Sripad Nandiraj is the founder of Hocomoco. He has been instrumental in conceptualizing and scaling Hocomoco up to 3,50,000 sft in a short span and aims to reach 25,00,000 sft by 2021. He plays the role of CEO at Hocomoco, and is mainly responsible for Customers, Website, Management and Marketing. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Sripad talks about digital adoption in the construction and real estate industries, opportunities and growth the construction industry can explore in 2021, and much more.
Tell us about opportunities for digital adoption in the construction and real estate industries. What makes these industries apt for digital solutions now?
As anticipated, every industry is opting for digital solutions at its own pace. But the pandemic has augmented the companies to digitize, or at least some part of their business. This adoption in digitization is primarily done to protect employees and serve customer facing mobility restrictions due to the pandemic. According to a recent report, the businesses have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of weeks.
Covid-19 lockdown has also accelerated the adoption of digital tools in real estate. Industry experts claim that a large part of property search process as well as shortlisting of properties will shift to online platforms. Various companies are also offering virtual walk through of projects to their clients, keeping in mind the social distancing as one the measures to deal with the virus.
As for Construction sector, we all know that this sector has historically lagged other markets in technology adoption. However, due to social distancing requirements, the sector has implemented technology tools that otherwise would not have been considered. For instance, cloud-based project management software. This software was in peak interest the start of 2020, but remained low on priority list. With the lockdown, the implementation of such software became more urgent, to maximize safety for personnel and ensure all stakeholders, and maintain visibility into project progress eliminating the need to physically visit the site. Advanced communication tools were also adopted during the pandemic by many construction companies. Platforms like Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc, are being used as an important source of communication not just between employees, but also with clients, dealers, suppliers and other critical resources. Training too have largely moved online, and simulation technology utilizing virtual, augmented and/or mixed reality found a larger place in both training and in obtaining and maintaining equipment.
At Hocomoco, we have always considered technology to be an important part of our company and construction. Some of the tools and applications we use are for Project Schedules, Project Material repots, workforce reports, Project Planning, and e-monitoring. Now, with the ongoing crisis, these seem a must for post Covid gen of clients. These digital applications offer benefits like increased transparency, ease of operations, efficient usage of workforce and elimination of human errors. We also use a variety of integrated software solutions to connect the office, team, and field using the cloud, to enable easy estimating and bidding, streamline processes, and improve communication.
In terms of embracing latest technologies, what are some of the most common barriers you have observed in the construction Industry?
The construction sector has been relatively slow in embracing technology to streamline business processes. However, with new age startups like Hocomoco, companies are putting in immense effort in adopting technology for the construction work and are also slowly habituating the usage of technology amongst its workforce.
The construction industry always had an assumption that involving technology to the construction process will only add additional cost to the existing one. This has exempted the usage of any such cost adding functionalities to their business. Hence, there is an urgent need for change in the mindset, as technology has to be treated as a long-term investment rather than an additional cost. In fact, as technology infiltrates more aspects of life, it’s a natural progression that it can be used to improve onsite safety. According to a study, 69% of companies that use BIM (building information modelling), has a positive impact on project safety because of its ability to identify potential site hazards before construction begins.
Apart from this, proper tools that focuses on Onsite Workforce Literacy and Usage of Gadgets, needs to be developed to make it easier for the stakeholders to adapt to any newer technologies. Since most stakeholders are habitual to a working pattern, adopting a new way of working without any proper manual, would seem riskier while considering the large scale of industry.
What demonstrable steps can companies take today to foster innovation and support the adoption of new technology?
Companies these days have to devise their own strategies to make their workforce use technology to carry out their work. Rather than using coercion, it is important that companies train their workforce and explain to them the benefits of using a certain technology. One way of making technology workforce-friendly is by allowing them to use the beta/trial versions and taking their feedback on the user interface. Once the workforce is familiar with a specific tool, making it a daily habit for them should be the next task on the list. Companies should also consider adoption strategies for every devices and applications, as most of the work is on field, the platforms/devices should be easily usable.
What are the opportunities and growth the construction industry can explore in 2021?
Despite the pandemic, India is one of those countries that has been able to recover faster in terms of businesses being conducted. The independent home construction space stands at a market size of $15 billion. A market this large will need startups like Hocomoco to streamline and make the construction process easier for the aspiring home builders. Overall, the value of construction industry is estimated at a CAGR of 15.7% and is expected to reach $738.5 bn by 2022, which is of an immense opportunity. We also envision a greater demand from the Tier II cities in the coming year as we have been receiving leads from these markets. All in all, we are hopeful that 2021 will be a great year for the construction sector.
Being a tech-based construction start-up, what are the expectations of Hocomoco in the coming year in terms of growth and budget?
This year, Hocomoco is looking forward to achieving 25,00,000 sq ft of built-up space, in both tier I and II regions. We are also planning to expand to other cities in India, like Bangalore, Vizag, Vijayawada and other key tier two cities.
As a building construction company, we are happy that the Union budget 2021 has provided GST tax incentive on projects, which was under progress last year due to the lockdown. We are also optimistic that the government will provide policies, incentives, or general tax relief to boost public spending on housing and infrastructure.
What advice do you have for CEOs just beginning this digital innovation journey?
The new generation of CEOs’ are very proactive these days in terms of business plan execution. Also, majority of start-ups today are using innovative technologies to foster their business and at the same time involve multiple mobile applications. It will not be wrong to say that the usage of technology has become absolutely inevitable in every business decree. Be it websites or a tech application, or just a mobile app, everything involves technology.
When it comes to the success of a technology product, offering should be all about efficiency and the seamless usage of that solution. Major focus should be on the interests of the audience and modifying the business approach on that ground rather than improving the business model or product based on generalized levels. Would also advise CEOs to have regular start-up impact meet with the teams, as it gives immense satisfaction in knowing and understanding the impact the business creates in the society.
More About Sripad Nandiraj
Sripad is a true advocate of ‘right quality for the right price’ and believes it is one of the purposes for Hocomoco’s existence. As the founder, he takes charge in spearheading the vision of the company and providing his customers with a seamless experience with Hocomoco.
He set out on the entrepreneurship journey armed with an MBA degree from University of California, Riverside, and a BBA degree from National Institute of Tourism & Hospitality Management. He started his career as Senior Business Analyst in Sabre Holdings, Texas, USA.
Other than managing a successful business and looking into majority of the operations for the same, he is also an active volunteer in various Legal Aid Programs under the NGO SILSAR. He has participated in over 25 programs that assist a lot of underprivileged fights for justice. He also enjoys sports and DJ jockeying in his leisure time.