Richa Industries Ltd is a leading construction and engineering company engaged in pre-engineered buildings, textiles, structural steels and turnkey solutions. After achieving growth in textile sector, the company forayed into PEB sector in 2008 and has a fully operational PEB manufacturing plant at Kashipur in Uttarakhand. Sushil Gupta talks about the many advantages of pre-engineered buildings in both housing and construction sector in an interview with Sandeep Menezes.
India is a cost sensitive market and the initial higher cost barrier is one of the reasons for lower uptake of prefab technology. Do you think PEB construction can be made more affordable?
It is a myth that higher cost is the barrier for PEB uptake. Pre-engineered buildings are today most affordable compared to any other building systems. The most innovative, hi-tech and faster methods have been used in construction of PEB which ensures efficient, cost-effective and speedy ways to complete a project. PEB consumes the minimum amount of materials as compared to any other building systems. Compared to conventional steel buildings PEB consumes 40 per cent less steel because of use of high-strength steel, optimal design and reduced scrap. PEB also offers long life compared to conventional buildings as materials used are such which offer long life.
In multi-storey buildings, steel is used along with concrete as composite structures. Composite structures are most affordable today along with all the advantages of PEB. AAC blocks (aerated autoclaved concrete) are widely available in the Indian market which replaces clay bricks offering one-third the weight. Use of AAC blocks with steel structures is a most affordable solution for all types of buildings including houses, commercial buildings etc. For buildings up to seven-eight stories, steel consumed is less than 5.5 kg per sq. ft. It eliminates the need for shuttering all together.
Would you agree that the PEB industry is not growing to its optimum potential due to lack of awareness vis-à-vis convention building materials?
Yes, lack of awareness and late entry of PEB in Indian industry has been responsible for its low penetration. It was in 1990s when pre-engineered building technology marked its presence in India. PEB technology was confined to a few players for so many years and hence its penetration was low. Also, PEB technology remained confined to industrial buildings and warehouses type of buildings in the country whereas world over PEB technology is used in all segments of building industry.
PEB is now well recognised in India and it will grow much faster compared to previous years. Its inherent advantages will fuel its growth. Steel offers many advantages over other building materials and is abundantly available in India. Pre-engineered technology will find its growth in commercial buildings and infrastructure projects.
With the new government putting focus back on infrastructure development, how much growth do you foresee for the PEB industry?
The PEB sector has tremendous growth opportunities and we expect a great extent of positive outcome from the government. The reasons are the sector is not industry specific and investment coming in any form arises the opportunity for our sector. Additionally, Modi’s focus on infrastructure with the development of railways, airports and roads will create huge business opportunities. The government is also appraising and clearing long held projects that will create the need for the PEB as it can help in completing these projects in a short period of time.
India had a shortage of over 18 million urban housing units with rural housing estimated to be much higher. Do you feel PEB can emerge as a preferred mass market low-cost housing option?
PEB, due to its distinctive characteristics, can prove to be a good option for speedy and affordable construction in urban as well as rural areas. PEB buildings are environment friendly and offer design flexibility, low maintenance and ease of construction.
Unlike the United States where PEB is found as a predominant trend of construction in both commercial and residential sectors, the India market is yet to witness this massive constructional shift in the residential sector. Lack of awareness among customers about the multiple benefits of PEB; lack of reach by PEB companies; non-availability of specialised manpower and lack of good erection and construction resources in the country are some of the major reasons hampering PEB systems to become a favourable choice in the residential sectors.
PEB manufacturers need to respond suitably by improving not just their own capability, but that of their suppliers and builder partners as well. Setting new benchmarks of excellence through innovations in PEB process and technology is the need of the hour.
In terms of safety and eco-friendly features, how does PEB compare with conventional building materials?
Pre-engineered buildings are safer than conventional buildings as these buildings are manufactured completely in the factory under controlled conditions, hence the quality is assured. PEB offers high resistance to seismic forces because it has light weight flexible structure whereas conventional buildings have rigid heavy frames and are not viable in case of earthquakes. Also, these buildings are heat and fire resistant. Additionally, PEB buildings are environment-friendly and energy efficient and are created with a high proportion of recycled content i.e. 70-80 per cent.
Does the PEB industry expect some kind of a policy-push from the government and local bodies?
PEB is emerging as the most promising industry and it has immense potential. There is a need to classify PEB as a separate industry.
What is Richa’s long-term strategy in the PEB sector?
The strict quality control measures, adoption of most modern and state-of-the art technology, innovative concepts and adhering to strict delivery schedules have made Richa today the most trusted name in the industry. Richa has established itself as one of the successful players in North India and now we are planning to strengthen our presence pan-India.
Also, we are focusing now on recognising ourselves as a construction and engineering company, in place of PEB, thus providing PEB, multistorey, structural steel and turnkey solutions to our customers.
Can you tell us about your recent Rs. 48-crore order from BHEL?
We have received this project from Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The project is worth Rs. 480 million. The area of building will be around 11,600 sq. metres with standing seam roof including liner panel and insulation. Richa will construct the building with a clear span of 70.5 metres. The project involves the construction of HVDC building for Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd.
The complete scope of work entails engineering design, material supply, fabrication, shipment, erection and commissioning of the building. Richa will complete the project by around middle of next year. The project is yet another benchmark for Richa Industries as it will provide us a huge platform to reflect our capabilities and in-depth expertise in the domain of pre-engineered buildings.