Juhi Chaudhary



Project Highlights
Budgeted cost: Rs. 238.49 crore Actual cost: Rs. 234.24 crore
Project start date: 14 March 2014 Project end date: 15 December 2017

As if delivering a housing project on time was not a challenge in itself, Tata Value Homes, a subsidiary of Tata Housing Development Company, faced natural calamities and bankruptcy of the main civil contractor when developing an affordable housing project in Chennai. Yet, the company completed the New Haven Ribbon Walk 15 days ahead of time — thanks mainly to good project management practices.

Problems dogged the project almost right from the word go, and within the first year of starting work, the project was lagging four months behind schedule. But since it was an affordable housing project, it was imperative for Tata Housing to deliver it on time while maintaining profitability.

Problems came thick and fast almost from the beginning. Construction work was first hit by torrential rains and floods in 2015, followed by the Vardah cyclone in 2016. In November 2016, when the government announced demonetization, the project slowed down further. In 2017, there was a new hurdle – a ban on sand mining. The project team set up a ‘war room’ where regular project reviews were conducted and the progress of recovery plans was monitored closely. There were daily war room meetings, weekly meeting with contractors, fortnightly meetings with internal stakeholders, and monthly productivity council meetings.

It was also decided to augment resources and work in three shifts to make up for time lost. However, crashing of timelines posed the risk of unsafe work practices. To mitigate this risk, the team held daily toolbox talks, posted a safety supervisor on duty at every shift, conducted weekly safety walks, and monthly safety council meetings with contractors. As a result, the project recorded 4.8 million safe work hours.

“In spite of team effort, we were lagging behind schedule by around four months.

But since our management had committed to hand over the project on time, we took it as a challenge and went the extra mile to make it happen. We devised a catchup plan along with all the contractors and started rigorous monitoring of the project. We motivated the team every day to achieve the target. Ultimately, it was the team’s dedication and passion that led to the successful completion of the project ahead of time,” says Natarajan M., general manager – engineering, Tata Value Homes Ltd.

Technology adoption was another critical factor for the success of the project. The company developed a software – the Project Management Complete System – to automate project management processes in line with PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). It helped in identifying delays and triggered timely hiring of as many as 42 subcontractors.

Tata Housing opted for value engineering and innovative design solutions to contain costs and deliver the project on time.

The New Haven Ribbon Walk homes have been designed to be environment-friendly, with a focus on maximizing the use of natural light and ventilation to cut on energy consumption. Tata Housing hired UK-based architecture firm RMJM, that used energy simulation technology during the planning phase to analyze the performance of the buildings. Residents can enjoy daylight in regularly occupied areas inside the apartments and not have to use light bulbs during the day.

The plan also included an organic waste converter, use of autoclaved aerated blocks in construction that reduce the heating and cooling load in buildings, high reflective paint on the terrace, and a moving bed biofilm reactor sewerage treatment facility that reduced the emission of greenhouse gases during construction. The project has received a silver rating from the Indian Green Building Council under precertification.

Not a single tree was moved out of the premises during construction. The ones that needed to be removed were replanted within the premises. Not just that, an additional 100 trees of local species were planted in the site.

One of the primary design challenges was to build without disturbing the natural terrain, which had a level difference of 4.5 meter. Also, a balance had to be struck between risk mitigation of a high water table and conserving water.

To complicate matters further, the team found during excavation that the soil stratum was not suitable for the rock anchoring technology that was needed to stabilize the foundation against sub-soil water pressure. So, an innovative system of sub-soil drainage was adopted. A network of slotted pipes with geotextile cover was laid under the foundation slab, which not only protected the buildings from water pressure but also helped collect excess water for daily use.

The presence of hard rocks at the site made the mechanical method of excavation impossible. So Tata Housing used the diamond rope cutting method, an innovative process that uses cables laced with diamond beads to cut through tough surfaces through abrasion. It was a safer alternative to controlled blasting, though thrice as costly.

Apart from the technical part, Tata Housing also paid attention to the human aspect of the project. Workers on the site were well cared for. Amenities such as canteen facilities, safe drinking water, uninterrupted power supply, and hygienic living conditions with crèche facilities for their children resulted in reducing the attrition rate from 30 to 10 percent.

Under its corporate social responsibility program, the team also organized blood donation camps and drinking water facilities for students, distribution of teaching aids, and the desilting and beautification of a local pond.

Challenges Solutions
Variations in the soil strata made the use of rock anchoring technology to protect the foundation from sub-soil water pressure impossible. Rock anchoring was abandoned and an innovative system of sub-soil drainage installed, that successfully guarded the foundation against a high water table, besides collecting the excess water for consumption. A network of slotted pipes collected 364,000 litres of water every day: enough to meet most of the daily water requirements. It was also cheaper by Rs. 1.56 crore than the rock anchoring method.
Shortage of sand due to a government ban on sand mining in 2017 brought construction to a standstill. The project team researched and sourced “Eco sand,” a by-product of cement manufacturing, and used it for plastering and finishing works. It led to better quality work and avoided the use of river sand.
High attrition and lower productivity. A council was formed that met every month to identify, assess, and find solutions for productivity challenges. It also focused on addressing the needs of the workforce. This helped boost productivity from 70% to 92%.



