'Commuter travel is the next growth sector'
— Kanesan Velupillai, Senior Vice President - Special
Projects, Scomi Group Bhd
Scomi Engineering, a subsidiary of Scomi Group Bhd of
Malaysia, is a leader in energy and logistics engineering. Scomi Rail (formerly
Mtrans Technology Bhd), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Scomi Engineering, has bid
for Mumbai monorail project along with Larsen & Toubro Ltd. Kanesan
Velupillai spoke to Madhu Chittora on the best model for India's mass
What opportunities do you foresee in the Indian rail
The Indian economy is large and growing with a population of around one billion.
On top of that, India will see development of many planned cities whose
population will exceed a million. With rapid growth of urbanisaton and a growing
middle class and the fact that major portions of the North-South and East-West
connectivity and Golden Quadrilateral are ready, I can envisage that the next
sector of growth will be commuter travel within the city and intra-city. At the
same time, due to rising cost of fuel, cost of moving freight - that is to say
cost of transportation across any sector - is going to go up. Therefore, there
is need to develop efficient and effective means of transportation and in the
next five years we foresee the development of urban commute, intra-city commute
and freight corridor systems.
Monorail, metro rail, high-speed train and bus transit system are part of an
integrated traffic system and are the solutions to transportation within the
How can India reach to international standards in railways?
Malaysia has always been dependent on India for technical expertise. Many Indian
experts and professionals have worked in Malaysia's railway sector. My
experience is that Indians embrace technology very fast. There is a lot of
employment potential in monorail projects. However, India needs to go one level
higher. India has done a lot for Mumbai and Bangalore metro projects, but one of
the key things it needs to do is funding of BOT projects. There should be more
incentives, clear-cut guidelines and ample opportunities for funding BOT
projects in urban transportation and infrastructure.
What type of rail system is suitable for India?
India knows the importance of freight corridor and it is very well covered in
the country, so I will not speak about it. Next is the urban sector. The metro
rail system has taken off very well and parameters with respect to metro are
well established, as in some metropolitan cities like Delhi and Kolkata. At the
same time, we see traffic congestion in cities, so bus rapid system is not going
to be very popular and will not be easily implemented. Elevated corridor can be
the immediate solution in crowded cities. Therefore, elevated metro for huge
capacities or elevated monorail is going to be the best answer to mass urban
transportation needs. I see tremendous opportunities for monorail in India, as
cost parameters are real and feasible.
How effective are monorail systems?
Monorail systems have been effective for a long time. The light rail transit
system has always overshadowed monorail system. The cost of LRT system has gone
up. Monorail has become an affordable solution for cities around the world
because of its pricing, design and safety features.
Tell us about Scomi's bid for a monorail project in India.
There has been the first request for proposal (RfP) for a monorail project by
Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority in Maharashtra, which is a
major step forward. The monorail project is coming up in Mumbai. There is a
tender for a 20-km monorail line that will close on June 16. Scomi has bid for
the project jointly with L&T. For the project, Scomi will take care of rolling
stock and signalling and L&T will take care of civil construction. Monorail will
be completely operational in 30 months.
Pune Municipal Corporation is also looking at corridors of high-speed trains,
metros and monorails.
Scomi Rail offers urban transportation solutions by providing the latest
technology for monorail electromechanical systems and the rolling stock which
refers to the travelling component in a rail system.
Why do you think Scomi should be awarded the Mumbai monorail project?
Scomi has invested more than $10 million in developing new generation monorail,
which is faster, has greater capacity, longer durability and very high safety
standards. Scomi's core business is in oil and gas and logistics sector. We
invest in future, in new technologies. We continue to harness this innovation
from Scomi Group.
Scomi is also working closely with Indian companies on integrating technologies,
especially in system signalling and communication. India has a great history and
capability in railways. There is a win-win possibility between Indian and
Malaysian companies to work together in the rail sector. And we see this as an
impetus to move faster. Scomi also sees that India has a quick need for
solutions and monorail will be the fastest to implement.
What is your experience while bidding for the monorail project in India from
that in Hanoi wherever Scomi is executing a similar project?
I am delighted to see that most of the cities in India, especially after JNNURM,
have city and urban transportation master plans. They are in a very advanced
stage of planning and now they are coming to the stage of execution. Investment
plans have been identified. The timing is right and cities are implementing
infrastructure projects like highway projects. Urban transportation is becoming
the focus across India.
Master plans for the cities corridors have been prepared taking into account the
need for the next 30 years, which is similar to master plans of some cities
around the world. Every city is implementing its own projects, as in Kuala
Lumpur. Now it is all about planning, execution, maintaining control and
sticking to deadlines, and not diverting from it.
What competition do you envisage in the Indian market?
India has always been a country of entrepreneurs and there will always be
competition which is good. Competition will drive prices and the public will get
better value for whatever they invest in. There is transparency and openness in
the bidding process. Scomi has the best technology which it will deliver at the
best possible price.
What is the turnover of Scomi Group and what are its thrust areas?
The turnover of Scomi Group is $1 billion. The main focus areas are oil and gas
where Scomi will continue to come up with new technologies. Scomi will focus on
urban transportation across the Asia-Pacific region and develop technologies in
this area as well.
Which projects is Scomi Group currently executing?
Scomi is currently involved in executing the Kuala Lumpur monorail project which
is on the verge of completion. Scomi is also involved in the expansion of the
LRT transport system of Kuala Lumpur. Scomi has just opened a new machine shop
in Saudi Arabia pertaining to oil and gas and is expanding its presence in this
sector across the world, building capabilities and capacities. The company will
be launching new products over the next few years.
What are your plans for the Indian market?
We are critically looking at establishing a bus manufacturing facility in India.
The company also plans to set up a dedicated machine shop to cater to the oil
and gas sector like offering support services for drilling. The company has done
oil and gas work for ONGC Ltd. Scomi is also focusing on monorail projects in
all major cities and metros like Delhi, and is also exploring the possibility of
setting up monorail in Kerala. Scomi wants to have a meaningful presence in oil
and gas sector and urban transportation sector, both monorail and bus rapid
[May 19-25, 2008]