“A construction project is a unique enterprise where a large number of stakeholders come together for a relatively short and intense period to design, plan, build and hand over a bespoke product and then “disband” in a sense,” says Nadhi’s Ravi Mundoli.
The Construction industry today has been relying more on IT than in the past. While the sector may not be considered as tech-savvy compared to other domains but it does leverage a unique set of technology-led products and tools to meet its requirements and needs.
The Chennai based Nadhi Information Technologies was founded in 2008 with a core idea to bring the manufacturing style supply chain thinking into the construction industry connecting technology and business processes.
Kalyan Vaidyanathan and Ravi Mundoli – two civil engineers from IIT Madras founded Nadhi in 2008. Over the years, Nadhi has earned the reputation as one of the pioneers in introducing an app-based solution to the construction and infrastructure sector.
The IIT Madras Research Park incubated IT company has also the credit of developing mobile application on Nokia‘s Symbian OS. Living up to its reputation, Nadhi today is on the way to become the ‘ERP’ of the construction sector with its flagship software product nPulse which streamlines project related information and communication and help in making a timely decision.
Nadhi’s clientele includes some of India’s top construction and infra companies including RMZ, Lodha Builders, Kalpataru Developers, Tata Realty, Godrej Construction, Morgan Advanced Materials, L&T, Godrej & Boyce and Shapoorji Pallonji.
In this interview, Nadhi’s Co-Founder and Director – Ravi Mundoli talks to TechHerald.in on the construction sector and its tech challenges, and the role of Nadhi in addressing some of those challenges.
He also discusses his company’s flagship software product nPulse and its capabilities and shares business perspective and plans for Nadhi and much more.
Q1. Nadhi mainly focuses and operates in the construction domain. However, this domain in India still is not so tech-savvy compared to others. So, which are the technology-led challenges that the construction industry is grappling at large?
Ravi Mundoli: India continues to be a price-conscious market and getting customers to pay for any transformative technology and process change is sometimes challenging. That’s when working with change agents in large consulting firms helps.
In some of our newer engagements, we are working as partners with some of the large consulting firms. They drive the business process change and standardisation and we provide the technology enabler and together, we are taking customers on a digital transformation journey.
Developing, enabling technology for better project controls should be considered as a value creation exercise rather than a cost incurring expense. In this frame of mind, deploying solutions, driving adoption, and deriving ROI becomes feasible.
Getting end-users and stakeholders to come around to the view that it is beneficial to trade the “flexibility” (scare quotes intentional!) and unstructured nature of information exchange (such as Excel, WhatsApp, email etc.) for the benefits of digitisation. That is sometimes realised down the line as productivity improvements and, analytics is where careful sensitizing and change management is needed, especially in a “traditional” sector such as infrastructure and construction.
That being said, it may be noted that some of these difficulties probably loom larger in the minds of people observing the field rather than practitioners themselves! We perhaps underestimate the ingenuity and adaptability of our workforce when the right tools, technology and benefits are given to them.
For example, witness how in a relatively very short period, large numbers of drivers suddenly became map and GPS savvy once ridesharing apps became established. So, while being aware of the challenges and negotiating them, one should also keep an eye out for the tremendous potential for disrupting the way this space works today.
Q2. How can technology address those challenges and benefit the construction industry? And what role Nadhi is playing in solving those challenges?
Ravi Mundoli: Technology and digitalisation in the construction sector can help in many ways in the on-time delivery of large projects without compromising on the quality and ensuring the workers’ safety. A construction project is a unique enterprise in that a large number of stakeholders come together for a relatively short and intense period to design, plan, build and hand over a bespoke product and then “disband” in a sense.
Because of this fragmented ecosystem, the process of exchanging and transmitting information between stakeholders and indeed from one project to another is manual and cumbersome. Tech can play a big role in streamlining the information flow across the project’s supply chain by minimizing manual intervention.
Instead of spending a large amount of time and effort on manually collating and analysing data to identify issues, team members in various roles can let tech pinpoint the challenges facing the project and suggest solutions, while they spend their time and effort on more value-adding activities. Apart from this, the use of Augmented and Visual Reality (AR & VR), 3D printing, drones, robots etc, not only benefit developers and contractors but also help customers.
Nadhi has taken the lead in making this “construction information supply chain” based model of communication and collaboration a reality through nPulse. nPulse makes the project as the focus of the data model and allows stakeholders from multiple organizations to collaborate seamlessly and automates the insights and triggers needed by project management to ensure that the project stays on track.
Q3. Nadhi has a software product nPulse which is largely designed and built on the concepts of ERP and SupplyChain Management. So tell us about this software product nPulse and its working capabilities?
