BUILDING HABITATS FOR GENERATIONS
Interviewed By Rashna Ardesher (contd ... )

 

Ch. You are also in charge of design and upkeep of gardens at Pirojshanagar as well as of the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Ecological Marine Park. Environment has always been our former Chairman, the late Sohrab P. Godrejís main concern. Can you tell us about your experiences with Sohrab Godrej in this regard?

M.E. My experiences with the late Sohrab Godrej were very cordial, educative and challenging. Sohrabji was a true Zoroastrian, one of the finest human beings with whom Iíve had the privilege to associate for over three decades. As Chairman, he naturally was my boss, but was too humane to be called a "boss". There are many things Iíve learnt from him, the most important being to be methodical. Even at the age of 88, when he passed away, he was quite energetic and his mind was agile. He drew strength from the various challenges of life, which is a lesson for all of us.

Ch. What are the Construction Departmentís present and future goals?

M.E. With an experience of over five decades in the Construction industry, our Department, which was a cost centre, is now converted into a Division that undertakes activities of developing property, thus catering to the needs of Mumbaites at affordable prices.

Iíd like to answer this question by explaining to you the Construction Departmentís five businesses:

Ready Mix Concrete (RMC): In the year 1995 when the Construction Department decided to go in for ISO 9001 Certification, a thought that came to mind was to control quality of aggregates and, therefore, the RMC Plant was installed for our in-house use. The Department was accredited with ISO 9001 Quality System in 1997. Our Quality System embodies our desire to meet and excel in customer satisfaction. In order to utilize the spare capacity available with us at the RMC Plant, we decided in 2000 to sell concrete to builders and contractors outside. During the first year of operation, we achieved a turnover of about Rs. 6 crores. In the last financial year, we crossed a turnover of Rs. 20 crores and in this financial year we plan to have a turnover of Rs. 24 crores.

Real Estate Development: We have plenty of land at Vikhroli. Demands of workmen and managers are lessening. Therefore we have now thought of developing our land and selling it. We have taken up the Godrej Garden Enclave Project, which is ideally located on the Eastern Express Highway, about half a kilometre from Vikhroli Station, spread
over an area of 18 acres. The complex will have nine towers of stilt, plus 20 upper floors with an impressive frontage on the Highway. In fact, we have already sold one tower at the rate of Rs. 2,100 per square foot. True to its name, the Complex will be surrounded with lush green landscape gardens, water bodies and a variety of flowering trees. It also has a commercial building and a Hospital for the public, which will be funded and managed by the Godrej Memorial Trust.

 

Ch. May I interrupt you here, please? It was Pirojsha Godrejís vision that an industrial garden township be built only for Godrej employees at subsidised rates and not for any commercial purpose. Isnít Godrej going beyond the founder-consolidatorís vision?

M.E. We have to be practical. Today, itís very difficult to carry on an industry in Mumbai where the municipal rates are very high, workersí wages are high and all other overheads go on escalating.

 

Ch. How will Godrej manage the running of the Hospital?

M.E. Well, the Godrej Memorial Trust will have to appoint professionals. Or, perhaps make it run through Hosmac, the agency appointed by the Trust for planning and designing of the Hospital. Also, the employees of the Hospital will not be employees of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., but of he Godrej Memorial Trust.

 

Ch. Okay. Please tell us about the other three businesses and goals of the Construction Department.

M.E. The third project we have is the Envirotech Project. With an experience of over two decades in this field, we decided to market our knowledge by not only giving consultancy services, but also setting up Plants for recycling water.

We are also into Leasing/Licensing of both industrial as well as residential areas constructed by us.

The Construction Department has also undertaken Garden and Floriculture Projects. With five decades of experience in gardening, we have not only embarked on providing consultancy services, but also on vermicomposting and floriculture business. At present, annually, we are vermicomposting about 20 tonnes, using kitchen waste and leftovers from our Canteen.

 

Ch. How do we manage domestic and industrial wastes?

