Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Interview - Kalyan Vaidyanathan (Nadhi Information Technologies Pvt Ltd)

Construction solutions need to be interoperable and allow people to collaborate better



Nadhi is a Chennai-based enterprise software and solutions company developing analytics and decision support solutions for construction supply chains. KALYAN VAIDYANATHAN, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, NADHI INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES PVT LTD expanded on the solutions being offered by his firm to the construction industry.




Give us an idea of the various technological solutions your company is offering in the building and infrastructure space in India?


Nadhi’s flagship solution nPulse is an analytics based decision support solution to manage the information flow in the construction supply chain. The construction industry is highly collaborative in nature where a number of organisations come together as a single “virtual” organisation to make a project work. Many times we find that projects are delayed or expensive errors creep in because of gaps in information and coordination between the stakeholders, even if individual stakeholders have technology systems in place.

In fact, according to a recent McGraw Hill Smart Market report, what is needed in construction is solutions that will interoperate better and allow people to collaborate better. nPulse is designed to operate in this white space and harnesses the power of the internet and mobile telephony to improve overall execution. The solution centralises the relevant project information across all the stakeholders (from owners, consultants, contractors, suppliers, and PMC) through the life of the project from engineering, through procurement and construction by allowing them to be extracted from their existing legacy systems. The solution allows for data from these various sources (and stakeholders) to be interconnected so that everyone in the project is always schedule aware. Finally, based on data trends, the solution provides lead indicators as alerts into potential future missteps based on past performance of stakeholders, material movement, labour productivity etc. All stakeholders can collaborate on the solution using web browsers, mobile applications, or even SMS.




Tell us about the specific areas of construction and infrastructure where your solutions have been utilised?


The nPulse solution has been deployed both in commercial and residential real estate projects as well as infrastructure projects like power plants, bridges, roads etc. Typically, capital project owners and EPC contractors find tremendous value using the nPulse solution given that it allows them to meaningfully connect the various silos of information and keep everyone on the loop in near real time using nPulse.  




Could you tell us of the clients serviced by your company? 


Our clients include SPCL, L&T, EDAC Engineering on the contractor side and owners like Tata Realty & Infrastructure, Allied Housing & Development, Livia Spaces and TCS. Apart from these, we are working with some builders and contractors based out of Mumbai/Pune in a pilot mode.




Tell us about your presence and work overseas?


At the moment, all of Nadhi’s clients are domestic and based in India. But we have started exploring South East Asia, Middle East, and the US markets. Early signals are that even the large international players are able to relate to the value proposition of the nPulse solution and are willing to consider giving us opportunities to explore pilot engagements. We are looking to see what is the most efficient way to service these markets.




Give us an understanding of the competitive advantage your clients have gained by using your company’s solutions?  


Typically, our clients are operationally more efficient on using the nPulse solution. One of our clients noted after deploying one of the nPulse modules that in a span of four weeks, the time taken to close issues are reduced by 80 per cent and the number of issues closed has more than doubled. In short, they are operationally efficient with nPulse than without.

Other clients who are using the solution feel the same way. In another instance, a real estate owner has deployed the solution. Today, the PMC captures weekly and monthly progress meetings, vendor and design coordination meetings etc., and all the respective stakeholders close issues (or collaborate) as they see fit. Contractor’s personnel update labour and material movement, is approved by PMC and all relevant MIS reports are generated for the owner. In short, all the stakeholders are a common platform in terms of information on the project and each of them get notified when triggers relevant to them is raised. The owner has complete end-to-end visibility on the project and is now able to triage situations before things turn bad. The proof of the value proposition was established, when the contractor, on using the solution, has approached us directly and has expressed an interest in adopting nPulse for his entire organisation. This is not a one time scenario, we have had similar experiences in other instances with other clients as well wherein one stakeholder gets to experience nPulse, see its value proposition and wants to adopt it into their other projects.

End users laud its ability to work in low bandwidth networks in remote site locations, its user friendliness and its versatility in its ability to access and update information through devices of your choice.




As software solutions provider what are the challenges you face in an ever changing and dynamic work environment particularly when it comes persuading clients to adopt technological solutions?


There are a couple of challenges we face in trying to sell solutions. One is that companies have invested a lot in ERP systems, but practically are only using its finance and inventory management modules.

Even with sophisticated systems, they still rely on scheduling systems, email, and Microsoft Excel in addition to ERP to manage their construction operations, particularly onsite operations. The second challenge is cultural.

The industry is rife with mistrust and people are used to hoarding information as a way to save their necks! In such an environment, nPulse is trying to create an open transparent platform for all to be aware of the various moving parts in a project and this causes people to be somewhat wary.




What are the strategies your company has employed to market its products and services?


As of now, we are a relatively small company and do not have a lot of discretionary spend for dedicated marketing. Until date, a lot of our marketing and sales efforts are word-of-mouth driven and viral. As a company, we are incubated from the IIT Madras Incubation Cell and that helps us. We tap into the IIT alumni network to identify potential clients to talk to. We have happy customers who have given references and opened doors for us. We are also quite active social media networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. and use our blog as a platform to communicate our thoughts with prospects and customers.




Give us an understanding of the current trends in terms of technological applications and usage?  


To the best of our knowledge there are two trends in construction technology India today. The ERP trend wherein clients who do not have an ERP system are looking to get one. The second is the BIM trend. Herein clients who have an ERP are looking to get BIM authoring tools into the organisation.

Both these are expensive both in time and cost to buy, implement, and operationalise. But having done that, companies realize that they still have fragmented systems that don’t talk to each other and that’s when nPulse comes into play. Goes without saying that ERP and BIM tools are not a pre-requisite to using nPulse, but my point is that having them does not negate the need the nPulse either. With mobile and internet becoming nearly ubiquitous, we only see increasing adoption of our solutions.

Familiarity with social media and the desire to have everything on mobile is today’s knowledge worker and young engineer in construction. nPulse caters nicely to this audience and that works to our advantage.




Cost is often a deterrent for adoption of technology by Indian construction and infrastructure firms?


I am not sure cost is a deterrent as much as an inability to put measurable ROI is a deterrent. People are willing to live with inefficiencies because human effort in pulling information together, analysing them, and presenting them is not something people put a number to.
Cloud based mobile enabled solutions will reduce the cost of technology, but herein people are not able to weigh in a cost of operating their own IT departments and solutions.

Reducing human effort to improving decision making and improving operational efficiency should have a value just as running an expensive IT department. If clients can put a total cost of ownership to running their operations, I feel justifying spend on technology solutions is easier.




Could you talk of your company’s business performance through 2013, important contracts bagged, key learnings, your plans for expansion and targets for 2014?


2013 financial year was a relatively difficult year for us, in line with the trend in the industry. Collections were getting delayed and decision making also took longer. A lot of clients and prospects are waiting for the election results and for the political situation to stabilise before opening up their purse strings. What that means is that we have a strong pipeline of interest from potential candidates and we are optimistic of converting them to deals in 2014.

The big clients we landed include Larsen & Toubro and Tata Realty & Infrastructure. We are also doing pilot engagements with a large infrastructure contractor and a large developer based in Mumbai.

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