Niladri Sarkar

The Architect of Change in India's Steel and Infrastructure Sectors

Niladri Sarkar

Director and Promoter,

Steel Infra Solutions (SISCOL)

I ndia’s steel industry has undergone a transformative journey, marked by exponential growth, formidable challenges, and abundant opportunities. As the nation strides towards becoming a global steel hub, the industry grapples with complexities that demand innovative solutions and visionary leadership. In the midst of India’s evolving industrial landscape, Niladri Sarkar has emerged as a key figure in the steel, heavy fabrication, and infrastructure sectors. Armed with a civil engineering degree from IIT Delhi, his journey began with a role at an Indian construction company. A prestigious Commonwealth Fellowship then took him to the United Kingdom, where he underwent intensive training in structural steel engineering, heavy fabrication, and erection. This international exposure sparked his passion for steeldominated projects.
Upon his return to India, Niladri made significant contributions to organisations like NTPC and ICI India Limited, shaping thermal power plant and chemical plant projects nationwide and in Southeast Asia. His expertise further blossomed during an assignment at Tractebel Gas Engineering in Taiwan, where he focused on constructing cryogenic tanks for various gases, refining his skills in structural steel.
In the early 2000s, Niladri ventured into the emerging domain of pre-engineered building (PEB) technology in India. Leading a dedicated team, he transformed a fledgling PEB company into an industry leader. With a wealth of experience as a COO and CEO across various companies, Niladri has spearheaded numerous specialised steel projects, including eight airport projects, petrochemical and thermal plant ventures, as well as steel bridges and railway projects. He takes pride in successfully completing several important projects, showcasing his exceptional skills in the field of infrastructure projects.
Today, as the Director and Promoter of Steel Infra Solutions (SISCOL), Niladri continues to champion India’s steel industry. His unique combination of engineering expertise and project management skills has not only overcome challenges but also turned them into steppingstones for success. TradeFlock spoke to Niladri to discuss his journey, challenges and strategies. 

Which roles and experiences shaped your team management expertise in the management and infrastructure industries?

I started with design engineering for thermal power plants and later managed construction projects in India and abroad. I transitioned to become an operations head, overseeing engineering, heavy fabrication, and erection. Upon my return to India, I focused on technical sales for various projects, accumulating 40 years of experience in design engineering, fabrication, erection, and project management. My success in growing companies was driven by mentoring and training teams, fostering strong collaborations. Continuous learning and staying updated with industry advancements remain my priorities.

What was your most challenging career obstacle, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you learn?

The most challenging obstacle in my career has been gaining acceptance and trust from customers. Convincing them that our company is not only technically capable but also capable of delivering products as per their requirements, maintaining quality, and staying within time and budget constraints was a significant challenge. Overcoming this hurdle required careful planning of all activities and delicate cash flow management to complete the entire project cycle successfully. It demanded quick problem-solving, strategic risk-taking, and fast decision-making. Managing constraints and mitigating challenges were crucial for success in the infrastructure business. This experience taught me the importance of adaptability, problem-solving, and swift decision-making in overcoming obstacles and ensuring the successful execution of projects.

What innovative techniques or technologies have you introduced in heavy fabrication to enhance efficiency and quality?

In my 40-year journey in heavy fabrication, I have witnessed significant advancements in project execution. Initially, all activities were manual, but with the advent of computerization in the 1990s, designing transitioned to computer programmes while other aspects of project management remained manual. By the early 2000s, CAD technology facilitated the computerization of fabrication and construction drawings, marking a pivotal shift in the industry. A transformative change occurred with the introduction of factory-made steel structures in India. Today, this approach is standard for EPC projects, revolutionising traditional on-site fabrication methods. Currently, our fabrication processes are entirely technology driven. Design is carried out using advanced software programmes like ETABs and Staad, with detailed drawings generated on Tekla. These drawings produce DXF and NC files, which are utilized by CNC machines in the fabrication process. The seamless transfer of NC files to CNC machines through Wi-Fi eliminates manual intervention. Finished products are barcoded, enabling efficient invoice generation and progress monitoring. This integration of manpower, automation, and communication systems has become a cornerstone of success for our infrastructure company, enhancing efficiency and ensuring the highest quality standards.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders in the steel, heavy fabrication, and infrastructure sectors?

For aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders venturing into the steel, heavy fabrication, and infrastructure sectors, embracing innovation and collaboration is paramount. The industry has undergone a significant transformation, emphasising organised, factory-based operations and streamlined deliveries. Entrepreneurs should actively seek partnerships with major EPC companies, providing comprehensive support for diverse projects. This collaboration not only ensures a consistent flow of business but also enhances technical adaptability to handle complex projects effectively. A deep understanding of the industry’s intricacies and a focus on optimising time- and costrelated activities within the value chain are crucial. Staying abreast of industry trends and evolving dynamics, along with prioritising customer and owner satisfaction through high-quality services, is essential. Cultivating robust business relationships, investing in continuous learning, and upholding ethical practices form the foundation for entrepreneurial success in this competitive domain. By adhering to these principles, aspiring leaders can navigate challenges and capitalise on the abundant opportunities within these sectors.

How do you maintain work-life balance amidst your professional demands?

Outside of work, I prioritise physical activities like marathons, cyclothons, trekking, and hiking, fueled by my passion for endurance sports and aspirations to conquer the Seven Summits. I also balance this with cultural pursuits, embracing art, music festivals, and theatre outings with friends, fostering a holistic lifestyle that enriches my well-being. Weekends are dedicated to dinners, movies, and meaningful discussions, adding depth to my personal life. Continuous learning drives me to explore new hobbies, cuisines, and cultures through travel. By setting boundaries and prioritising self-care, I maintain a healthy work-life balance as an AI leader. This balance not only enhances my overall well-being but also boosts my effectiveness and longevity in my career.

What's your vision for growth, personally and for the organisation?

As a leader in a burgeoning BNPL company, I envision a growth trajectory characterised by technological innovation and market expansion. Our mission is centered on pioneering an AI-driven BNPL platform, leveraging technology to propel innovation. Our strategy entails deep market penetration, product diversification, and global expansion, solidifying our position as industry leaders.
Both personally and organizationally, I prioritise leveraging AI to drive innovation, expand our market presence, and foster strategic partnerships. Improving customer experiences through personalisation and continuous learning initiatives is paramount. By maintaining agility, adaptability, and a customer-centric approach, we aim to unlock new growth avenues and strengthen our leadership in the BNPL sector. 

How do you define success, and do you think you've reached it?

Success, to me, is about inspiring, enabling, and empowering others while continuously striving for self-improvement. As AI becomes increasingly transformative, success for AI leaders like myself involves shaping its impact and democratising its benefits. While I’ve achieved milestones in my journey, success is an ongoing process of growth and refinement. There’s always room for innovation, impact, and personal development. I remain dedicated to advancing both professionally and personally, knowing that true success lies in the journey itself.