Thursday, October 22, 2020

Interaction- Kalyan Vaidyanathan, CO-Founder & CEO, NADHI Information Technologies

 

 

 

We believe nPulse™ is a solution that is Made in India, but made for the world.

 

 

Chennai based enterprise software and solutions company Nadhi Information Technologies Pvt Ltd is a company incubated from the IIT Madras Research Park. The company’s flagship software nPulse™ is a full-fledged SaaS based integrated project controls solution that can transform project planning and execution from a reactive approach to a proactive approach through its analytics based decision support and in built alert management system. KALYAN VAIDYANATHAN, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, NADHI INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES speaks to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES about the latest technology trends, business drivers, USP of the product and the outlook for the industry.

 

 

 

 

Briefly give us an overview of the CONSTRUCTION & PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE industry, the latest technology trends and the business drivers?

 

With the advent of digital era, almost all industry sectors have started adapting new and innovative technologies and in particular, the construction industry also started to leverage Construction Management Software tool, albeit in sections. The pandemic has accelerated the need and created awareness on the need and benefits of technology enabled remote project monitoring. Most of the construction companies are now exploring and waking up to the potential of the benefits that construction software offers and how it can handle different aspect of construction project management significantly.

 

A construction project comes with its share of operational woes that prove to be a daunting task where information sharing, decision-making, making budget estimates, scheduling tasks across stakeholders, tracking progress, etc. are all part of planning and execution. Under such circumstances, an innovative and tech-enabled construction management software plays an important role.


The exponential growth of the real estate and infrastructure sectors in India over the past few years, have prompted developers to take up multiple larger and bolder projects at the same time. That, however, has not reduced the basic issues that lead to delay in delivering projects and overshoot budget. A strong alignment of process and technology is important for efficient construction project management and one must acknowledge the distributed and fragmented nature of construction in terms of stakeholders (internal and external). This has led the sectors to explore tech-enabled cloud and mobile solutions for managing projects, thanks to growing awareness to the potential of technology. However, decision makers in these sectors also need to recognize some of the basic framework within which these technologies have to be deployed in order to maximize the benefits. Unlike other sectors, construction project management involves collaboration among stakeholders on potentially multiple technology components. Technology-led project management will give more credence to the environment, sustainability, social distancing, and accelerate the need to digitize various aspects of construction projects right from design to procurement to execution.

 

 

Some of the tangible benefits or advantages that CXOs in this industry are looking for:

 

  • To have end-to-end visibility over all facets of projects from engineering to procurement to construction, especially with a view to understand future (time and cost) impact of current (in)decisions
  • To have seamless coordination, collaboration, and communication across internal and external stakeholders, needless to say with mobility as the primary mode of interaction
  • To be in control of the project and have time to course correct before projects go south
  • To have real time access to project KPIs and metrics on schedule, cost, quality, safety, sustainability, etc. by collating information from multiple silos into one platform
  • To have enough insights through analytics of past performance and make decisions to avoid delays due to poor coordination
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Construction and project management software, are in particular, beneficial for senior management personnel who are keen to explore and evaluate solutions and stay increasingly motivated to make their organizations also get attuned towards them.

 

With most of the large conglomerates going digital with their businesses, mobility has become non-negotiable now. We are witnessing a gradual interest in analytics which many clients are using to predict future trends with past performance data. There is also a surge in IoT enabled project management, 3D visualization, AR/VR for site coordination etc. Clients are now adopting cloud solutions for project controls, clearing indicating that standalone desktop-based systems and spreadsheets are long gone.

 

Construction and project software will be incomplete without the mention of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Language (ML) today. While the industry is still adapting these technology enabled construction management solutions, it is now exploring and getting a grip of what the AI & ML technologies can do to transform project management, more so in the post-COVID era.

 

 

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your business and what are your strategies to overcome these sluggish market conditions and expand market share.

 

COVID-19, despite its consequences, has ushered in a new normal with an unknown operating environment. For the construction industry, especially, the landscape has changed rapidly with challenges in supply chain, labour migration, restrictions from the government and, increased job site safety protocols to be adhered to across India. These coupled with product sourcing interruptions lead to project delays.

 

However, public construction has been one of the few activities that has been maintained to some extent. Post Unlock announcements, activities have continued in short-term and planned phases because companies are willing to continue work to avoid liquidation damages. But, one cannot deny the likely disruptions due to shortage of subcontractors and materials, and termination of contracts to control expenses. Construction leaders will be defined by their decisions of responding to crisis, recover and thrive and that can be done if digital and technological capabilities are used as catalysts.

