Vikash Narsai - Transparency, fairness and due diligence

Vikash Narsai - Transparency, fairness and due diligence
Vikash Narsai:Founder and Chief Executive Officer at VNA

VIKASH NARSAI started his entrepreneurial career in 1991 as a trainee quantity surveyor on an internship without pay. He then created a 25-year path forged on his dedication to bring a unique vision to transformation of the built environment industry.

On completion of his studies in building surveying at ML Sultan Technikon, now known as The Durban University of Technology, at the end of 1993, the lack of available quantity surveying positions as well as to make ends meet, forced Narsai to sell children's books from door to door.

His drive to embrace the built environment industry finally paid off when in 1995 he was given an opportunity in Richards Bay as a junior quantity surveyor for Coalfields Construction, who were one of the largest contracting firms located in northern Natal. Apart from staying in a caravan for nearly eight months, which Narsai in his typical lively spirit, to this day refers to as his "camping days", he also had the unfortunate incident of crashing his boss's 3-month old 4x4. What he thought of as being a disastrous year, turned into a blessing, leading to his promotion to the company's chief buyer in Vryheid because of his strong work ethos and commitment. "This was an opportunity I embraced, as all I was yearning for was experience."

This promotion led to Narsai's deployment to towns such as Ulundi, Nongoma, Empangeni, Newcastle, Volksrust, and Standerton. The many challenging projects within the building and civils fields, allowed his experience to be developed.

In 1998, he married his soulmate Anju, and simultaneously took up a new opportunity with the Durban-based construction company Profour Projects and was deployed to their Johannesburg office for a year. On moving back to KwaZulu-Natal, Vikash was deployed to the Kokstad Supermax Prison Housing Project as the chief project quantity surveyor. His extensive knowledge of building sites earned him the respect he deserved. This contract was to become a turning point in his professional life.

Transparency, fairness and due diligence have always been the ethics by which Narsai has undertaken work. He was held in high regard by the stakeholders involved by continually 'going beyond the call of duty'. His approach, which culminated in him wanting greater control of the decision-making process, consequently led to the opening of a construction project management consultancy practice in 2000 with Anju being his partner in this endeavour. Armed with passion and determination, they worked tirelessly to prove naysayers wrong. Narsai was determined to maintain his industry reputation by sticking to his principles. He says he felt strongly about his company's role in the industry and the vision he had.

"Taking calculated risks, as opposed to inattentive ones, are an important part of taking your business to the next level. I am a credible brand and I add value to the industry. I want to make a difference. I am not prepared to sell my soul to please others."

VNA's involvement in projects for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of the Transport and the Premier's Office enabled him to obtain recognition for the ability to complete projects on time and within budget, as well as with adherence to the highest standards. This was the stepping stone to building credibility within the civil engineering fraternity which was dominated only by civil engineers and not built environment specialists with the requisite skills of the industry.

With this visionary move into infrastructure, the VNA brand has grown from strength to strength and led to the expansion well beyond the realm of traditional service offerings, such as project and construction management, design and construction services alone, to include a more direct focus on relationship-building.

"As an individual or as a part of the VNA brand, there is an obligation to effectively address the increasingly essential 'triple bottom line', targeting economic, social and environmental matters in our delivery of sustainable built environment solutions."

Infrastructure development in rural communities provided the brand and myself, since 2007 much opportunity to grow. One of VNA's flagship projects is in uMzimkhulu. "We have built the town, which has now put us on the map."

"We are not in business for today only and I believe that we can make a difference by always looking ahead and understanding rural concerns. We are proudly South African and can compete with the big names in the industry."

A pinnacle moment in his career was the decision to make a considerable investment in sophisticated, state-of-the-art pavement strength-testing equipment, designed to significantly improve road maintenance solutions in this country, today and the future. This became the cornerstone to the future of VNA.

"We have become built environment specialists, with much in-house expertise and understanding of the market. In addition, we assist entrepreneurs that play in this space by capacitating them through giving them aspects of the projects to design. In this way we can participate in radical economic transformation."

"On reflection, although at times my career has been tough, it has been worthwhile. Whenever, I have been at my lowest, there has been a turnaround. I believed that by adding value through hard work, diligence and integrity, we would be unstoppable."

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