Feb 1 2018 | Q&A

Faizal E Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman of KEF Infra and KEF Holdings

Housing as an industry is still heavily dependent on manual labour and on-site construction, which leads to significant amount of material wastage, labour inefficiency and delay in project delivery. KEF Infra One is the only facility in the world which can design, engineer and manufacture every element of a building from wall panels, hollow core slabs, Modular MEP to bathrooms, facades to windows & doors and even furniture and upholstery – all at one single location, using advanced offsite manufacturing technology. We are in a superior position and confident that we will be able to execute mass housing projects.

Faizal E Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman of KEF Infra and KEF Holdings shares his insight with Sandeep Sharma about his organisation, core competencies, prominent projects, latest trends in precast concrete, prefabricated solutions offered, capability to execute mass housing projects, business opportunities in the commercial buildings segment, upcoming plants and future vision.

Tell us about your organisation, mission, objectives and core competencies.
KEF Holdings, has a 20-year legacy of creating innovative technology led businesses that create social impact. Our mission is "Be Different, Make a Difference." We have a presence in the United Arab Emirates, India and Singapore with business interests in Infrastructure, Health, Education, and Investment. We use the latest technology across our primary businesses: infrastructure and healthcare to provide innovative solutions to challenging problems in these sectors, transforming human lives and the world around us.

Founded in 2014, KEF Infra is KEF Holding’s fastest growing vertical. It was established with the vision to help Fast Forward India's growth by manufacturing state-of-the-art hospitals, schools, hotels and homes 50% faster than traditional construction by using integrated offsite manufacturing and integration of automation and robotics and tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Our 42-acre, first-of-its-kind fully-integrated assembly–line, offsite manufacturing factory KEF Infra One located at Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu we are ushering in Industrial Revolution 4.0 and BIM (Building Information Modelling) to transform India’s construction industry.

We aim to revolutionize the Indian infrastructure, construction industry by creating a replicable model of a world-class, fully integrated, pre-cast and prefabrication, off-site construction facility. KEF is establishing an industrial model that bridge gaps of cost, time, resource and quality that presently constrain the construction sector in India.

Could you share with us insights about your prominent projects?
In 2017, KEF Infra delivered the 400,000 sq ft Meitra Hospital (500 Beds in two phases; 209 completed) in Kerala, within a record time of 18 months. We manufactured 175 public canteens and 20 kitchens as part of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s Indira Canteens Project, in Karnataka. In addition, we also handed over the Embassy 7B project, a 1.7 million square feet commercial building for the Embassy Group, which was completed in 13.5 months, in Bengaluru and Infosys Building Phase 2 in Bengaluru which is a 500,000 sq. ft. building completed in 15 Months.

Currently, we are executing a 1 million square feet college hospital for KMCH in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, phase 2 of manufacturing 262 Indira Canteens cum kitchen across Karnataka and a 2 million square feet mall for Lulu in Lucknow. We have also signed on GKNM hospitals in Coimbatore as a client.

What are the latest trends in precast concrete? How far the technology which you have adopted is updated meeting standard norms?
We have seen wide acceptance from the market for precast concrete, because of its reliability and ease of maintenance. Offsite manufacturing technology has the advantage of offering quality, speed of construction, and a value-for-money product. The technology is very versatile and suitable for all types of infrastructure projects.

KEF Infra is the only company in India to provide an integrated end-to-end offsite manufacturing solution, through which we can eliminate wastage in the production line, reduce time and building costs while delivering a high-quality product.

What kind of pre-fabricated solutions do you offer under your Infrastructure catalog?
KEF Infra manufactures entire building end-to-end including prefabricated structures, complete bathroom and room pod solutions, modular MEP, joinery work and aluminium and glazing solutions. We are a one-stop shop for any infrastructure needs.

We also have precast catalogue models for Hospitals ranging from 50 - 1000 beds, catalogue models for hotel rooms and modular homes. That can be personalised based on our client's requirements.

