BL Kashyap & Sons: Invest and nurture relationships with transparency
The journey has been arduous and bumpy for Vineet Kashyap, but with honesty and hard work, he has succeeded in steering his company through many challenges. He has achieved a number of milestones and there are many coveted projects under his belt today – and more are in the pipeline.
Neil Banerjee April 24, 2023
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Hard work, passion, integrity and constant upskilling to stay relevant. These are what Vineet Kashyap, Managing Director, B L Kashyap and Sons, considers the cornerstones of success.
He says, “I have been extremely fortunate to have the right people to support me: From my spouse who constantly drove me to work harder every day, to the team that supported me during the difficult moments. BLK has tested everything in me, and I have made a lot of sacrifices to reach where we are today. Our people at BLK are the true foundation on which this company has been built.”
These are the words of a man who has helmed one of the leading Indian construction firms for over three decades, which was listed among the top five construction companies in India in 2006 by Construction World.
Recently, the company bagged an order worth Rs 313 crores for the development of the Bijwasan Railway Station in New Delhi. What was the feeling like?
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“We were ecstatic and relieved. We were extremely fortunate to work with the team of the National High-Speed Railways in the development of the Sabarmati Station. They inspired us to design and deliver a marquee Infrastructure project in Ahmedabad that got us recognition from multiple government departments, including the Railways Station Development Corporation. They gave us the opportunity to bid once we prequalified and became L1,” he reminisces.
And the rest is history.
Today, B L Kashyap and Sons is riding on the crest of its success. However, it was not a cakewalk for Vineet Kashyap, when he took on the reins of the company around 30 years ago.
“For me, taking up the infrastructure and construction business was the next logical step, especially after the loss of my father at a young age. I come from a family which has four generations in the construction trade, me being the third,” he explains.
He adds, “BLK was started by my brothers and myself; naming the company after our father and imbibing his core qualities in our business — Integrity, a passion to build quality structures, adherence to timelines and delivering what is promised. BLK is based on relationships, be it with our clients or with our colleagues. We feel that today we have survived because of the goodwill that we have created with our stakeholders.”
But there were many challenges that came their way.
“The biggest obstacle when your business is growing yearly is complacency. In any business with large variables, especially construction, the one at the macro or micro level cannot afford to become complacent. We must be vigilant and alert constantly, adjusting to the market and economic trends,” says Kashyap.
Checks and balances by way of internal and external audits, cost control, etc., are sacrosanct to keeping a company healthy. “We had to re-evaluate and take stock of where we were and where we wanted to go and make some tough decisions. Our focus was on consolidating and realigning rather than on expanding till we set our house in order. We tackled this by focusing on the small things that make a larger difference to create a positive trend, for example by closely monitoring site execution in tandem with project profitability and cash flows,” he further adds.
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It has been a long, arduous and bumpy journey for BLK. “We went through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, so much so that our competitors had written us off. But, by going back to our core, making efficiency and profitability paramount, putting in new processes to run a tighter ship and through the support of our MNC clients, especially the Embassy Group, who never doubted our ability to bounce back, we feel sure-footed today,” Kashyap asserts.
It’s difficult to single out one or two projects because all are equally important, says Kashyap. But there are a few where the company overcame tremendous adversity and delivered world-class structures.
The Oberoi Wildflower Hall, Shimla was one of the most challenging ones for its sheer level of difficulty due to the altitude and weather conditions and the high quality that this project demanded, Kashyap recalls.
The Embassy Manyata Tech Park, Bengaluru, is Asia’s largest business park, built by BL Kashyap. “Every building has been leased out to a different fortune 500 company, and most have been built to suit. The sheer volume of the build has been incredible,” he points out.
Another project that is worth mentioning is the Embassy Tech Village, Bengaluru – Parcel 5, because this was one of the largest composite steel structures in India, built in a record time of 15 months. “It opened up a new avenue of steel structures for us due to the increase in awareness amongst developers about our capability to deliver a complex system in record time,” Kashyap says.
The DLF Downtown, Gurgaon project was executed by BLK in 9 months during the pandemic and is DLF’s first venture into composite structures.
And of course, the NHSRCL Sabarmati, Ahmedabad project, which was an EPC job where the company executed and completed all aspects of the project, including the design. “The quality of the finished structure we have achieved in the timelines we have achieved is something that we take pride in,” Kashyap tells us.
Take on innovation
According to Kashyap, “Construction is fortunately not rocket science, the barriers to entry being low.”
BLK has adopted the latest shuttering methodologies, software, BIM and drone monitoring. The company believes that innovation in construction contracts with some clients does help in speeding timelines and reducing conflicts, especially with integrated project deliveries.
“Unfortunately though, innovation is yet to play out at the actual project execution manpower level. So far you cannot replace the people required to execute a project. Yes, you can assist them to some extent with some innovations, but it is a bell curve. At some point, too much innovation leads to reduced productivity, based on our experience. Having said that we, at BL Kashyap, have always been one of the first to innovate and will continue trying to do things more efficiently and better,” Kashyap explains.
Kashyap firmly believes in Karma and integrity and tries to factor those into the decisions that he makes. “One of the most difficult calls I made was to take BLK into CDR knowing very well that it was the shortest door-to-door tenure and also knowing very well that individual banks were supporting us on a standalone basis,” he reveals.
BLK’s future roadmap is to focus on the little things and the systems that add up to the larger picture and stay true to its core business.
“We have always kept our order book in sync with the market conditions and forecasts, keeping our innovation and execution capabilities at the forefront,” Kashyap says.
BLK’s focus will continue to be on EPC contracting, GC projects, and composite steel projects in the public and private sectors in the geographies that it is currently catering to. Commercial buildings, data centres, retail spaces, the transportation sector, housing, healthcare and industries continue to be a part of the company’s portfolio.
“Currently, we strongly believe that we can add value and make key marquee buildings that can stand the test of time and be a lasting testament to what BL Kashyap brings to this space,” he avers.
“We have been witnessing a vast reduction in civil engineering graduates and after COVID-19, this has further worsened. The graduates today do not have the necessary field experience or the relevant soft skills and are part of a dwindling pool of civil engineers,” laments Kashyap.
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Labour is another problem. A1 construction companies will face problems while sourcing skilled labour to execute our jobs, he feels.
“Supervisor and foreman-level manpower is hard to come by as most new-age generations are getting an engineering degree and the gap in this skillset is increasing,” he points out.
“On the other side, we are hoping that the new engineers see construction as a more lucrative career than ever before as the opportunities are huge. After the pandemic, we are finally seeing an increase in project queries and with the government spending on infrastructure with full intent – the sky’s the limit for us. We feel that the next 2 to 5 years without any major world incident will be the golden period for the Indian construction sector,” Kashyap emphatically states.
For the emerging small business owners in the construction and infrastructure industry, he has a piece of advice.
Kashyap says, “Construction is constantly evolving. To get into this industry and not evolve, not learn and not listen could lead to difficult circumstances. You need to constantly be on top of things and never let your guard down. If you cannot give that kind of daily commitment, construction is not for you.”
“Focus on the small things, focus on your cash flows, and focus on the fine terms of your contracts with your clients. Most importantly, invest and nurture relationships with transparency, be it with your colleagues, your vendors, your consultants or your clients,” he concludes.
Now, those are the real gospel truths of business that no book will teach you. These insights come only through experience, and Vineet Kashyap has plenty of that…