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‘Businesses would have to rewrite the script from Ground Zero’

COVID-19 is surely a game-changer and a new beginning for many, says V Sekhar Reddy, Managing Director, Lexzander, a project management consultancy firm, in this interview he gave to Surendar Balakrishnan. Excerpts…

| | Jun 23, 2020 | 6:52 pm
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V Sekhar Reddy

To what extent has COVID-19 already reshaped the business landscape?

It is too early to say, but it has brought world economies and businesses to their knees and is going to test the resolve of nations to stand up and fight back to normalcy. The wellbeing and economies of nations will be stress-tested, and businesses would have to rewrite the script from ‘Ground Zero’.

Adaptation to the new challenges is the key. Given its connectivity, excellent infrastructure, facilities and investor-friendly approach, the UAE – Dubai, in particular – will stand a good chance of benefitting from the global thought-process to spread out manufacturing activities.

Is it reasonable to expect a rebound, or are we staring at a new-normal that is yet eluding definition?

In my view, it cannot get any worse than this, and going north has to happen. But, the situation is surely a game-changer and a new beginning for many.

Where is the next dollar going to come from, do you think? Do you foresee a thorough review of IEQ- and energy efficiency-related opportunities in the post-COVID scenario?

Starting from conscious consumerism, there are many areas where the world has to discipline its approach and take hard decisions, for a better tomorrow. IEQ and energy efficiency-related opportunities and reforms ought to be the ones topping the list, at least in the case of all those economies that are able to make them grow hand in hand with their revival agenda and policies.

What must we do to ensure financial stability and steady cashflow?

We need to see more planning and less adventurism. We need a reality check and to work out the ROI, by considering not just the economics but also the end product.

What must consultants, contractors and FM professionals do to regain lost ground and build confidence for inter-stakeholder commercial transactions, once COVID-19 is contained?

Respect, transparency and an ethos of acting responsibly would be the way forward. The focus ought to be on concentrating on core competencies with a great measure of honesty.

What are the jobs out there in the market, or is the world drained of energy from fighting the virus that it would take a certain while to find the will and direction to push forward? Are we staring at a U-, V or L-shaped recovery?

I foresee a possibility of over-dependency likely giving way to a strengthening of inhouse and regional market development. Neglected sectors, such as healthcare, pharma, sanitation and environment – in the contexts of indoor air quality and energy management will get a boost.

Given the worldwide impact, we must target a V-shaped recovery to at least achieve a U shaped recovery.

Are we staring at the possibility of opportunities like never before, when as an essential industry, we would be called upon to make buildings pandemic-proof and secure, which could mean a need to dive deeper than existing IEQ measures?

Every adversity has an opportunity. How each think tank applies the lessons learnt, works out priorities and actions the essential aspects will define the future. The built-environment in which you spend a majority of your time certainly requires all the attention and care it needs. This pandemic has taught all of us that the topmost priority is good health. Whatever it takes, in a workable way, should be the goal.

Would the call for energy-efficiency with the aim of curbing indirect emissions be intensified, given the fact that scientists, for long, have been calling for attention to be focused on permafrost in Russia and elsewhere, which hold the threat of virulent micro-organisms that could come out of a state of dormancy, potentially unleashing the next pandemic?

We really ought to stop adventurism and act more responsibly. This approach should be an intrinsic part of the new world order. Post this pandemic, we hopefully will pay more attention to the idiom, ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’.

Getting HVAC equipment out to mission-critical facilities, like hospitals, data centres, and food and pharma sectors. What are the manufacturing and supply chain- and logistics-related challenges?

IAQ must be given top priority, with emphasis on air-side equipment, imbued with high-quality construction features, efficient air filtration systems, microbe-minimising ionising systems, or any such features.

In what form should governments support the HVACR industry across different markets?

To begin with, they ought to treat the HVACR industry as a necessity than as a luxury. They should invest in R&D and foster an environment of third-party checking mechanisms to ensure the right product is being delivered, right from inception to close out. Further, they ought to subsidise initiatives and introduce stringent measures to minimise deviations from a certain established quality parameter.

How should contractors remain committed to project development and management in the COVID chaos?

They ought to invest in ensuring the health and wellbeing of their human resources. A safe working environment with good ventilation and hygiene practices is essential to give workers a sense of security.

In that, it is essential to train every individual to upkeep, act responsibly and take care of the surroundings. There ought to be incentives for good housekeeping and for efforts aimed at making the workplace safe.

To what extent have Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, data analytics and robotics stepped in to help overcome the massive-scale disruptions we have been witnessing in running our buildings?

They have stepped in to help in a big way. With this invisible intruder gaining an upper hand and humankind facing confinement to break the chain of the spread of the disease, these are the technologies that can come to our aid in different ways of addressing the problems we face.

A deeper understanding of the technologies and an interlinking of their features would minimise the outfall, should such an unexpected emergency ever surface again.

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