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Design firms engaging in FM

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Vector Projects (I) Pvt. Ltd based in Mumbai comprises a team of architects and designers specializing in complete design and build solutions for office and residential interiors. Apart from providing architectural designs, complete interior fit-outs and modular workstations and chairs, a unique service offering of the company is MEP maintenance and IT & data management for its clients. Feroze Katrak, Director, Vector Projects briefs Buildotech on this latest trend of design firms providing backend services as well.

What are the new trends in office planning & management?

Office design today is about efficiency, flexibility and opens spaces with fewer private offices. Function drives the design, mainly due to the technological evolution of modern workplaces. Today, business owners want not only well designed workplace but also require secure and clean environment with problem free facilities like heating, ventilation, IT infrastructure and elevators.

Till recently housekeeping and backend services were being managed in-house by the businesses. However, support functions like human resources, administration and facility management were not given due weightage and only profit centers like sales and marketing were given importance. The mindset was very evident in any official strategy meet where support function heads were conspicuous by their absence. Now, there is a growing realization that facility management is not their core domain. Also, these services are cost centers that pose huge expenses which companies would like to do away with and rather focus on their core competencies.

Factors contributing to the rising importance of facility providers

One of the significant drivers of the growing importance of facility administrators is the information technology, which has changed the way we work today. The companies now have IT infrastructure and sensitive data centers that need to be secured and maintained 24×7. This requires specialized workforce to constantly upkeep and maintain electrical services, air-conditioning and other ancillary services. Not surprisingly, any strategy meet of a corporate company today is not complete without the presence of support services personnel who are vital to providing convenience and amenities to its staff along with ensuring smooth operations of infrastructure and services. Another reason for recognition of facility management as a part of business operation is the arrival of international companies in India, which require standards for their facilities at par with those prevalent in their other global locations.

What are the facility management options available for clients?

There are many facility management agencies, which are now operating in India and provide both soft and hard services. The companies range from global firms with pan India presence like Jones Lang Lasalle, Colliers, Knight Frank and Cushman Wakefield to small local operators.

Global companies offer various solutions to its clients ranging from PMC, maintenance contract, property buying, selling & leasing and relocation assistance. However, their facility management is outsourced to a vendor while, they remain the point of contact for the client. On the other hand, small FM operators engaged directly by the clients often lack specialized staff for managing MEP & IT infrastructure.

As facility management sector in India remains largely unorganized, there is a growing need for companies who can not only provide turnkey interior design solution but also take care of the facility once it is complete and operational. The advantage for the client is that being designers and installers, the company is involved right from the project planning stage and understands the infrastructure design in detail. The design company on its end should have the specialized support team to cater to the client’s facility management needs.

Growth of professionalism in the FM sector in India

The entry of international companies in FM sector has raised the bar for Indian FM operators as well. Major Indian players in the segment are now following international standards. Better regulations and awareness has created professionalism in the industry. It is mandatory for FM companies to provide minimum wages, ESIC, PF, professional tax, uniform, leave salary etc. to its employees and follow other statutory guidelines. Therefore, lowest cost is not the only consideration for the client now. The FM companies called the principals are liable for any non-compliance and not the contractors hired by them. The companies offer services on labor or per square foot basis that includes hard & soft service, manpower and consumables.

One school of thought is to involve FM vendors right from the project design and implementation stage and conversely to engage the designers and installers as the FM services providers. In either case, it is the different sides of the same coin, but most importantly, quality and cost goes hand in hand, which is now being realized by the clients.

Trends and challenges

The biggest trend in FM segment in India is that clients want one stop solution. There is a vacuum for companies specialized in design, installation and maintenance of commercial facility, all under one roof. Secondly, clients are getting more conscious of the safety and health aspect of their facilities. Cleaning consumables and furnishings are getting ecofriendly, workplace safety standards are becoming stringent and energy efficient HVAC, lighting, glass façade and low partitions for daylight penetration are incorporated in commercial setups.

What’s more, professional FM companies are being hired for luxury residential projects as well. These buildings comprising health club, swimming pool, lounges and business centers, are very similar to a commercial building. Also with high-end clientele, the buildings require professional property maintenance and security management, which an organized FM player can only provide.

In terms of challenges, the cost conscious Indian client is still penny wise and pound-foolish. They spend extravagantly on designing and furnishing of their buildings but cut corners when it comes to maintenance of the building. The client needs to be educated on the importance of facility management that will increase the life of their building, offer healthy work environment as also reduce operational cost. For example, data on temperature, air-conditioning and electrical systems is continuously mapped and any spikes noticed alerts the engineers to take preventive action. This is most important in case of data servers, that need 24×7 electrical supply. The specialized electrical maintenance team present at the client premises constantly ensures the maintenance of wiring as well as UPS system for uninterrupted power supply. Likewise, lighting consumption, DG set operation, HVAC running time etc. is monitored to prevent wastage and pilferage.

There is a lot of growth potential for this sector in India as more and more companies want to outsource their FM functions. In next 8-10 years FM industry will become more organized, small operators will disappear and only established professional players will be left in the market.


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