SoftBank-funded construction technology startup Katerra Inc. plans to ramp up operations in India, eyeing opportunities in the commercial office, retail and hospitality sectors.
The US-based company thrives on construction technologies that are faster than traditional methods, and has a turnkey approach where it implements integrated offsite manufacturing technology and the concept of DfMA (Design for manufacturing and assembly) for projects.
Earlier this year, SoftBank led an $865 million investment in Katerra, founded in 2015 by Michael Marks, its chairman. The firm is building nearly 700 projects in the US.
The Silicon Valley start-up entered India in 2018 after acquiring KEF Infrastructure. It has invested close to $250 million in the country so far.
Katerra took over KEF’s offsite manufacturing plant in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu and has a captive plant in Lucknow for the Lulu mall project.
It is building a second offsite manufacturing plant in Hyderabad with an investment of around $100 million and another factory in Maharashtra in the next six months and one in the National Capital Region in the next 18 months.
“We will have four mega plants in India eventually, and 8-10 remote or mobile plants or factories. We will go into Tier II and Tier III cities as well to build malls, hotels and offices. We will go into smaller cities with our remote plants which we can put together in 4-5 months and then we can move the mobile factory to another site," said Ravi Bhat, head of operations, Middle East and Asia, Katerra.
By 2020-end, Katerra will have the capacity to build 30 million sq. ft a year in India. It currently has 40 projects in its portfolio.
“India is a growing economy with a huge urban population and has so much to build. How do you build this scale with traditional construction technologies? It’s impossible. We can construct a 1.2 million sq. ft building in less than 50 days with the kind of capacity a factory has," said Nejeeb Khan, head-design and brand strategy, Asia & Middle East, Katerra.
On Tuesday, real estate firm Vaishnavi Group said it has tied up with Katerra for a large mid-income housing project in Yelahanka, north Bengaluru, to speed up pace of construction and for maximum efficiency of space.
“Katerra’s construction technology ensures 50% faster construction time. Even if the cost is 12-15% higher than traditional building method, the operational expense comes down. The project will have 90% factory-finished elements including all in-built mechanical, electrical, plumbing services," said C.N. Govindaraju, founder and managing director, Vaishnavi Group.
In August, Katerra tied up with the Embassy Group for the latter’s 1.6 million sq. ft commercial office building in Embassy Tech Village.
Both Embassy and Vaishnavi projects will be factory-made at Katerra’s offsite manufacturing facility in Krishnagiri.