Digicon India: Enhancing the Workforce’s Capability Seen as Greatest Priority by Indian Construction Leaders

Autodesk was recently the headline sponsor of the Digicon India Summit 2023 in a collaborative effort with our partner, 5DVDC.  Held in Mumbai on May 11-12, this second-year conference brought together the major construction stakeholders involved in the entire construction cycle of a project.

The event focused on the challenges, opportunities and the benefit associated with adopting digital construction and project management technologies in Indian real estate industry.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop with 15 Indian construction leaders to identify actions that will support their organisation to meet improved construction delivery. Leaders were asked to rank from one to eight which of the following they considered a priority:

  • construction policy
  • procurement
  • technology
  • capability
  • materials
  • methodologies
  • supply chain
  • data and measurement

Capability was seen as the greatest priority for the Indian construction industry because of the need to support the most important asset in the business: the workforce. This appears to be a common theme in the region. According to our research with Deloitte, 41% of leaders felt uncertain about the skills and capabilities of their workforce, while a further 44% cited this as the biggest barrier to digital adoption. The solution to this is clearly multi-faceted with some of the leaders at the discussion expressing a belief that employees are looking for a creditable career path with associated upskilling opportunities. The opportunity for businesses here could lie in strengthening the company’s training programs and having this aligned to change management strategies in the business.

Technology came in as a second priority. This aligned with the theme of the conference to assist with adopting solutions required to connect the office and the field. Leaders agreed that this would help support the business with an appropriate return on their investment aligned to measuring productivity improvements.

Methodologies was third. Attendees believe that the Indian construction industry is in a position to identify and implement processes. However, methodologies require harmonisation across Indian design and building standards and applicability to guidelines for safer, sustainable and predictable methodologies for whole-of-life considerations in India.

Construction policy was viewed as the fourth priority. It highlighted the importance for Indian construction business leaders to meet regularly and ensure a deep level of engagement to share policy development and regulatory improvements addressing any market failures that cannot be resolved without a unified Indian construction position. However, this would be arguably the most critical enabler for businesses that focus purely on property development as they voiced their dissatisfaction with the time taken to get project approvals from the Government.

In fifth position was materials, with builders believing it would be too complex to deal with or beyond their scope of influence in developing innovative materials.

Data and measurement was in six position. The challenges of establishing metrics throughout the build asset’s lifecycle were seen as a low priority. However, attendees agreed that all major Indian organisations have a huge volume of data that can be analysed to gather new insights, particularly at an aggregate level. This will help with evolving construction KPIs as new datasets become available.

In the seventh position was supply chain. Construction leaders felt that India had a long way to go to incentivise the supply chain to innovate and allocate risk fairly. There is an opportunity to encourage and reward collaboration, but given the fragmentation of the construction supply chain, it would need a considerable reform agenda focus.

Finally, procurement came in last - primarily because of the time it would take for the Government at all levels to open dialogue with the industry. Attendees also felt it was questionable whether or not reform would change behaviour in selecting value over cost which is endemic in the Indian construction industry.

A formal report was prepared and will be shared with participants. There was also an in-principle agreement to work closely with these Indian Construction leaders and report on the outcomes of joint efforts at the Digicon conference in 2024.

Overall, it was a very beneficial event and presented an opportunity for India's leading construction organisations to share insights into how we can improve for the betterment of the Indian construction industry. I firmly believe that this can be achieved when we collectively take action to bridge technical, procedural and industry culture and align it with individual business goals and values.

Sumit Oberoi

Sumit Oberoi is the Senior Manager, Industry Strategist APAC at Autodesk. In his role, he is a key contributor in defining and executing strategic construction priorities. Sumit previous role was National Director and Victorian Executive Director with the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association (AMCA). Sumit was instrumental in the development of the BIM-MEP-AUS Initiative from its inception in 2010. Sumit is a passionate industry advocate who believes in helping industry deliver quality projects through construction innovation. Sumit formerly held directorships with Plumbing Joint Training Fund, Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Building Services Exhibition, and Australian Refrigeration Council. He also represented the AMCA at the Australian Construction Industry Forum and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.