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Kaushal Gandhi, former head, FM, Standard Chartered Bank talks about leveraging and implementing the best strategies for the growth of the facilities management industry in India

Kaushal Gandhi, former head, FM, Standard Chartered Bank talks about leveraging and implementing the best strategies for the growth of the facilities management industry in India

What is the range of responsibilities of a facility manager?
A facility manager’s (FM) role is critical to the functioning of any business. Its main responsibility is to ensure that the services necessary for the business to operate are available on a continuous basis and without interruption. The core FM services include operations management, business continuity, environment and sustainability, fire, health and safety, security, space allocation, property management and procurement. There are also non-core activities like travel, clubs, guesthouses, etc, that are coordinated by the FM for business units.
The discipline of facility management and the role of FMs in particular are evolving to the extent that many managers have to operate at two levels: strategic, tactical and operational.

Timely intimation to the clients, customers and end-users about the potential impact of their decisions on the provision of space, services, cost and business risk is the first level. In the latter, it is the role of a FM to ensure corporate and regulatory compliance plus, proper operation of all aspects of a building to create an optimal, safe and cost effective environment for occupants to function. These are consistent across all categories of businesses.
The nature of the business determines some of the operational priorities for the FM. There is a priority for premises with a data centre on infrastructure, with nil downtime; where as a healthcare premises would focus on cleanliness in addition to the infrastructure. The way the services are provided would also vary, e.g. a 24X7 operation would require staggered cleaning, where as a commercial office gets cleaned after office hours.

What are the lessons you’ve learned during your time in the industry?
One of the many important lessons learned is that it is extremely necessary to align the processes of a service provider with the requirements of a client. This helps integrate the services and reduces conflict for service provider’s implementation team. Integrating the service provider as a business partner and leveraging their expertise to improve the services is extremely important.

Do you advocate using in-house or outsourced service providers?
This should ideally be a decision based on the needs of the business. Facility management services are necessary for the business but are a non-core activity for most organisations. It is the primary business of and core activity for the service provider. One needs to consider major factors like the business requirements, market conditions, nature and availability of services, statutory norms and finances, before making the decision.
The current market trend is to outsource service providers. This makes sense for business units at multiple locations, as outsourcing provides them access to the shared resources with the service provider. Outsourcing usually also provides direct and indirect financial benefits.

Could you highlight innovative initiatives implemented by you in any project to overcome budget restraints?
Identifying critical projects and implementing these while reviewing the need of non-critical or good-to-have projects work for me. There is always a focus on minimising the cost in any organisation. The current market conditions have put a huge amount of pressure on support units to reduce cost to the business. Project budgets forecast are an annual exercise in most companies. Continuous monitoring of spends and revising spending forecasts in conjunction with the business units on a regular basis is the way to monitor and control expenses.

What are the common challenges that FMs face in India?
The FM industry has started growing exponentially in the last 10-15 years in India. This has led to a shortage of qualified professionals in the field. The lack of professional qualification avenues has led to the gap being filled by people from various backgrounds and hence the focus of the current FM is more towards the operational aspects and less towards the strategic- tactical levels. This is being addressed with training; strategic and tactical activities that are now getting into focus. The need of having professional FM qualification courses is a must to meet this challenge. Another challenge is the expectation of cost reduction on a regular basis. There is a limitation to what can be achieved here without impact on the service levels. However, we are seeing some success with the deployment of technology, improvement of processes and systems.

What opportunities are arising for FMs in India?
It’s still a growing market in India and the industry is also moving towards outsourcing of the non-core activities. This gives opportunity to FMs to explore various types of business environments, and also results in career growth too. FMs can learn on the job especially with organisations willing to train and invest in the individuals. 

In your opinion, what is the current state of the profession in India, compared to where it should be?
Traditionally in India, FM is still viewed and operated on the operational-only aspect, while the strategic and tactical aspects and its benefits are not being explored by most organisations. While this is changing with globalisation, it is still to match up to international standards. We need to have professional qualification courses for the FM industry, which focuses on specialisation and would be a source for quality resources.

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