M.E. On the day of the Bhopal tragedy in December 1984, the late Naval Godrej called a meeting which Boman Sethna and I attended. He asked: "Are you doing anything which might result in polluting either the ground or the air?" We didnít know the answer. At that time we felt that it would be better to carry out a proper survey. Thatís how the late Nozer Lentin was appointed by Naval Godrej to conduct a survey on effluents developed by industrial establishments. The data pertaining to effluents from our industrial plants were analysed, a feasibility report prepared and a common effluent treatment of capacity 1,200 cu. mtrs. commissioned in 1986. Today, we have two tertiary sewerage water treatment plants, one commissioned in 1989 and the other one in 1996. We are treating over 8 lakh litres of sewage waste water, which is reused in industrial plants and for gardening purposes.

 

Ch. But were we really polluting the ground or air before the survey?

M.E. Actually, we were very much within the norms. But we wanted to be in control. Later, the Management decided to apprise all divisional heads and managers about Environment Management System and the Environmental Audit. In 1998, we constructed the first privately owned secured landfill of 180 Mtrs. x 120 Mtrs. for hazardous wastes at Vikhroli. Today, most of the divisions and support services of our Company have been accredited with ISO 14001 certification.

 

Ch. You have designed and constructed several factory sheds and tenements in your career. Is there any particular construction of yours you would be proud of?

M.E. Yes, in fact I am proud of not one but many of my constructions of which I would specially mention two, the first one being the Godrej Baug Agiary, the location of which was decided by Naval Godrej and me in 1984. This edifice, in reverence of Ahura Mazda as I call it, is a hexagonal-shaped building with numerological bearings of great significance in the Zoroastrian religion. I think this is one of the finest buildings I have planned and designed. However, before the fire was consecrated and after the Jokhis took over, some changes have been carried out in the structure, which mar the concept and design of the structure.

The second most challenging job was the designing and construction of Plant-19, which commenced in 1982 and was completed in 1986. This factory shed 780 feet long with two bays of 80 feet has two EOT Cranes of 120 tonnes capacity in each bay. In order to economise, the steel structure was totally designed and fabricated in-house and the external columns of the structure were made of RCC. Taking a cue from the Thermal Power Project of Tata Power at Chembur and the Submarine Plant in the Mazgaon Dock at Mazgaon, I worked on the design for months together to be sure about the calculations. In fact, it was very difficult to design Plant-19 during working hours. However, fortunately, I met with an accident at Navsari Railway Station where I fell between the train and the platform and got four out of five metatarsals of my left foot fractured. As such, I was at home for almost five weeks, the longest leave Iíve ever taken. This gave me a chance to concentrate and work on the design.

 

Ch. A final, personal question, Mr. Engineer. Recently (and surprisingly) you stood for elections for trusteeship of Parsi Panchayat. After the sad experience of Naval Godrej with the trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, what made you stand for elections?

M.E. Yes. Naval Godrejís bad experience with the Trustees had planted the seed of uneasiness in my mind. I firmly believe that the community needs people of stature and vision to head the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), if our community is to prosper. Years ago, leaders of large industrial houses with vision, realised the need to help the needy of our community. They donated large sums of money and land for this purpose. But things have changed. The trustees of BPP seem to have lost direction and the community is suffering today. The dream of Naval Godrej to provide housing for the weaker sections of our community so that they too could live with respect and dignity, is being destroyed. The houses in that very colony, Godrej Baug, are now being allotted to the rich under the guise of increasing the corpus! So when Dinshaw Mehta, reportedly the main person (trustee) responsible for these irregularities, stood for re-election, I decided to offer my candidature. I love my community and as a true Zoroastrian, I feel that we should stand up and fight for the principles of our religion and attend to the plight of our community. Though I would not dream of comparing my stature or vision with the likes of Naval Godrej, I believed that it would be a calamity if Dinshaw Mehta got re-elected unopposed. Someone with integrity and a burning desire to serve the community has to enter BPP and, although I am a small person as compared to the giants of the community, I decided to cast the gauntlet.

 

Ch. Are you interested in standing again for elections?

M.E. No. At least not in the immediate future. Nevertheless, I have, in a small way, always been fortunate to get an opportunity to serve my community and will continue to do so.

 

 

   

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