Project Highlights
Budgeted cost: Rs. 0.77 crore Actual cost: Rs. 0.83 crore
Project start date: 26 September 2016 Project end date: 2 February 2018

Seventy percent of the women in India live in semi-urban or rural areas, with little access to financial support. Since women play a key role in improving the lives of their families, extending help to them is critical in India’s fight against poverty.

Fusion Microfinance focuses on empowering underprivileged and unbanked women with microloans to help them start small-scale businesses like grocery shops, beauty parlors, and dry-cleaning or tailoring outlets.

The company recently closed its Series E investment round of Rs. 520 crore with leading global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus.

The microfinance sector has touched the lives of only 10-12 percent of Indian households, that too mostly in urban areas. Since its inception in 2010, Fusion Microfinance has been trying to extend the reach of this sector in the countryside and has served over one million women through its team of 3,000 across 14 states. It has disbursed loans amounting to Rs. 3,714 crore.

Fusion has also contributed to the national drive towards cashless payments: over 55 percent of the transactions have been cashless.

However, it has taken an enormous effort to build the momentum towards cashless transactions. At a fundamental level, it involved working with customers to help them overcome social and cultural barriers, and build their trust in the system.

Besides, working directly with the women of the house meant going against some traditional habits such as the men of the house controlling finances. Yet another challenge was that the bank accounts of many of the women had become dormant due to low activity. So, communication management focused on changing old habits and behaviors, clarifying doubts, and overcoming fears.

As the first step, the company concentrated on the capacity building of its internal stakeholders, i.e. the field staff, since they would be instrumental in catalyzing change management. “We looked for field officers with strong regional and local language capabilities and provided them intensive training and regular refresher courses on technical and procedural aspects of cashless disbursements. We ensured our team was familiar with the latest mobility solutions, e-KYC-based customer onboarding, and the updated tools,” said project sponsor, Devesh Sachdev, founder and CEO, Fusion Microfinance. KYC is ‘know your customer’ — the process of a financial institution verifying the identity of its customers.

The company also worked with local influencers such as MLAs (members of the legislative assembly), mayors, village pradhans (heads), and members of the panchayat (village body) to spread awareness about the ease of cashless transactions among villagers.

Fusion organized workshops to educate customers on financial literacy, teaching them basic banking know-how. It also adopted a mistake-proof mechanism to eliminate duplicate and incorrect disbursements. Trial disbursements were conducted in partnership with Ratnakar Bank Limited. This process also helped in doing away with manual record keeping.

Lean techniques were implemented to smoothen the chain of cashless disbursements and eliminate non-value-adding processes.

The team used a design thinking framework to get into the customer’s shoes and understand her needs and apprehensions better. It used a range of project tools and management processes to ensure better coordination among the partners, carry out statistical analysis, and tighten quality and process controls.

To incorporate changes in the loan processing system, Fusion used agile techniques in project management.

Innovations like completing e-KYC formalities using QR codes and Aadhaar (national biometric identity) data, followed by on-the-spot checking of the credit rating of customers for smooth processing of loans helped speed up cashless transactions. Technology infusion was, in fact, a key enabler in ushering change at the grassroots where cash continues to be the most prevalent and preferred mode of transaction.

Communication was the key in bringing the population of marginalized women closer to digital technologies. A toll-free helpline set up to address customer queries went a long way in reassuring customers and allaying apprehensions.

As a part of its corporate social responsibility, Fusion has undertaken campaigns aligned with Digi Dhan Abhiyan and Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, which are government initiatives to boost digital literacy and cashless transactions in villages.

Below are the key challenges Fusion Microfinance faced and the solutions it adopted:

Challenges Solutions
Due to low financial literacy and remoteness of locations where the company operates, cashless money transfers were a challenge. Conducted financial literacy drives to educate potential customers of the benefits of cashless transfers through the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT). Avoided mobile wallets and prepaid cards because of extra levies and fear of fraud.
Incorrect/duplicate NEFT transfers. NEFT reports were uploaded using cloud computing to lock the files to prevent generation of reports again to avoid duplication. Mistake-proofing was put in place to avoid errors.
Dormant bank accounts due to low activity. Customers were educated on carrying out at least one transaction every six months to prevent their accounts from turning dormant.
Providing a seamless delivery chain till the grassroots level. A detailed failure mode effect analysis was conducted to study malfunctions, identify failure modes such as incorrect account details and unclear handwriting, and corrective actions were suggested to IT vendors.