IWD 2022: Exclusive interview with Mala Ramachandran and Sathya Kumaran, Kaleidoscope

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2022-03-08 11:10:00 Viewer: 6,786 Comments: 0 Country: India City: Tiruvallur

IWD 2022: Exclusive interview with Mala Ramachandran and Sathya Kumaran, Kaleidoscope

Mala Ramchandran and Sathya Kumaran are Co-Founders of Kaleidoscope – A graphic animation studio concentrating on 2D and 3D Graphic Animation videos for large Infrastructure, Industrial and Manufacturing companies for their process, training, implementation and marketing requirements. 

In a recent conversation with Urban Infra Communication, they shared their views on various aspects that can help a woman to become an entrepreneur.

Vinod Shah: Please tell us about your professional journey? 

Mala Ramachandran: After having worked in the corporate world for over two decades, I realized I wished to see the world from another side—an employer, rather than as an employee. I wanted to use the rich experience, training and skill set that I had developed in SAIL, to become an entrepreneur and build an organization with a strong culture and employee satisfaction. I have only gratitude to SAIL for imbibing in me these skills.

Our company Kaleidoscope has just completed 10 years successfully and I can proudly say that the satisfaction and pride when my employees share stories of their transformation and growth through Kaleidoscope, not only in their professional lives but also in their personal growth as individuals, have made these years worth it.

We worked in the architectural segment for almost 3 years, and in the process realised that there is a space in the market for our specific skill set, primarily in the engineering sector. Being an engineer myself, I realised with time that 3d animation has great application in the infrastructure segment, as visualizations aid in preempting the challenges in methodology, which save time and money during implementation. We have now reached a stage wherein we have carved a niche domain expertise in working for projects with MTHL, several metro projects in cities such as Pune, Chennai, Mauritius and the high-speed rail project with L&T, Tata Projects, Afcons, etc. We also take on several government projects like Ircon, Kride, CMRL among others.

Sathya Kumaran: Hailing from the port city Tuticorin, I completed my Graduation in Physics from Women’s Christian College, Chennai. Pursued my passion for graphics and painting. Later upgraded me with a 2yr course in 2D and 3D animation. I was working with a few architectural firms and Industries for their visualization and animation requirements as a consultant. Later co-founded Kaleidoscope – A graphic animation studio with my partner Mala Ramachandran and this year completed our 10th year successfully in this industry.

Vinod Shah: What things inspired you to choose your career in the digital architecture Industry after expending over 20 years in SAIL?

Mala R.: In SAIL as well, our target segment was infrastructure and industry, and when we started working with similar segments through Kaleidoscope, we realised that service, quality and workforce are the most important aspects for clients; profitability is a by-product when these domains are taken care of. That is exactly what Kaleidoscope is doing.

Vinod Shah: Why did you choose your career in infra graphics designing?

Sathya K.: Though we initially catered to the architectural segment and builders for their 3D views and walkthroughs, later as we gained experience, we moved into technical process animations for the Infrastructure segment which has become our forte. The magnanimity of these infra projects amazed us, and we found huge scope in adding value to these projects through visualizations.  Each project was technically new and our team was geared to learn and thrilled to perform. This encouraged us to move deeper into various segments of infrastructure like Heavy civil infra, Special bridges, Transportation, Hydrocarbons, Water and effluent treatment, Power, Irrigation, Defence, Nuclear, Metros, Regional rapid transit system, and High-Speed Rail (HSR). This exposure has given us enough knowledge to position ourselves as an expert in our domain, and now we can proudly say that we are associated with almost all the new infrastructure ventures of our Nation. 

Vinod Shah: After covid-19, every company/project is looking for cost-cutting without compromising the quality of work. How will the use of digitalization in infrastructure development help their goals?

Sathya K.: Digitalisation in infrastructure helps to bring about tangible benefits such as -

  • multiple stakeholders to be on the same page
  • connect people from various locations and hybrid work front to derive insights and take decisions
  • to train the workforce to the latest technologies
  • prevent flaws and thereby cut down execution costs at the site
  • to get timely approvals from authorities
  • to organise resources to be deployed
  • acts as a bridge between infra companies and their clients for easy understanding of the process involved and working timelines.

It is a great documentation tool for future references.

Vinod Shah: Do you think that design and construction will become an outdated concept in the future as infrastructure becomes multi-functional? Please explain.

