Challenging Conventions to Build a New India

Challenging Conventions to Build a New India


India is the sixth largest economy in the world, poised to become a $5 trillion economy by 2022 and aspiring to be a $10 trillion economy by 2030. Integration of digital technologies and innovation is bringing about disruptive transformation in the country making it a land of immense opportunities.


The construction and housing sector has huge potential to change things if we want to realise the dream of New India by 2022. As per the 2011 census, 31% of India’s population lives in urban areas. This number is expected to rise drastically and cross 50% by 2050* as a result of growing aspirations and opportunities in urban areas. This scale of growth will exponentially increase the demand for basic services and housing in cities.


To achieve the vision of “Housing for All”, the government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) in June, 2015. The validated housing demand as per the inputs received from States/UTs is about 10 million (1 Crore). Out of this, 7.3 million (73 lakh) houses have already been sanctioned under the mission and more houses are likely to be approved in the coming months. At an average cost of INR 0.6 million (6 lakh) per dwelling unit, a total investment of about INR 6 trillion or more would be required. In addition to the direct impact that this can have on the economy, it will also have a multiplier effect on all the allied sectors, besides boosting employment opportunities and flow of knowledge and skills.


However to meet the magnitude of demand (which would be akin to building two and a half Americas in the next five decades) and ensure timely deliveries (longer gestation period of projects has a huge impact in the project costs and as a result on its affordability), we will have to ditch conventional methods and pole vault into a new construction regime. The Global Housing Technology Challenge – India (GHTC-India) has been conceptualised to bring about such a paradigm shift in the construction sector in India.


The Hon’ble Prime Minister envisaged the use of best technologies in construction from across the globe, for the building of nearly 10 million houses by 2022. The aim is to take inspiration from the best and make builders and developers in India among the best in the world.


Adoption of innovative technologies would contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as laid out by the United Nations (UN), the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Climate Accord to which India is a signatory. Conventional brick and mortar constructions are usually slow paced, energy intensive and heavily dependent on natural resources, leaving large carbon foot prints, and ultimately defeating the goal of timely, affordable and sustainable housing. Thus the goal is to accelerate construction of affordable housing, maximising resource efficiency without adversely impacting the environment and addressing the diverse geo-climatic conditions of different regions.


This Housing Technology Challenge is the result of a series of consultations with industry partners, academia, technology providers and other stakeholders, to address a wide range of issues and deliver well-conceived solutions.


The Challenge comprises three components. The first being a two day Grand Expo-cum-Conference – Construction Technology India 2019 (CTI-2019) being organised on 2 & 3 March, 2019 in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, to be opened with an inaugural address by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi.  The expo will see a host of cutting edge technology options being shared by global civil engineering firms, manufacturers of building technology components, turn-key contracting agencies, technical institutions, architects and planners, consulting firms and other business entities in the construction industry.  


The second and most exciting component of the Challenge is the Light House Project, which will provide an opportunity to technology providers from across the world to showcase their technology by participating live, in the development of housing, in one of six identified locations or Live Laboratories as they are being called. Needless to say that this will be an enormous gateway of opportunity for both national and international entities to compete with the best in the world. Success here could translate into opening up of newer markets that are witnessing similar urban growth phenomenon.


Diverse geo-climatic conditions call for more innovative ideas/ products/ technologies to make solutions market-ready. Thus the third component of the Challenge is Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerator (ASHA – India). Under ASHA – India, incubation centres will be set up at IITs – Bombay, Kharagpur, Madras & Roorkee and CBRI, Jorhat. Accelerator Workshops will be organised to familiarise start-ups, young entrepreneurs, practitioners and researchers, with new technology and provide a conducive environment  for the development of an eco-system and market support. The incubation centres will provide technology support to innovative potential technology providers through projects approved under PMAY(U). This also augurs well for NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission, as well as integrates with the objectives of “Make in India”, “Skill India” initiatives.


World Resource Institute – India has been brought in as a Knowledge Partner to anchor this transformational initiative set to catapult India to the next level in housing. Use of technologies like 3-D printing needs to be encouraged and customised to Indian needs and conditions, so that faster adoption of these technologies can take place. The idea of this Housing Technology Challenge is to create an enabling ecosystem for innovative and transformative technologies to succeed and thrive in this market, and an expected outcome is the formation of a much-needed platform for exposure, cross learning and support among stakeholders.


All these Challenge initiatives are essential building blocks to achieving the goal of “Housing for All”, and I invite each one of you to visit the website and participate in this Challenge.


*Former Amitabh Kant is CEO, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.

*Source: World Urbanization Prospects, United Nations, 2014

Amitabh Kant