With an annual turnover of around R4,300 crore for the last two years, Ircon International, which is already a Miniratna company, may soon be on its way to being classified as a Navratna.
Incorporated by the ministry of railways in 1976, Ircon has been undertaking turnkey projects in the field of infrastructure, earning laurels both in India and abroad, the latter consistently contributing to almost half its revenues. The year 2013-14 saw 80% of its earnings coming from foreign projects in the railway sector—major initiatives in Sri Lanka and Malaysia—boosting the market share for railways from 50% to 90%, and earning Rs 1,042 crore in precious foreign exchange.
Ircon is involved in the design and construction of bridges/flyovers, buildings, electrical & mechanical installations, signalling & telecom systems, highways, metro and railways—with the last two having emerged as Ircon’s core competencies.
Operating in a competitive environment, often in hostile and difficult terrains, Ircon has completed more than 300 infrastructure projects in India and 107 across the globe in over 21 countries, bringing to them the technical capability and discipline in executing a project within cost and time-frame.
Ircon operates through models such as build-operate-transfer (BOT), build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT), and build-lease-transfer (BLT), etc.
Its recent projects range from track-laying work in the elevated section of Aluva to Petta corridor and Muttom depot of the Kochi Metro Rail Project, to four-laning of 96-km of the Shivpuri-Guna highway, to the construction of a 148-km new rail line on the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail project (Kashmir railway) as well as a power supply distribution work in Jammu.
Ircon’s latest initiative is building new rail corridors at an estimated cost of R10,000 crore in the virgin forest areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. A few months ago, an SPV for the 130-km line in Chhattisgarh was formed with 26% held by Ircon, 64% by the strategic stakeholder South Eastern Coalfields Ltd, and the balance 10% by the state government, which would be in the form of land.
While work on the east corridor has been started and is likely to be completed by 2018, the east-west corridor would be taken up by the year-end and could be completed within three years of land being handed over by the state. A similar SPV with Central Coalfields Ltd and Jharkhand government and one with Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd and Odisha government is on the cards.
Ircon has repeatedly won projects in rail and road sectors where failure or cost and time overrun is not an option.
Now Ircon has taken up one of the most difficult sections of the 345-km-long Kashmir railway. Split into four parts, the project consists of the first section of 53-km from Jammu to Udhampur which was completed a decade ago. The second section of 25-km from Udhampur to Katra was opened last year, while the fourth Qazigund-Baramulla section of 112-km was completed in 2009. However, it is the third section of 148-km from Katra to Qazigund—with a 359-metre high bridge over river Chenab—that is proving to be a tough call. The company has been set a deadline of 2020 for its completion, which would provide seamless rail connectivity from Kanyakumari to Baramulla.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has entrusted Ircon with the track-laying work of the Mukundpur-Lajpat Nagar section. Soon, Ircon’s design and construction capability will be put to test when it takes up the work for design, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of receiving-cum-traction and auxiliary main sub-station including high-voltage cabling under a Rs 235 crore project.
Spreading its wings, Ircon has floated Ircon Infrastructure & Services Limited (IrconISL)—a JV of Ircon and Rail Land Development Authority—which has constructed a string of multifunctional complex buildings, including budget hotels with commercial spaces, and renovation of existing railway stations with upgraded passenger amenities. It also floated Ircon PB Tollway Limited in 2014 to organise toll collection from highways which it has built over the last few years.
The author is former member, Railway Board. Views are personal