Mr. Sudhir Soundalgekar,
“I got started immediately after my graduation to gather knowledge by actually standing at daily morning local gathering space of all masons, carpenters, helpers to understand the way how they work, how they earn, what are working methodologies, depending on quality & wages which they get. I wanted to learn this before jumping into real Architectural works which anyways I would have been working on in future. This gave me a detailed insight of on contractor’s side & learned a lot on practical knowledge prior to drafting any working drawing details. After this, I worked with an Architectural firm, a modular furniture Manufacturing Company, a multinational PMC & finally on the Client side. This gives me the wholesome experience of working on all sides of the table which was an advantage to me in a big way to my role while working on the Client’s side.”
In this candid conversation with our Editor-in-Chief, Ar. Pankaj Lad, Sudhir Soundalgekar, Director of Projects & Sustainability, shares details about what separates him from the rest and how he and his entire team is successfully living its mission of getting better every day.
What was that one factor that drove you to choose this career?
From my childhood I have seen my father working for municipal authority; he was always busy after coming home (I would say self-reliant) to build all furniture, gardening, tailoring works at home single-handedly. Since I have witnessed all his creations; that naturally generated interest within me for selecting a choice of an Architectural field. My best drawing skills helped me in completing formalities starting this education for 5 years & finally landing in this creative career.
What is the best thing about this industry, according to you?
As this is a creative field where you get ample opportunities to generate ideas, debate alternatives, discuss layouts, sketch imaginations, create plans-elevations, source materials, interact with different stakeholders, execute with a team and finally handover to an initiator who had a dream in mind. This overall process is so happening (not transactional) which keeps you always alert on what’s new in the market, what unique you can offer, how to self-motivate to get results.
What was your driving factor towards success throughout your career?
It’s a passion for working with Holistic Approach on any given Assignment, Implementing Current Trends, Offering Innovations, Maintaining a perfect Project Management Triangle to control Cost, Time & Scope, Ascertaining an Educated Guess of Resources, Ensuring Realization of Business Benefits derived by Project.
Also, along with all the other factors my wife, Neeta, is the one who supported me throughout my career journey to make this status, of what I am today. She has immensely contributed as the driving factor to chase my goal in every phase of my life. All these initiatives developed by myself which create a differentiator for the customer has made my success throughout my career.
Was there a time during your career where you were unsure about where life was heading? As an individual, how did you combat those uncertainties?
Yes, I definitely remember the period; not that I was unsure where to go but the feeling of saturation sure of a safe & secure job. I had taken a calculated risk of a deliberate gap in career to study & understand the market demand. During this period I studied the latest software to upgrade my knowledge which would have been required to compete in the market. I had also attended Yoga, Meditation lessons & practised my hobbies which helped me in maintaining work-life balance in the rest of my career.
What are the best workspaces you’ve come through & that has inspired you?
Hospitality Industry like JW Marriott Resorts, Taj Resorts; Retail Industry of Innovative Offers like Apple, Starbucks & also an MNC-PMC like Bovis Lend Lease. Few of the obvious reasons are everyone is absolutely talking about Customer Service, Innovative Product, Unique Offering, Excellent Hospitality, Employee Care, Latest in Technology, Maintaining Industry Status, Safety Features.
Being an expert in the field, what are some of your prime philosophies?
Maintain Team Culture, Justice to Profession, Empathize, Customer, Ascending Market Repute, Ethical Working with Highest Integrity, Generate Trust, Secure Environmental Sustainability.
What traits & skills one should possess to be able to succeed in this industry?
To succeed in this industry one shall have SPARK i.e. work upon Smart objectives, Passion for working, Action-orientation, Reflect on what you say, Knowledge excellence.
One should have knowhow about entire market scenario of how to control budgets without escalations, keeping track on an overall bar chart for managing timelines by aligning contractors with identifying potential slippages early & desired scope implementation stating quality criteria to be maintained throughout not only on the final product but also on the quality of working style during entire execution.
How would you count on your biggest challenges as a leader during project execution & how did you overcome them?
Managing internal customer expectations for launching a new concept by the international designer for an iconic store for a brand within the same timeline as standard projects were the biggest challenge thrown to my team. This new concept itself created multiple challenges for sourcing new materials, sourcing people having different skillset for certain design features, politically influenced locational issues, managing local authority, workers safety, all these within restricted budgets. We could successfully launch this concept well in time by pre-planning of activities onsite & offsite, alignment within the team of all contractors, using local resources, bringing modularity in design, managing authorities well in advance, mitigating all risks of desirable changes due to new concept by timely approvals & acceptance.
Your synchronization philosophy between the Project stakeholders. (Management-Team-Architect-Consultants-Contractors-Colleagues)
Proposal Transparency, Goal Alignments, Right to Opine for All at Right Time, Clear Communication & Regular Reviews are the best synchronization philosophies between all stakeholders.
Tell us about your ideal projects and why are these in your bucket of the best till date?
My ideal project is non-typical, challenging, going out of comfort zone & where there are chances of taking risks. I like such project as your potential is fully utilized, the experience is leveraged, knowledge is challenged, you are alert daily, there is different enthusiasm, action at site & finally when it materialized you get the satisfaction of executing something different & unique.
Tackling the key challenges of the industry like a pro!
The foolish expectation of best quality work at cheapest possible Capex shall be removed from all CFO minds. In fact, this shall be well explained to the stakeholders for achieving better equipment efficiencies, product longevity & durability, realistic pricing for suppliers, contractors to maintain a self-esteem & Organization’s positioning in the market. Secondly many customers even today are depending on imports due to non-availability of such material in India. To develop & capitalize on local proven sustainable materials is the necessity unlike concrete implementation every time & anywhere. Luckily for a country like ours where there is a huge opportunity of offers as per tropical, topographical & economical demands. Thirdly a serious work shall happen on affordable housing by eradicating slums issue of the city like Mumbai especially when it comes to hygiene & like current pandemic situation if to be faced again. Internationally many countries have taken up this initiative to become future proof.
What do you feel is the most defining moment of your career?
When I delivered project completions at 8X speed; my CEO said to all Brands & Operations………“Sudhir is ready with exponential solutions to handover a project in 15 days. Are you ready with your products & capacity displays?” Actually this was exactly the opposite scenario when I joined Organization 5 years back when projects used to drag over 120 days & stakeholders used to complain about delays. It was my years of experience which got counted for this achievement. Another moment was when we were awarded by Late Dr Abdul Kalam for Fair Business Practices for Sustainability.
Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?
For Self – Compete with yesterday’s you. For Industry – Collaborative Approach for Sustainable Growth & Secure Environmental Interests.
What’s your next big goal?
To keep Franchise model affordable, flexible yet attractive to adapt for any tier town of India for maintaining longer association with Organization.
What challenges do you foresee?
Due to current situations, Franchisee may not spend the desired Capex; however, we will have to work out them a unique proposal of helping them in offering them special financial sanctions spread over 5 years.
If you can give advice to those who are just starting, what would it be?
Keep innovating always on concepts, working styles, offers, technology & Sustainable Development Goals.