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India needs liveable cities now, not smart cities

India needs liveable cities now, not smart cities

Dr Pawan Maini, Managing Director Ramboll India, speaks on his organisation´s key initiatives and the developmental strategy it has adopted in the country.

Ramboll recently announced that it has sold its shares in joint venture company L&T-Ramboll Consulting Engineers Limited (L&T Ramboll) to L&T, to pursue an individual growth strategy. Can you please elaborate?
This is correct. Ramboll expanded into India in 1997 as part of a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T). This joint venture, L&T-Ramboll Consulting (LTR), focused primarily on the transport market. In September 2014, after 16 successful years of collaboration, we made a strategic move to sell our shares to L&T. The sale of the shares gives us the opportunity to pursue our own individual growth strategy to strengthen our presence in India.

Over the years, we have established a position as a market leader within telecommunications, providing services in tower engineering and the supply of Ramboll-designed towers. The past decade has also seen Ramboll´s capabilities in India grow to encompass oil & gas, and we have also built competencies in the transportation and buildings market. Through both organic growth and acquisitions, Ramboll has strengthened its presence in India and today we have 750 employees working from principal offices in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Chennai along with five regional offices across India.

How has your Global Engineering Center at Gurgaon been able to provide sustainable solutions in various infrastructure sectors?
In 2014, the Global Engineering Centre (GEC) was established in Gurgaon as a dedicated centre of excellence within Ramboll for providing global expertise using local resources from India. The centre facilitates cooperation between our India office, business units in Europe and the Middle East specifically in the buildings and transport sectors, while we also work on a similar basis in the oil & gas and telecom sectors from Chennai and Hyderabad respectively. Our close collaboration with our international colleagues does help us bring home key learnings in the various sectors. Furthermore, we provide expert advice to customers worldwide on making sustainable and liveable urban settings a viable reality. This expertise has allowed us to introduce design principles to improve energy efficiencies for new buildings projects we have undertaken in India.

How can Ramboll help India come up with better solutions for its infrastructure woes?
Global trends such as urbanisation, demographic changes and environmental issues shape the way we live. These challenges call for a renewed focus on sustainable societies. We at Ramboll believe that the need of the hour for India is liveable cities, and not smart cities. We believe that India´s infrastructure concerns should be tackled with smarter and smaller interventions with immediate effect, keeping them the most practical and meaningful as possible. This is to say that rather than coming up with an intelligent transportation system that guides which traffic route to take, we should ideally come up with intersection improvements to be implemented that, in the first place will be able to solve the traffic congestion issue.

Ramboll has played a central role in development of some truly world-class cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. Ramboll clearly has an edge in providing consultancy to urban planners.

We are at the forefront of providing sustainable designs-the basic solution to help combat infrastructure issues prevailing in our country.
The Indian telecom industry remains a focus for Ramboll India. This sector is characterised by the ever-changing trends and technological advancements. Of late, the data traffic is growing more rapidly than the voice traffic. This is pushing the demand for antennas and the need for towers in the vicinity of the area that has higher concentration of subscriber-led demand. However, within urban areas, scarcity of free space is a challenge which furthers the need for a higher antenna load on a particular tower, simultaneously keeping the footprint of the structure to the smallest possible. This is helping monopoles gain popularity as monopoles occupy much lesser space compared to traditional towers.

Ramboll works closely with tower companies to help supply best-designed monopoles to their key customers. Reliance Jio is using Ramboll-designed monopoles as it builds the requisite infrastructure to roll out 4G services in India. In parallel, the practice of tower companies to add more antennas to the existing towers requires a thorough understanding and analysis of tower capacity. Through our niche offering called Tower Loading Validation Analysis (TLVA), Ramboll is helping tower companies optimise the antenna load on the towers.

Given our unique strengths in the telecom market, we hope to capture 25 to 30 per cent of the market in the coming year.

In view of the government´s ´Make in India´ initiative, will Ramboll look at shifting more of its manufacturing business to India?
Ramboll works very closely with India´s leading tower companies, partnering with them to build towers that are a benchmark in quality and cost-effectiveness. In the current scenario, we are committed to enable our partners benefit from the bolstered manufacturing sector and achieve higher exports.

You have said recently that complex mega-trends such as urbanisation, climate change and economic challenges all require holistic solutions. Again, India has plans to build 100 smart cities across the country. Will programmes like Ramboll´s Liveable Cities Lab help this nation in any way?

Is Ramboll looking at implementing its energy-efficient designs for any projects in India?
One of the most noteworthy aspects here is Ramboll´s tubular tower designs in the telecom market.

Expansion of mobile networks demands a high number of teletowers, and as a whole the industry contributes significantly to the total CO2 emission.

The main contribution to the carbon footprint of a telecommunication tower comes from the construction of the steel tower and the reinforced concrete foundation. Ramboll has found a way to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emission on the towers and their foundations with a special tower design where circular steel tubes are used in all elements. The special steel construction combined with a triangular cross-section reduces the wind resistance on the tower as tubes are the optimal steel profile for the tower elements. With the reduced wind load on the tower, the foundation also requires less material than traditional towers. Such a unique design leads to a significantly lower environmental impact caused by teletowers.

Please give us more details on your global ´Sustainable Urbanisation Leadership Programme´ and its relevance to India.
Sustainable urbanisation has been part of Ramboll´s DNA for the many decades. Urban solutions constitute a major part of what we do across our market areas and professional disciplines, and it seems fitting for Ramboll to partner with the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in their Sustainable Urbanisation Leadership Programme (SULP).

SULP is a unique international executive programme designed to give participants valuable insights into the opportunities and increasing challenges of sustainable urbanisation globally: social, technological, political, and economic, through a series of intensive one week modules held at five leading universities around the world. Through the modules, participants on the programme will gain valuable insights into sustainable urbanisation, and learn how to adapt this knowledge to their local context. For India, this will help provide a foundation for better understanding among government agencies and corporate decision makers who regard to sustainable practices high on their agenda, especially with regards to creating a better quality of life for all people and communities, designing a sustainable living environment, facing mega trends, and generating sustainable economic development.

The first programme module ´Society – people, communities and sustainable urbanisation´ was held at CBS in Copenhagen from 17 to 21 November 2014.

Ramboll is assisting DONG Energy in converting power station units from coal to biomass in Copenhagen. Will this technology ever see the light of day in India?

Hopefully yes! This remains largely dependent on pricing on the power side and State regulations.

– Devarajan Mahadevan

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