For Chennai-based MARG, it’s just not about business! GRK Reddy’s basic business philosophy revolves around inclusive growth, sustainable development and redefining the fundamentals of urbanisation.
And his idea to achieve this is straightforward. He believes a lot of thought needs to go in during the early stages of any infrastructure project. He wants to build large formats of small city-based ecosystems with easy access to educational institutions, industries, housing and healthcare. He wants road and highway infrastructure companies to understand Indian traffic patterns before the road plan is finalised. Comparing our airports and ports to global standards, Reddy says, “We have the ability to make it happen and we have done it in small lots. It is now time to build good quality infrastructure across the board.” Reddy also believes that, like in any other industry, an Indianised approach is certainly needed. “Just look at the basics. If we have so many two wheelers on the road, we need to keep that in mind while planning our roads.”
Born in 1961, Reddy has seen a construction site from his childhood – his father was a civil engineer in the Nagarjuna Sagar dam project in Andhra Pradesh – and he believes it certainly played a role in shaping up his thinking. “Several things you observe through your career do have an effect on you,” he says. At a small level, he observed that when development happened in a region, it was crucial to provide a platform to help the regional community grow as well.
Walking the talk
Today, at MARG Group, each strategic business unit is constantly educated about Reddy’s vision. MARG Swarnabhoomi, which he proudly calls the land of new thinking, is bringing together educational institutions, manufacturing & research companies, IT services firms, housing and healthcare facilities all under one roof. It has already roped in several companies including the likes of Grundfos India, Polyhose, Van Spall Associates, Virgo and Sumeet Machines in the engineering category. Strand Bioprocesses and Micro Therapeutics Research labs have been tied up in the research & innovation domain. MARG Swarnabhoomi has also partnered with Virginia Tech, the U.S. based university to setup a campus while BVM Global School and Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) are already operational.
One of the challenges for a project like MARG Swarnabhoomi is that the gestation period is fairly long. Reddy says, “The key is to take one thing at a time, without compromising on the long term vision. We’re making progress in phases and at the end of each phase we do ensure it makes business sense as well.”
He explains his approach with his other project, the MARG Karaikal Port. The port was setup in Tamil Nadu’s central industrial belt. The ramp up happened gradually – touching a current capacity of 5.2 mmtpa and this capacity is being enhanced to 21 mmtpa by October 2011. The port is envisaged to further grow in capacity to 47 mmtpa in the future. As per Reddy, the direct and indirect employment generated by MARG Karaikal port is close to 10,000 and he wants to replicate this model of community development in each of his other projects.
The early success of MARG Karaikal Port has spurred Reddy for further expansion in the marine infrastructure space. A ship repair yard cum minor port is being planned at Mugaiyur (5 kms from MARG Swarnabhoomi) and this is currently in the process of getting environmental clearance.
MARG is also expanding its sectoral presence with airport projects in Bellary and Bijapur under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model with the government of Karnataka. In sync with his philosophy of inclusive growth, there are plans to develop and in some sense, urbanise the region. In addition to the airport infrastructure, MARG plans to setup an aviation academy, flying club, and even shopping malls and theme parks. “The thought process is that these airports will help in bridging the gap between the potential growth locations and urban centers in the state,” says Reddy.
Innovation, not just a keyword
For Reddy, innovation is not only about ideas. Most of his ideas are execution driven and research and analysis play a central role. MARG recently partnered with Chennai-based Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM) to setup the centre for infrastructure excellence. Reddy says, “The idea is to conduct thorough research on several new ideas pertaining to the infrastructure space and create simulation models. Once proven, these models can be implemented.”
To meet his vision, Reddy continues to be surrounded by several independent thinkers and strategists. Dr. Bala Balachandran, a distinguished professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and founder of GLIM is an independent Director on the board of Karaikal Port. Today the top management at the company is replete with senior professionals from leading organizations across India and overseas. “We’ve hired very ambitious people across functional domains. Isn’t team building the first step to building a growth company?”asks Reddy.
Reddy finally explains the MARG nomenclature and the organisation philosophy therein. He says that MARG stand for – ‘Models For Accelerated Regional Growth’. Slowly but surely, he wants to replicate the regional development model at villages around MARG Swarnabhoomi and Karaikal to other areas starting with Bijapur and Bellary. He wraps up by saying, “It’s not only about MARG. This model of regional growth is something that can be adopted by several infrastructure companies across the country. We feel proud in leading this trend.”