 

At Nadhi Information Technologies, we have associated with projects ranging from residential and commercial real estate to infrastructure projects such as new plants, power transmission, roads, bridges, marine and nuclear facilities over the past decade. While COVID-19 has prompted us to look at opportunities with a new perspective, nPulse will help us reach out construction players and other industry players to offer our project management services to help them overcome these challenges that will be remotely managed with minimal physical presence.

 

This year, we are placing additional emphasis on exploring opportunities to infrastructure projects. We are also actively engaging with partners to expand our reach both within and outside India for opportunities. These we believe will cushion us from a serious impact due to the pandemic to this year’s top line. In the recent past few weeks, inbound enquiries have started flowing in, an optimistic sign of recovery. We are upbeat and optimistic that the worst is past us. From a technical perspective, we are aggressively investing in R&D. During the lockdown, we developed a scenario planning capability in nPulse that allows planners and decision makers to time variant productivities of their projects and explore options when sites restart post COVID19, something that has been received well by Clients.

 

 

 

Tell us about the solutions and services offered by your firm in the Construction and Project Management space? Briefly talk about your main software solution, its applicability to various areas of construction, infrastructure and real estate, and its advantage to users?

 

Nadhi mainly focuses on two large areas to offer a truly differentiated value in the construction and project management software space.nPulse is an integrated enterprise solution that helps manage information flow between multiple stakeholders in construction projects through mobile data collection, for integrated project information analysis and real time decision support. Nadhi has been a pioneer and first-mover in the industry to introduce a first-of-its-kind construction mobile app. This flagship product aims at helping the industry players keep track of activities across divisions, while integrating all project information for decision-makers on actionable dashboards, maximize productivity and reduce time lag during the process.

 

Another focus area for Nadhi is Lean Construction Consulting Service that includes specific intervention to improve efficiency of individual functional areas in a construction site through scientific, measurable and repeatable process. The idea is to help clients institutionalize collaborative planning processes and improve the productivity of their processes (whether it be actual construction or even in areas such as design and procurement) through proven, quantitative methods.

 

These two offerings complement each other to deliver improved operational efficiency, thus making us the most trusted partners for our clients.

 

 

What are the USP’s of your products Vis-à-vis competition

 

Nadhi Information Technologies is one of the pioneers in introducing analytics based, mobile enabled construction technology to the Indian infrastructure and construction market. Having earned recognition and awards by entities and programmes such as NASSCOM Emerge 50, TiE, The Construction Industry Development Council, and Deloitte Fast 50, we have only been encouraged to give our best to our clients at all times. We have several firsts to our credit. We were the first to implement Lean Construction as a consulting service in India in 2008 and have completed more than 20 engagements till date pan India and across sectors. Nadhi’s first mobile application was developed on Nokia’s Symbian OS. While our initial attempts to take it to site in India was scoffed at for the expectation of Internet connectivity in construction sites, today with the near ubiquitous presence of Internet at sites, availability of data through mobile, Nadhi’s pioneering work has been validated.

 

The tech solutions by Nadhi help in seamless end-to-end project management. Projects, big or small, face varied problems including labour & raw materials supply issues that can result in delay in delivery and/or budget overshoot. Such complexities mainly arise due to uncontrolled project management involving communication and information mismanagement, lack of collaboration and latent decision making. nPulse helps in integrated project planning and execution as a one-stop-shop solution to tackle such inefficiencies. It has been designed and built from the ground up for the infrastructure, construction and real estate industry. This mobile-enabled decision support platform is sector agnostic and has be applied successfully to all types of real estate and infrastructure projects with equal success. With nPulse, clients can benefit through:

 

  • Integration and seamless collaboration across different areas of the project such as schedule management, cost/revenue management, document management, issue management, quality control, snag list management, checklists and claims processes
  • Automated processes and workflows, thus reducing the manual burden on project stuff including automatically generated reports and alerts, customized dashboards and KPIs delivered to the client directly
  • Easy data collection via mobile apps and spreadsheets
  • It bi-directionally integrates with all ERP systems and scheduling systems and increase the value of investments in existing legacy systems while providing a strong platform for digitized project controls

 

In that sense, nPulse, unlike other project management software, does not treat information in a project as “silos”. nPulse is a common data environment for all project information and effectively and efficiently manages the construction information supply chain across all the stakeholders in a project for the duration of the project. It has very deep capabilities in each of the functional areas it addresses, the true strength comes out in the cross-linking and interdependence across different areas. For instance, a site engineer can update progress onsite that will be linked to biometric attendance of labour to understand actual productivity and see if that is a lead indicator into time (or cost) overrun in a project. Similarly, a CXO or a consultant can update status of a decision (issue) or a document and in real time that will reflect in the project’s overall schedule and the appropriate responsible people will be notified. Similarly, Through such interlinking and insights, the solution allows decision makers to move from a reactive mode of project monitoring to a proactive mode of project controls based on lead indicators into project performance.

