As India enters its rainy season at the beginning of July, most of the day is dark and wet. While crossing over India’s longest cable-stayed bridge, Bandra-Worli Sea Link, located in BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex – Mumbai’s newest commercial city), high-rise building sites still under construction begin to greet your eyes. And it is here where you can see India’s rapid development on full display.
Samsung C&T Newsroom sat down with Deputy Project Manager (PM) Myoung-sig Kim and Manager Sun-woong Shin to hear first-hand what working in India is like.
“In August 2011, India first greeted me with not only hot and humid air, but also a number of unfamiliar sights and sounds as I left Mumbai’s departure gate at dawn. While waiting at the parking lot in this hot and steamy weather, a few people approached me, curious about where I was from. And there was one child sleeping on her mother’s back who resembled my two-year old daughter back home, and this made me yearn to see my family again. I can I still vividly remember my first moments in India,” Shin gave his first impressions of India upon arrival, before he joined the Worli Tower Site project.
Since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Mumbai region has grown to become India’s largest commercial city, owing in part to it being India’s port city with the shortest distance to Europe. Having changed its name to Mumbai from Bombay in November of 1995, the city has become a substantial economic center of India due to the three pillars of “Modinomics,” including: expansion of foreign investment, expansion of social infrastructure, and cultivation of manufacturing industries.
Since the business proposal was made at the beginning of 2011, the Worli Tower Project has attracted great attention due to its ‘customer-first proposed’ business strategy. The Worli Tower site is a super high-rise project composed of two buildings, each 86 stories high, and feature residential, hotel, and office facilities.
Dedicated Safety Education
At the Worli Tower site, as with every C&T construction site, safety comes first. Everyone at the site has implemented Samsung C&T company manuals in all aspects of the project, including equality, safety, and quality, amongst others. Samsung C&T is proud to be a leading company in terms of Construction safety standards in India.
Deputy PM Kim explained, “The Indian site featured a number of unique safety challenges; to overcome this we employed a relentless commitment to safety and safety education, for all staff. The usual tool box meetings that were held once in a month at other sites were held every Tuesday to underline the importance of safety through education. Today, the site’s reputation has far exceeded its boundaries and many local construction firms make field trips to our site to learn from our processes.”
Emphasizing safety first to all employees regardless of their job position was truly worth it. Because of this, Worli Tower site won first place in India’s OSH awards last November. This is noteworthy since it was the first time an overseas construction company won this award.
Moreover, Project Manager Chang-seon Kim and Deputy PM Myoung-sig Kim, each won safety champion grand awards and safety champion excellence awards in C&T’s own safety culture contest. To date, the project site has achieved 12.2 million manhours of accident free work, in addition to 30 million manhours without a serious safety incident.
Project Site Diversity
When working in India, one impressive characteristic of worksites is their high levels of religious and ethnic diversity.
“One unique characteristic of Indian sites is that workers have a variety of diverse religions. Though many know India as the birthplace of Buddhism, Hinduism has the highest rate of believers across the country. There are several other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, and dozens of other religions that each have separate holidays. To me, it was surprising that while we [C&T] only celebrate main events such as the groundbreaking ceremony, several site employees also held rites to honor their own gods for events such as the first installment of a steel frame, first concrete deposit, first equipment settling and so on. I remember being surprised when the mechanics couldn’t use their equipment because it was known as ‘God of tools’ day,” said Deputy PM Kim.
Manager Shin added, “There are also a variety of languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Rajasthan, Assamese, Bengal, Marathi, Gujarati, and so many others. India has 14 official languages, and about a thousand other languages if you add unofficial languages. Therefore, there were times when workers couldn’t communicate with each other since they came from different parts of the region. To overcome this, we had to find local interpreters to facilitate communication.”
Building Cultural Bridges
To overcome these cultural differences and tighten site camaraderie, Worli Tower site continuously carries out fun site events where all site employees are encouraged to participate.
Last year, the site hosted a friendly inner-site soccer tournament that was very popular amongst all site employees. Additionally, the client company and local supply company also had a match in India’s most beloved sport, cricket, to solidify friendly bonds. The site also hosted a bowling competition, and this featured several funny moments as some participants had trouble hitting pins and staying on their feet due to unfamiliarity with the sport.
For Deputy PM Myoung-sig Kim, the Worli Tower site represents his first time at an overseas project. One of his favorite pastimes is going grocery shopping at a nearby mart, whenever he has a day off. It became a habit for him to share snacks bought from the local mart with his on-site family.
Thus, some field staff would regularly drop by his office to get snacks in the afternoon when they felt drowsy after lunch. Deputy PM Kim continued:
“All staff would come to my office without any hesitation whenever I made coffee in the morning or opened snack boxes. Though it is important that workers are diligent, the most important thing is communication between the workers. On this point, I was very delighted that my office acted as a bridge between employees. For the record, I don’t eat a lot because I am trying to stay fit!”
Satisfaction Through Success
Deputy PM Kim, responsible for the construction of Tower A, oversees several managerial processes throughout Tower A’s construction, owing to its direct management system. Since all processes are directly related to profit and loss, it is crucial that Manager Shin personally takes care of quality, safety, process management, as well as detailed works such as personnel output, work productivity, material purchases and management, amongst a host of other things.
Deputy PM Kim went on, “Whenever I look at Tower A, now the height of Tower B, I get a sense of comfort because it feels like all of our efforts are being rewarded. For Tower A, there are only a few stories left to construct, and the hotel will also finish construction shortly.”
A sort of warmness was pervasive across the site; Shin and Kim commented on this feeling:
“People often express a sense of pity when I say I work overseas. I understand where they are coming from since I am surrounded by difficult situations every day. More specifically in India, the Monsoon Season and food can make living conditions difficult at times. However, the most difficult part of working abroad is loneliness. It’s a complicated feeling not being able to be with my family during times of joy or during difficult times. Moreover, not being able to fulfill my familial duties during national holidays is a heavy burden for the heart to bear. These sorts of things make living in India much more difficult than anything else. Therefore, everyone here tries to support each other and somehow this communal consolation turns into joy. Maybe you felt this too?” said Manager Shin.
Deputy PM Kim said, “We have a great working atmosphere here on site. Everyone tends to have a mutual understanding of each other and they help each other out. Perhaps it’s simple ‘mannerisms’ since it’s a long project? However, to keep this from happening, management constantly implements changes. Over the past six years, we have exceeded 30 million manhours without any major disasters. My goal is to create a good workplace where all workers can safely return home without any major disasters after construction is completed. Moreover, it would be great if we could extend this to additional project wins by maintaining good relations with the client.”