The theme of the India Construction Festival in New Delhi Oct. 15-16 was technology: how it can make jobsites and workers more efficient and how it can reduce costs.

But many at the conference—which included a Leadership Summit co-sponsored by Engineering News-Record and India-based Construction Weekly— thought there should be a greater focus on some of the basics.

Presenters stressed the importance of developing workforce training, standardized practices and certifications and open communication between the government and the contractors.

Anup Wadhawan, India’s Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said India should look to China, which has standards, accountability and technology to build huge construction projects without the disruptions frequently experienced during construction projects in India.

“None of these ingredients are missing in India. We need a sense of responsibility,” he told the conference Oct. 16. “We need to improve our practices.” He said the industry itself, not the government, should establish standards and there should be incentives to encourage better practices.

Construction companies should analyze their project delays and the misuse of investor money. “If we make the right effort, good results will not elude us,” he said.

Panelists during a session on workforce training also decried the lack of certifications available in India. Arvind Kumar Garg, the chairman of the infrastructure equipment council, said certain welding certifications aren’t available in India and that there is not even a certification required to operate heavy equipment.

One panel focused on strictly technology, with panelists including Sunil Takyar, managing director of Bechtel India, relating how advanced work packaging has improved results within the company.  Yet architect Dikshu Kukreja stressed that in embracing technology, that India’s rich culture of craftsmanship should not be forgotten.

Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights research for Dodge Data & Analytics gave attendees a glimpse of what can be possible – and has been possible – by using technology in construction planning and implementation.

“We are a third of the way through a 30-year transformation of the industry,” Jones said. “BIM can help reduce rework, the most toxic element of construction projects, in India; project modelling helps consolidate costs into a single source; laser scanning is an effective way of exploring equipment access; and 3D printing of structures is the future of construction.”

Technology will be needed to meet India’s ambitious goals of providing 20 million homes for the poor by 2022 as well as its multi-billion highway program and general infrastructure programs promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The project pipeline will not slowdown in infrastructure sector,” said NN Sinha, chairman of the National Highways Authority of India.

Pratap Padode, president of the First Construction Council, the infrastructure think tank that produced the India Construction Festival highlighted the amount of work that has been done in the construction industry and the work yet to accomplish. He said 20% of the work for the country’s 100 smart cities, being built with an investment of US $31.38 billion, have been completed.  The rate of highway construction has doubled in the past five years, and growth in the sector was 22% between 2018 and 2019. Yet, private sector investment has fallen 70% since a late 2018.