As the vanguard of the telecom industry in India, Airtel has played a huge role in enabling millions of its users to connect; and within two decades, the brand has successfully reached its zenith. Headquartered Gurgaon, the company’s building is one of the landmark structures in the NCR region – displaying a perfect symphony of colours through its facade.
The company’s offices in the capital region alone sum up to a staggering 1.64 million sq-ft comprising of over 7500 employees and associates. Handling facilities of that magnitude and managing complexities at that scale is no easy feat. But despite the encumbrance, Neelam Chhabra, head of facilities at Airtel Centre and APO buildings, states that “administration and facilities management comes naturally to me and has always excited me to use creativity to enhance efficiency.” Despite the fact that the facilities fraternity in India boasts of very few women amongst its order, she holds an experience of over two decades, and has been with Airtel for nearly 15 years now. Unravelling her journey within the company, Chhabra reveals that “As evident in many other corporate, a decade ago, Airtel too did not have a defined facilities management department and was initially a part of the administration vertical. The FM team was set up eventually over the years with the rising demand for a dedicated unit that could closely work with industry experts to create an organised structure that ensured a safe, comfortable and productive environment. Today, the facility management team at Airtel has been passionately working towards implementing many sustainable best practices like creative, collaborative, and agile space management, to save renewable and non-renewable energy optimisation, et all.”
Given Airtel’s strong ethos towards the environment, the facilities team has a strategic task to constantly undertake initiatives that save water, paper and energy. Having diligently strived towards this goal the company has now established a strong foundation towards adopting sustainability. Several green building management practices have been formed on the basis of in-depth understanding and aim to improve the quality of operation and maintenance across various verticals like housekeeping – by using the best quality chemicals, machinery and by providing sustainable training to the team. The campus has over 500 plants within its premises that help maintain fresh air. Various energy saving projects were also undertaken – such as installation of LED lights, observing Earth hours, harnessing solar power, surrendering energy load, energy trading, etc; these initiatives have together led the company to save 70 percent of their energy consumption. They’ve also have been successfully replaced printed newspapers with online news portal across all Airtel offices to save close to 11,000 pounds of papers and about 20 trees a year. With the help of awareness sessions, the organisation encourages sustainable food habits to avoid wastage of food. They regularly create awareness amongst employees so that they also join in the quest with their contributions. The team has been aggressively promoting recycling and have been using centralised facilities management tool to enhance the turnaround time and optimisation of maintenance management. The company building boasts of BEE three-star rating BEE with 50 percent natural light usage.
The workspaces, its design and its maintenance form a big part of the deliverables for a facility manager. Shedding light on the ideation process for the company’s interior landscape and how they are adapting to the gen-next’s requirements, Chabbra explains, “At Airtel, we have been transitioning to the concept of ‘we’ space from ‘me’ space since a little over a year. This is a more collaborative way of working and the facility management team has been playing a critical role in this transformation. The team has been involved since the initial stage of conceptualisation and designing. We organised many sessions to gather inputs from employees on comfort, color schemes, furniture, collaborative areas etc and subsequently shared some great ideas. We highlighted that an open style of working may impact the sound and acoustics levels and hence would require finishes on the ceilings or floor. We also recommended on the addition of green plants as a natural beautification that can also be used as a visual barrier wherever necessary.”
Workspace efficiency has become an increasingly complex and inter-disciplinary facet — requiring solutions, which are based on principles of construct, engineering and design. Hence, emphasising on the importance of collaboration, she says, “Airtel as an organisation strongly believes in working as a team especially when cross functional team members are involved. Facilities team is therefore a part of all projects that are carried out in building. The design and facilities team ideate together to co-create great workspaces. Having the facilities team onboard helps to ensure the best of space planning and energy analysis, which helps avoid any need for alterations later.”
Every initiative adopted by the company is constantly monitored to ensure that productivity is always at its best. Systems have thus been designed to clearly highlight how well the function has been managed by measuring the KPI of all the service providers to estimate accomplishments, the number of projects undertaken and the efficiency of each of these. Building management systems have been devised to highlight the energy and water consumption, and also the levels of comfort and safety in workplaces across all APO buildings. Some of the other systems that the company has in place to warrant efficient performance is space management, visitor management teamed with FM helpdesk-technology-based solutions. Though the company is yet to fully reap the benefits of IoT for its buildings maintenance, they recognise the need for the same and are working with partners to evaluate the possibility of utilising real estate effectively by tracking occupancy levels and usage of meeting rooms, facilities and energy optimisation, etc.
Speaking about the key contributions of a FM in managing a facility that's as large in magnitude as the telecom giant, Chhabra discloses that “Costs are calculated on the basis of per employee and the area and seat occupied. Whereas, the ROI of the project or capex is calculated on the basis of the project’s life cycle with efficiencies on the investment incurred. Optimisation of these expenses and increase in efficiencies is imperative for the success of a facilities team. Any organisation which houses thousands of employees in a large office, irrespective of the sector, is in itself a challenge. The Airtel Center for example has over 4000 employees and it definitely is a task to maintain the comfort and satisfaction level of each employee. But as a team we have learnt that in order to sustain increased productivity amongst a satisfied and comfortable workforce, it is imperative to have a motivated team that is willing to work with you to enhance employee experience with effective cost controlling, efficient management and overall improvement of operational performances.”