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K.G. Baburajan has played a pivotal role in the development of the Kingdom of Bahrain for the past four decades. Starting with Saudi-Bahrain Causeway, he has shaped the infrastructure of the Kingdom with Shaikh Khalifa Port, Airport Terminal Modernization, Almoayyed Tower, Shaikh Isa Bridge, Sitra Bridge, and many others. An Indian at heart, dedicated to the development of his home country as well as the Kingdom, his contributions display the strong bond shared by both countries.
The Indian Government has bestowed the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Award 2021 to K.G. Baburajan and he shares his story with the readers of Bahrain This Week.
You have played a major part in shaping the infrastructure of the Kingdom of Bahrain. When did you start and why did you choose to remain?
I initially was in Saudi Arabia, and joined to be part of the team for the construction of the Saudi-Bahrain causeway by the end of 1979. I moved to Bahrain in the mid-1980s, and ever since, I’ve been based in Bahrain associating with major projects.
You have more than four decades of expertise in the field of Foundation Design and Piling. Can you mention the significance of this field in the development of a country?
Foundation design is the most important component of any civil or any engineering project. What has to happen, the total load of the building or infrastructure like bridges or flyovers, have to be transferred to the ground through the foundation.
You started with a major project, the Saudi-Bahrain Causeway, and have continued to be part of major projects since then. Shaikh Khalifa Port, Airport Terminal Modernization, Almoayyed Tower, Shaikh Isa Bridge, Sitra Bridge, and multiple companies like Alba, Asry, Bapco, and Ritz-Carlton. Which was the most challenging one?
The most challenging one for me was the Saudi-Bahrain Causeway. The project was handled by very reputed multinational companies, and to be able to work alongside them as a junior engineer was the most challenging, I would say.
What is the most satisfying or memorable project for you?
Again, that would be the Saudi-Bahrain causeway as it was the most challenging project. That doesn’t mean that the other projects aren’t challenging. I would say that all the projects, whether small or big, were always crucial projects. In these 40 years, I have been a part of a lot of major projects in Bahrain like the Shaikh Isa bridge, Shaikh Khalifa bridge, Sitra bridges, Almoayyed Tower, Bahrain Financial Harbor, World Trade Center, City Centre, Seef Mall, Seef flyovers, the industrial side, Alba Line (3-6), Bapco Modernization project, and most of the power stations since the 1980s.
The project of Shaikh Khalifa Port, the development and associated reclamation work was a major one as well as the upcoming new Bahrain International Airport Passenger Terminal, which will be inaugurated this January 28, 2021.
I have been involved in all these projects as part of the initial team to do the site investigation and documentation for the foundations. I am happy that with all the major projects I have had the opportunity to work on, I have contributed to the development of Bahrain.
You have been awarded multiple business excellence awards, you have a hall dedicated to you in Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam, and the most recent, the prestigious Pravati Bharatiya Samman Award. Out of all these, which is your most cherished achievement?
The most cherished, of course, is the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, which is the highest award given to NRI or Non-Indian Resident for contributing to the country. It is given by the Central Government of India and is normally distributed by the Honorable President of India.
COVID-19 has been a major part of the world last year, and continues to go on this year. How do you believe the Kingdom responded to these difficult times?
COVID-19 is a major challenge faced by the whole world. There isn’t anybody on earth that isn’t affected by it. From the president of the USA to the people on the streets, you can say that COVID-19 does not discriminate. It teaches us a lesson for unity as well, where we are all the same.
There are advantages, like how it has benefitted the environment. The CO2 emissions have greatly lessened within the pandemic.
However, the population has been affected so much. A lot of people have lost their jobs. Many of them are having a hard time supporting their families and providing food, clothing, or accommodation. Basic necessities are deprived for a lot of people.
Coming back to Bahrain, I would say the government, the rulers, the Royal family have done a great job in supporting the people of Bahrain during the pandemic. The salaries of Bahraini nationals were covered by the government. Government fees were also waived, like the Electricity and Water. These are all efforts by the government for supporting the industry and the people which we have to appreciate very well.
For the medical side, Bahrain has provided the best treatments and preventive measures to maintain the health and safety of all its residents. Everybody was treated equally regardless of nationality. We are very fortunate to have the government generously helping us in this very unique situation. I thank everybody who is involved in the government’s efforts.
Aside from business, what else have you been doing for your social commitment?
I am trained in social responsibility since my childhood by my grandfather. I continued to do the same thing even after I came to the Middle East. Whenever we can, we should help the unfortunate ones. Whether financially or by any means, because help isn’t just about money, it is to contribute to society.
I am involved with the social commitments of Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam. I have contributed to the construction of the main building, which is accommodating around 2000 people. I have dedicated a hall for the society to use and a lot of houses are built for the people in Bahrain and India.
Whenever possible, I support the people. Whether they are Indians, Bahrainis, or any nationality. Charity organizations would come and we would provide the best that we can do for their cause. Social commitment should go along with our business and developments because that is very important to me. It is only together that we can bring society to a certain level.
You said all the projects, whether big or small, are challenging. What’s the philosophy that sustained you throughout your life and career?
We have to treat any project equally as it is important to the client. Naturally, our service to the client and the industry is very important so we have to do it responsibly, dedicated, careful, and realistically.
Who are your greatest supporters?
First, I would say the Government and rulers of Bahrain! Also, all our clients have been our great supporters for entrusting such crucial projects to us. We cannot be at this level if not for every one of them.
It’s been a very long career. What’s next in your vision?
I will be continuing my work in the business. In the meantime, I’m planning to have a full set-up in my home country. I plan to train some of the engineers in the same field, like quality control or quality assurance.
There are cases back home where a bridge would need to be demolished just one year after it was finished because it wasn’t made well. In this part of the world, especially in the GCC, we have never come to a situation where we had to demolish a bridge. Not even a bridge that was made 10 years ago.
Naturally, this kind of involvement and quality control has to be implemented in India. This is what I would like to start doing it back home. We can train new and incoming engineers in this field so they would be more available. Of course, we will need the involvement of the government and universities for it.
Do you have a message to your supporters?
The development of a country mainly depends on the youth of that country. A lot of educated youth are coming forward to build this nation. This is a positive aspect for Bahrain they are heading in the right direction on this path.
The government is encouraging and supporting the youth to come forward and be part of this development so they can be proud of their country and its achievements. That is what’s happening in this part of the world and it is very encouraging to witness.
I would say that the youth should have more and more responsibility so that the nation can benefit out of them.