Ravi Mundoli: During the initial planning phase of a project, it is important to collaborate and identify the key success factors in conjunction with the client, followed by establishing key performance indicators in the form of project milestones to calculate the progress and subsequent success to achieve the project scope.
When the project information is fed into the system, nPulse helps determine tasks, schedules and work functions concerning the current stage of the project lifecycle. The initial stage brings the information related to project plans, schedules, contractors and task owners into the platform.
The different modules such as Document Management, BOQ Management, Scheduling, and Material Management (to name a few) capture the information for reliable project flow. The modules are functionally designed to monitor and control the project at every phase and to take care of various functions from information integration to task scheduling to material and finance management and collaboration of project teams and external contractors.
Everyone from CXOs to third party vendors is connected on a single mobile or web interface to monitor and manage project progress, risks and delays irrespective of location and time. Information mismanagement or misapplication is eliminated with dashboard access control where relevant information is distributed to specific roles. A single platform such as nPulse can cut downtime and cost by 40 – 50%.
Q4. Nadhi’s nPulse software is available on-premise as well as SaaS. So what has been the consumption pattern for nPulse among the construction sector customers in India?
Ravi Mundoli: While our initial engagements were largely on-prem, in the last couple of years we have seen a distinct shift in the acceptability of SaaS across owner-developers and contractors, and across sectors. Clients and their IT departments are realizing the benefits of having a vendor not just provide technology but also manage the infrastructure on which it is deployed.
This helps in keeping costs under check, in making sure a steady stream of improvements and innovations reaches the end-users on a weekly/monthly basis, and in making sure troubleshooting and issue addressing are done rapidly. Nowadays we find the SaaS conversation begin to dominate.
Q5. Do you foresee, taking nPulse to cloud marketplaces or tying up with cloud service providers to widen the scope and accessibility to more customers?
Ravi Mundoli: Cloud marketplaces could be a powerful way to evangelize technology and making it percolate to a customer base that would otherwise have not been reachable. For this to happen effectively, the product needs to be simplified with some key integrations and ease of use – that is – it should be engineered to the point where a client can “self start” themselves on usage.
We are looking to make some of these changes to have an MVP for the marketplace ecosystem where individual users and/or IT can procure the product. Pricing also has to be made suitable. For now, however, the sale and delivery continue to be squarely in the “enterprise” model and ticket sizes are relatively larger. The platform is sold at the CXO level which involves a more classic pre-sales, sales and implementation and delivery process.
Q6. There are software majors that have ERP and Supply Chain offerings with industry-specific modules and functions. So how are you dealing with the competition and what is Nadhi’s go-to-market strategy?
Ravi Mundoli: While it is true that some financial systems do have project lifecycle capabilities these are rudimentary and built from a financial transaction perspective rather than a project’s perspective. These systems are designed for dealing with the financial aspects of the project. Rather than competition, these platforms play a great complementary role to nPulse because nPulse can be bolted onto them as a tremendous value addition for a small expenditure.
The ERPs in a sense become a vehicle for entering into the clients’ IT landscape. There are also a few specialised players in this space now. Nadhi is a market leader because the solution suite covers almost all of the non-transactional financial part of the project lifecycle and has become a “one-stop” shop for project management. Clients do not need to worry about procuring and tying together disparate technologies to realise value.
The academic excellence and industry experience of our team collectively results in expertise in the construction industry, software product development and delivery and change management. Having closely observed the market trends and changes over our years of experience, we have come to a position where we can predict the future based on the present analysis of a project in terms of construction.
Furthermore, our experience in delivering these solutions has resulted in significant proprietary IP being incorporated into the product offering, which adds strength to our position in this space. With respect to the number of clients, we have gone from single digits to two dozen. We have expanded geographically and are now involved in projects in the Middle East and will be soon present in Africa as well.
Q7. What are Nadhi’s business plans over the next few years in terms of market expansion, hiring, product development and research and overall investment?
Ravi Mundoli: The value of being able to work remotely has been made starkly abundant in the post-pandemic world. Almost all professionals in all sectors are seeing how technology has changed the way work can be done. Construction is no exception. The days of management travelling frequently from site to site to assess and review progress are in the past.
In this scenario, the value of digitised mobile applications such as nPulse is there for all to see. While the crisis is still around us, we feel that there is a tremendous opportunity lurking around the corner as the world unlocks. Once we ride out the storm (which based on works in hand and the order book is under control), we look forward to expanding on all fronts including sectors and geographies. Today nPulse is used in 20 countries on 2 continents, and we look forward to spreading our wings to many more countries and at least a couple of more continents.
One of our key differentiators is our strong research and academic credentials and our approach to the problem space. R&D will be an area of key hires including people with skills in integrating BIM into PLCM etc. We expect to see healthy growth in all these areas from the end of this year onward.