"Let me begin by congratulating Project Management Institute (PMI), India for organizing this mega-conference. I am also happy to be in Hyderabad, a city of happening and a city that has a special place in my heart.
Our country has seen big shifts in the past five years in terms of economic progress, infrastructure development, market confidence and social empowerment.
Under the able leadership of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, we are on a mission to “reform, perform and transform”. The aim is to transform the lives of the people and the country at large.
I am happy to note that the theme of this conference is “Adapt, Transform, Accelerate, Made Possible by a Project Manager”.
Project managers are extremely important for a nation’s progress -- whether it is to plan and execute projects well, be change leaders, or inspire people from different geographical locations, cultures, and ethnicities to work together for the common good.
Project managers have played a vital role in both public and private sectors - from infrastructure building to IT, from telecom to the power sector to healthcare and more.
However, to support fast growth across sectors, the country requires more skilled talent.
It has been estimated that by 2027, India will need 70 lakh new project managers.
So, let me assure you that you are in the right place at the right time.
This is your opportunity to contribute to your industry and your country - because for each project implemented successfully, within time and budget, there are hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of people who stand to benefit.
Sadly our country does not have a good track record of executing projects on time. This needs to change. Although transformation must be seen at all levels, the project managers play a key role and must act as change agents.
The flash report that the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation published in April this year says that more than 25% of large central sector projects (that cost Rs. 150 crore or more) are delayed beyond their scheduled date of completion.
We need to improve the execution of our projects and programs. For that, we need to improve the way we plan projects, manage stakeholders, monitor progress, take corrective action swiftly and decisively, and develop future-ready talent with a high technology quotient.
PMI India is part of a Task Force on Project and Program Management set up by NITI Aayog.
The task force has recommended the setting up of a ‘National Policy Framework for Project and Program Management’, and prescribed global standards and certifications for project professionals in public projects.
The Quality Council of India is currently working on the policy framework. If implemented, it would be the first time that the Government of India would have initiated a formal approach to project and program management.
I believe this is the right time for such a step. Our country has embarked on a development agenda that is bold, ambitious, and at a pace and scale that is unprecedented.
India is a land of engineering and architectural wonders that serve as examples of great project management practices, from the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram to the Ashoka Pillar that is a miracle even today among metallurgists because of its rust-resistant quality.
Modern-day India has had several remarkable achievements that serve as proof of our capabilities.
The newly inaugurated Statue of Unity on the banks of the Narmada, in Kevadia in Gujarat is an example.
Not only did we build the tallest statue in the world – at 597 feet - but we also built it in a record time of 33 months.
There are many other projects and programs that are a matter of great pride for us - Aadhar, the world’s largest biometric database; Chandrayaan 1 and 2 that have placed us among the best in the world of space research; Indian elections, which is the largest democratic exercise in the world; and the Kumbh Mela, which is the largest human gathering in the world.
I have had the privilege of heading two ministries that are responsible for some of the largest and most complex projects and programs that the country has seen of late – the Ministry of Rural Development and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
In the next few minutes, let me talk about some of the biggest successes that we have seen in recent years, the challenges that we have faced and the lessons that we have learned from them.
As the Minister of Rural Development during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, I launched the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana in 2000 to improve rural connectivity, with a mission to bring unconnected and isolated villages of the country into the road network.
So far, the ministry has built more than 6 lakh km of rural roads under this program.
Many of these villages are in remote corners of the country and have a population of less than 500.
As the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, I was privileged to have overseen the rollout of some of the most ambitious programs of the government - Swachh Bharat, Smart Cities, Housing and Prime Minister’s Awas Yojna.
We have made good progress towards achieving Gandhiji’s vision of a clean India, a pledge that Prime Minister Modi had made on October 2, 2014. In a few days when we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, we would have fulfilled that promise to a large extent.
Since October 2014, 699 districts and over 4300 cities across the country have been declared ODF.
This is remarkable progress, but Swachh Bharat is much more than just building toilets. It is about changing people’s habits and breaking customs that are deep-rooted.
So the big project management challenge here is to change people’s perceptions and win their support for lasting impact.
Smart Cities is another ambitious programme that has few parallels in the world.
According to the World Urbanisation Prospects, the urban population in the year 2025 will rise to 42.5 percent (566 million).
Smart Cities will provide the answer to many of the problems that our growing cities face today - like public transport, water management, solid waste management and crime prevention.
To me the big challenge here is not funding or infrastructure or technology but leadership. Where the state or the city has strong, visionary leaders, Smart City projects have moved ahead well.
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is among the biggest successes of the government. We have over-achieved our targets - our original target was 7.5 crore new bank accounts, which was revised to 12.54 crore.
The government has achieved 100 percent of that target - of which 60 percent accounts are in rural areas and 51 percent of account holders are women.
The project management lesson that one can draw from this is that bold initiatives need champions who will inspire the team to work towards achieving bigger goals.
In this case, the Prime Minister championed this greatest financial inclusion program in the world.
Let me move to another inspiring initiative.
Difficulty in land acquisition has been one of the major reasons for highway projects lagging behind schedule.
We have found a good solution for that - we don’t award a highway contract unless 80 percent of the land is acquired. As a result, of the 700 ongoing national highway projects in India, over 40 percent have been completed in the past four years.
The project management lesson to learn from this – innovative thinking and the will to make it happen go a long way in overcoming difficulties.
We had made a promise to connect every village of India to the electricity grid, and today I am happy to say that we have achieved 100 percent of that target.
The biggest lesson here is the coordinated effort between the central and state governments, district administrations and village panchayats, and power distribution companies to translate a promise into reality.
Exposure to fumes during cooking has increased the incidence of respiratory diseases among rural citizens and the urban poor, especially women.
Through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, now 7 crore poor households have received free LPG stoves and initial refills.
There are two other areas that need urgent attention in the country and the Prime Minister has rightfully flagged those issues – access to clean water and saving the country from plastic.
Another major project that is being undertaken by the government is the provision of piped water to all homes across India by 2024.
In many of the successes that our the country has achieved, there is a strong role of the private sector.
I believe the private sector can play an even bigger role in nation-building. Whether it’s smart cities, education, healthcare or infrastructure building, I believe public-private partnerships will be the order of the day.
One of the important lessons that government agencies must learn from the private sector is to institutionalize project management.
Many organizations flourish because of a leader but once the leader is gone, they go back to their old ways of working.
Yes, we need heroes who will inspire us and drive us to achieve big things. But we also need to establish systems and processes that will ensure that an organization functions well whether the hero is there or not. That will be crucial in the days ahead.
I believe that project managers carry a huge responsibility. These are times of immense changes and your knowledge and skills will be crucial in helping organizations grow, which in turn will have a positive impact on the industry and the country’s economy.
My message to you is two-fold: acquire the right skills and keep yourself constantly attuned to the demands of the future.
Technology is changing fast and you need to be aware of the latest digital skills to stay relevant in your job. However, only technical skills will not help you grow. Develop leadership skills and business knowledge to compete with the best in the world.
Secondly, there is a lot that you can do in your individual capacity for your community.
I am extremely happy to hear about PMI’s Global Celebration of Service in commemoration of its 50th anniversary.
I commend PMI for its pledge to dedicate 100,000 hours of service to the community.
This is a great opportunity for project managers to give back to society. So go ahead and commit yourself to a cause that you believe in.
I once again congratulate the members of PMI Pearl City Chapter and wish PMI all the best for its professional development and community-building initiatives.