Mala R.: Not at all. In fact, design and construction will remain an integral part of the growth of the country and the world at large. However, in the digital age, the methods of implementation will keep transforming to attain more efficiency, and we have to make sure to stay up to date. Digitization of the infrastructure segment is still in very nascent stages and we have a lot to do in this direction. Awareness has increased and government and private sectors are all working towards it increasingly. However, implementation is a challenge and that is where services like ours help construction companies to visualize challenges and make course corrections.

Vinod Shah: What are the implications of digitalization for infrastructure sectors? How does digitalization work for rail, metro and transport infrastructure sectors?

Sathya K.: With the power of Digitalisation, rail, metro and transport projects can be delivered more effectively and efficiently by harnessing the power of cloud computing and enhanced mobile technology. Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the form of 3D digital representation of projects overlaid with 4D detail on scheduling and cost, together with augmented and virtual reality technology enables seamless interaction between offices and sites facilitating a “build right-first-time” approach.

Drones allow teams to track progress safely, more efficiently and with increased accuracy, collecting data more frequently than human surveyors. Telematics is tracking how our vehicles are used, ensuring that we drive them economically, safely, and sustainably. And we are using data analytics to begin to predict and prevent problems with enabling structures as they arise in infrastructure, rather than the slower, more expensive and less reliable “find and fix” model the industry has relied on for decades.

Vinod Shah: What are the key challenges faced by your company and how are you addressing them?

Mala R.: I think one of the key challenges we are facing presently is deciphering the best method to tackle the global market for more projects. Presently, we are working on pan-India growth and starting out in the global market. However, the application of our area of expertise has vast potential, and we are making efforts to move faster in making our space in the global sector. Being an entirely digital field, it is feasible for us to execute projects from India, making the process cost-efficient and accessible.

None of our projects need any physical presence and can be handled from Chennai, India itself. We are addressing it by being more visible on platforms like Linkedin and also being part of global networking organizations like CorporateConnections.

Vinod Shah: Do you think we need more women in the infrastructure industry?

Sathya K.: Definitely yes!  Women are paving the way for a new style of leadership that is confident, authentic, and highly effective and I think the scenario is currently changing positively towards more women taking pride to work in the infrastructure segment and being part of the nation-building process.

Vinod Shah: In reaching the level of success you have, if anything – what have you sacrificed along the way? Have you experienced any barriers in the journey to becoming a leader?

Mala R.: I would say I have received a lot of support from my family in pursuing this. From an employee to employer is not an easy change, and a lot of hard work and perseverance had to be put in to ensure we hit the right segment, especially in the initial years. Being a first-generation entrepreneur, I had to learn these skills from scratch, and it was alongside my business partner Sathya, who ably and fully supported the process, that we overcame the challenges on the way. Today, we have employees who are second line and third line leaders, who have been with Kaleidoscope for 7-8 years, and aid in the smooth functioning of the organization. In the first 3 years, attracting talent was a major barrier since we were not established yet. However, the strong culture that we have built of timely salaries, focus on employee benefits and career growth through new projects and continuous learning, has helped us attract and retain the best talent. We are very proud of our present team and they are the backbone of our organization.

Vinod Shah: What is your message for female aspirants wanting to start their career in infra sectors.

Sathya K.: Our nation is coming up with loads of infrastructure initiatives and expansion with respect to Building smart cities, High-speed rail, Regional rail transport, Metros, Ports, Airports, Special bridges, tunnels and High ways. As female aspirants never doubt that you are valuable, powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the infrastructure segment to pursue and achieve your dreams.

Vinod Shah: Any tips you’d like to share with anyone, especially females wanting to get to the top in the infra business?  

Mala R.: Yes, I do. I strongly believe that we as women, need to see ourselves without gender biases holding us back. The moment we work like that, we attract others to look at us in similar manner. I was the first woman on the shop floor in the Bokaro Steel Plant in 1990 when there was a stigma towards having women on the shop floor. However, the moment I worked without any bias in my mind, the others got used to it as well and thereon, many women started working on the shop floor.

Even as entrepreneurs and two women co-owners, my partner Sathya and me always ensure we lead the group as leaders from the front always and I feel that is all that is needed to get to the top.

Vinod Shah: How do you find the quality of contents and industry updates in our publications - news portals and magazines? Any suggestions.

Mala R.: The quality of content is great, as are the updates about the industry. However, a little more practical content on implementation could help give readers like me greater value addition.

Sathya K.: Yes, the content and updates are informative and interesting providing us with the latest information and site photographs. Great job!

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