How much time and cost does it take to construct a full-fledged hospital using pre-fabricated route?
It honestly depends on how much bed hospital you are looking at, a full-fledged hospital can be 100 beds to 1000 beds and the time would vary accordingly. However, using the KEF Model, we can reduce build time by 50% like-for-like for manufacturing a hospital versus traditional construction. We have showcased this with MEITRA delivering 400,000 sq ft Meitra Hospital (500 Beds in two phases; 209 completed) in Kerala, within a record time of 18 months using the pre-fabricated route.

This time saving is achieved when every element of the hospital, from the structure and façade, to the rooms, bathrooms, furnishings, Modular MEP, fit-outs, medical headboards to operating theatres is designed and manufactured offsite in an assembly line process and assembled on site. This is the model that KEF is bringing to India.

What are the benefits associated with Pre-fabricated structures against the conventional construction?
A conventional structure like residential, commercial or any other is constructed onsite – from scratch. On the other hand, a modular building is constructed in a highly controlled environment like a factory. The pre-fabricated structures are then delivered onsite where they are assembled to complete the construction. Since the site prep and production happens simultaneously, the overall construction is faster. Since there is little manual intervention, you achieve high standards of quality and precision. There is less waste created, and the dust, dirt and waste pollution that is created on a traditional site is negated.

There are no productions delays and projects are delivered promptly unlike traditional construction which is plagued by delays.  You can have buildings up and running in half the time with superior quality which means promoters get a faster return on investments.

How well are you positioned to execute Mass housing projects using Pre-fabricated structures? Are you in touch with any of the state government in this regard?
Housing as an industry is still heavily dependent on manual labour and on-site construction, which leads to significant amount of material wastage, labour inefficiency and delay in project delivery. KEF Infra One is the only facility in the world which can design, engineer and manufacture every element of a building from wall panels, hollow core slabs, Modular MEP to bathrooms, facades to windows & doors and even furniture and upholstery – all at one single location, using advanced offsite manufacturing technology. We are in a superior position and confident that we will be able to execute mass housing projects.

We are currently in discussion with several private players and state governments on providing our expertise to mass housing projects.

What kind of business opportunities do you see in the commercial buildings segment?
We see an enormous business opportunity in the commercial building segment. Our operations underpin ambition, to disrupt this sector through world-class technology that can deliver value more than ever before by significantly reducing costs and increasing efficiencies with quality, the speed of construction and a value-for-money product.

We can deliver any kind of project at half the time as compared to the conventional method, as everything is pre-fabricated in our plant and just gets assembled. The year 2017 was monumental for us, during which we have gained the trust of numerous top companies. We have constructed Embassy 7B project, a 1.7 million square feet commercial building for the Embassy Group, which was completed in 13.5 months, in Bengaluru and Infosys Building Phase 2 in Bengaluru which is a 500,000 sq. ft. building completed in 15 Months. This has helped us cement our position as industry leaders in the off-site manufacturing space and fuel our drive to create sustainable and inclusive development.

How do you plan to fund your upcoming manufacturing plants in Lucknow, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra?
We will invest about Rs. 650 crore each in three more offsite manufacturing plants that we are planning in Lucknow, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to deliver projects across the country. A large part of the fund for this is being internally generated we are also speaking to several investors who are very keen to partner with us on our expansion.

Going forward, where do you see your company five years from now?
At KEF Infra, our vision is to revolutionize the infrastructure development sector in India and our motto Fast Forward India, embodies this vision perfectly.

We aim to grow to a US$ 1.6 billion company by 2020. To achieve this, we expect to build around 53.5 million sq ft of building for clients through our three new offsite manufacturing facilities in Lucknow, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

We will be entering the smart homes segment to make affordable homes for the masses. We have plans to disinvest about 30% to a private equity player and in a couple of years go public. Over the next few years, we aim to leverage our success in India to the UAE market and export the nation’s global vision of innovation and technology-led development to markets such as Middle East & Africa, to address the construction demands in the region.