 

 

 

Are you launching any new products and their advantages?

 

Nadhi has been busy deepening its capabilities in its core areas of project controls. Using data analytics, nPulse is now able to be more predictive in its delay quantification, identify schedule delay root cause analysis, and more predictive cost controls. With deepening integration to ERP systems, the nPulse solution is now able to provide tight controls to progress at site and invoicing ensuring better financial project controls in a never before possible way. CFOs of leading Real Estate Developers and Infrastructure project Owners are deriving benefits out of some of these newer capabilities. Nadhi also has released a Revit plug-in to integrate the nPulse time and cost integrated information to 3D models created in Revit for decision makers to have a more visual project control. Expect to see more surprises as Nadhi expands its footprint into making nPulse the 5D solution for a more immersive project controls experience.

 

 

 

Which are the important projects with which your software has been associated with and name your major clients? Tell us of the role played by your software in bringing time cost and time overruns in projects with examples from some projects?

 

With an active install base of more than 250 projects spread across 9 time zones and 2 continents across India, Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia, nPulse is now becoming a solution of choice to a number of owners and EPC contractors looking to deliver projects reliably and within budget and time controls. Adopted by industry leaders such as RMZ, Lodha Builders, Tata Realty, Godrej Construction, Shapoorji Pallonji, L&T, Afcons, and KPTL, among others, nPulse is now a solution of choice for integrated project controls. nPulse has active projects in practically all sectors of construction including commercial and residential real estate, and infrastructure projects like roads, rail, bridges, oil & gas, power transmission, substations etc.We are working on some of the leading infrastructure projects including the 160 km double tracking of rail line from Madurai to Tuticorin, highway projects in various parts of the country etc.

 

In one project where the productivity gains from the system were measured, using nPulseTM resulted in doubling of the rate at which project issues were getting closed and an 80% reduction in the average time taken to close issues. Another client has indicated that with nPulse in place for more than four years, the reliability with which projects can be delivered has increased and now on that platform of reliability they are looking to reduce time and costs. The head of the business at a large EPC contractor has indicated that the latency at which he used to understand the status of his portfolio has reduced from a month to a day. He is now able to course correct projects in a more agile manner. All these not only translate directly into time savings on the overall project timeline, it results in cost savings also. This pattern is being experienced across multiple enterprise customers. We are becoming digitization partners to a lot of the capital project owners, real estate developers, and EPC contractors across the country.

 


 

What are the business opportunities being sought by your company in construction/ infrastructure and real estate space and the strategies to market your products?

 

With the kind of results technology brings on the table, we believe, it is not too difficult to convince clients across the globe about the value proposition of technology like nPulse™. Fortunately, there aren’t too many people out there now to dispute the need for better technology and solutions in this industry. Clients, today, are quick to identify the advantages, efficiency and ease of deployment strengths of a project management software. As a fast growing tech company and a pioneer in the industry, we are always looking out for opportunities that will help us expand our footprint globally and increase our client base.

 

However, that being said, the real challenge is perhaps in convincing these organizations the disruption that these construction software solutions can bring to their projects and the industry as a whole. We understand that change management is absolutely critical in ensuring adoption and earning returns on tech investments. Hence, our role is not merely confined to providing the clients access to the technology and training; we become fully engaged with the client on their adoption journey and make sure that we put in place a robust process to ensure stickiness and adoption. In this regard, we really leverage the experience of our team in various industries and organizations such as i2 Technologies, SAP, TCS etc.

 

India continues to be a price-conscious market and getting customers to pay for the technology and process change while understanding the difficulties in the transformation is sometimes challenging for us. That’s where working with change agents in the large consulting firms helps. In some of our newer engagements, we are working as partners with few of the large consulting firms. We are also participating in Government tenders that involve delivery of digital project management solutions. As a business strategy, we are now reaching out to newer organizations via the goodwill that we have earned over the decade and references from existing clients alongside participations in industry events where we showcase our credibility as an organization focused on infrastructure and real estate with a proven team and track record. We are now working on different engagements that are partner-led implementations, mainly in India, Middle East and South East Asia. Our focus will be to strengthen this channel based selling model and further encourage means to have more partners join the Nadhi family.

 

 

 

Could you talk of the challenges associated with convincing clients of the efficacy and profitability of software solutions and services offered by firms such as yours?

 

Technology adoption in the construction sector in India has been quite slow and we have started Nadhi Information Technologies with an aim to challenge this tradition. While we identified the need of technology in construction and infrastructure sectors, we have taken time to research and build what we have today and improved our offerings over time with our experience from implementation challenges, client requirements and feedback. As a bootstrapped company, today we have set our footprints in global markets with our perseverance, knowledge, expertise and innovation.

