-Meerut road project is almost ready, and we will start this project soon.
Don’t you think there is a lack of skilled manpower in the country?
Yes there is a huge requirement of skilled manpower. We need to provide training and develop skills of our manpower, so that the work is done with perfection. For this, we have already set up a separate budget.
How can the infrastructure industry contribute to India’s GDP growth in a better way?
There will be infrastructure development in the near future. We will be able to generate employment in the country. The growth of infrastructure industry will add 2 per cent to India’s GDP growth. There will be an increase in India’s per capita income. To achieve the economic growth, the government is always trying to introduce innovative ways and rules.
This article first appered in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (September, 2015 Issue).