 

We have done all these in a difficult geography and a challenging industry, and proved that with vision, diligence and prudence, the developing world can create and deliver globally relevant technology and services that are comparable to the best in the world. Today, when Clients compare nPulse with some of the leading international brands, they are quite impressed that we are able to provide comparable and in some cases a better solution to what is out there. And with the Government’s initiatives towards Atmanirbhar Bharat, we believe we have developed in India, a solution that can deliver integrated project controls solution to India’s real estate and infrastructure projects. We believe nPulse is a solution that is Made in India, but made for the world.

 

 

 

Please provide details on your emphasis on research, design and innovation?

 

Innovation is the key to success for any business today. When we started, we had few questions to answer: How to manage construction supply chains? How can decision makers answer questions like “Will my project complete on-time, within budget?” How will our innovation create value for our potential customers? How will can Nadhi deliver value to this sector based on our knowledge and experience in manufacturing supply chain management?As co-founders, Ravi and I learnt about the benefits of supply chain solutions could bring to a company while working at i2 Technologies in the US and we wanted to bring the same benefits and value to construction projects.To answer these questions, we worked on our innovation panorama to evaluate all perspectives including technology and our business models that fits the requirement of our clients and us. We still continue to emphasize on research and design to keep innovating solutions that will help us offer our clients value at a reasonable price even during macroeconomic troughs. Nadhi’s team of functional consultants and technologists reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of our approach to construction and comprises people with diverse engineering (civil, electrical, mechanical, computer science) and management (business, construction) backgrounds with a wealth of experience in working in various geographies (India, USA, Singapore, Dubai) and industries. The idea is to bring diversity of thought and experience and cross learn from other industries and bring best practices into construction.

 

We spent the first few years at Nadhi getting our hands dirty and feet on the ground doing lean construction as a consulting service. Nadhi has the largest portfolio of lean consulting experience in India. But that experience helped a lot in understanding site operations, planning, coordination, collaboration, and controls at project sites and nPulse is the result of that experience and ideas forged with on-ground experience. Our industry and academic advisors include some of the thought leaders in construction management in India and abroad, and we were incubated from the IIT Madras Research Parktheir knowledge and experience has gone into the founding principles of the nPulse solution. Nadhi ran the Chennai hub of the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence (ILCE), a pan-India industry body dedicated to revolutionizing construction practices in the country. And Nadhi continues to do R&D on construction technology automation with the Building Sciences and Construction Management division of the Civil Engineering Department of IIT Madras. Nadhi ran the Chennai hub of the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence (ILCE), a pan-India industry body dedicated to revolutionizing construction practices in the country to disseminate and gain knowledge of changing on-ground practices. All of this has helped us to be updated about the industry and enables us to innovate through research and development.

 

 

 

Could you talk of any new products you are planning to launch and their advantages?

 

This year, we built a lot of capabilities that helps clients be more predictive in their schedules. A predictive CPM technique was introduced. To help plan sites as sites re-start after COVID, we introduced a scenario planning capability. We have built more analytics based capabilities on delay analysis and quantification. We are super excited about the Revit plug-in that will allow Clients to integrate the nPulse data to their BIM models. And we have some exciting plans on BIM. As before, we would rather surprise the audience during the premiere rather than tell all in the trailer, so to speak! So, watch this space!!

 

 

 

Future outlook for the industry and from a company perspective

 

The construction industry is poised to adopt digitization in a big way and for all the negative impact of the pandemic, this push to digitization is a positive thrust that has come out of it. From Government infrastructure projects to private sector clients, decision makers are all looking for project management integrated systems, 5D BIM solutions, exploring new age technologies like drones, AI etc. So, we feel upbeat and optimistic about the industry’s appetite and adoption of construction technologies in the foreseeable future.

 

As discussed above, at Nadhi, our solution footprint, the number of projects, the client base, and the geography spread has also increased. nPulse today is a common data environment for the project lifecycle from concept to commissioning. Our collaboration and controls solution now covers all the processes and functions from design, to procure, to construct phases of the project and we are well on our way to deliver a comprehensive 5D compatible solution to the industry.

 

Given our extensive industry expertise, we are confident of designing products and services which are easily acceptable by an industry which is traditionally slow to adopt technology. Our roadmap for the next 3 years focuses on two areas: staying focused on top-line growth by increasing the customer base through business development in India, the Middle East and North America. While we are profitable and cash flow positive, to accelerate the growth and roadmap, we are in the process of raising equity capital. From a company perspective, we are confident of a robust growth in the future despite the short term economic challenges of this year.

 




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