Founded in 1979, Vijay Construction grew from a small team handling a hotel project into a multidisciplinary organization of more than 1,500 workers. Its straightforward approach and reliability have allowed it to set the standards for construction in the nation and gained it a solid reputation around the country. Its founder and managing director, V J Patel, explains what makes the company stand out amongst its competitors and his philosophy for leading a successful and growing business in Seychelles
What can you tell us about the company’s history?
I started in India where I studied civil engineering. Then I moved to Nairobi to work for a construction company there called Laxmanbhai. They had a contract to build a hotel in Seychelles, and I was transferred here. I remained with that company for a further six years in Seychelles and then decided to go solo. I was in my mid-30s at that time, and I had enough experience to establish my own company, Vijay Construction. I came here in 1973 when it was still a British colony. I have witnessed major changes in Seychelles history from British colony to independence, and then a year later there was a coup d’état and everything changed. The business environment did not exist, a lot of people left and the properties and businesses lost value. People thought I was mad to leave a good, comfortable position and go into business at such a volatile time. But I believed that business would always be there. With that belief, I started in 1979. Luck was in my favor and I landed up with the first two contracts of a good size, the first of which was to build what is now known as the Kempinski Hotel and was previously known as Plantation Club. The rest is history.
Things worked and the company got established and even when the business environment was not great here, Vijay Construction had good business. We got into infrastructure, where we faced less competition. Laxmanbhai was the main competitor in building, but because they were not interested in infrastructure, I was only competing against international companies. There, I had the advantage. Being here, I know the place better and I have lower overheads, so I was able be more competitive.
We continued to branch out into new projects. Back in 1983, the BBC wanted to build a relay station on Seychelles and wanted to put up towers. This involved piling – driving deep foundations into the ground. This was something we had not done before. I didn’t have the experience, but I went and got people who did. So for the first time, I went to South Africa, I got in touch with people who were doing piling work, and I told them of this opportunity and had them join my company. With their credentials, we were awarded the job and we performed. This is just an example, but that is not the end. We then went on to win the tender to build the bridge on Eden Island.
Overall, what makes Vijay Construction the construction company of choice to partner with in the Seychelles? What gives it a competitive edge?
Anybody coming from outside will not know about the track record of the companies directly, so they will have to seek opinions and that is where the company’s image helps. They can go and talk to people in government about how the government sees Vijay Construction. They can talk to other local partners here as well – we have companies supplying goods and products like the local quarries and cement producers. We feel satisfied that over the years that the way we have worked has created a strong reputation. People will give very positive feedback about us. I believe that people will say that we are reliable, straightforward and we deliver the goods that you want for the price that you have agreed. We don’t look for ways to squeeze more money out of our projects. We concentrate on actually producing, and by doing that, we are able to make our profit, so there is no need for us to go and look for extra money. We are not greedy, we get the work done and the results are good.
Vijay Construction has an impressive track record of delivering projects on time or even ahead of time and on budget. What allows you to achieve this?
It is a company policy. The company started as a one-man show and it remains a one-man show because decisions and policies are made directly by me. I still have the direct control of what is happening, so that is what has established the norm with the people. In all our projects there are three elements: the price, the time, and the quality. If we concentrate on this, then our product obviously will be better than the others.
The company has worked on a wide range of projects, but let’s start with tourism development. How has Vijay Construction been involved with the sector’s development?
If you look at Eden Island, all the construction there has been done by Vijay Construction. The investors there are from South Africa. When they came, they did not know us, so they called for tenders like anybody else would. In our bid, we offered a competitive price, and they appointed us for an initial contract. Every building on Eden Island was a separate contract, whether it was a block of apartments or private villa, but there were no tenders after this. They were happy with our prices, they felt that we were competitive, and liked the results. For the last 13 years, we have been working in partnership. We also built the H Resort, which is next to Fisherman’s Cove.
What other sectors are you working in?
On the infrastructure front, we have recently built a new fishing quay. Usually, port infrastructure would be a government investment, but this was a private investment. It is a 425-meter quay.
What scope do you see for further infrastructure development projects in Seychelles?
There are many infrastructure projects that need to be done in Seychelles, from roadworks to waterworks and sewage disposal, especially with the increase in the living standard of the Seychellois people. The port and the roads are the two main requirements because that is where everything takes place. Seychelles is completely dependent on imports, and not only that, Seychelles is on important shipping lines, so can become an active hub for exports from India, Pakistan and other Asian countries to Africa.
Seychelles is on the Maritime Silk Road of China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative. Do you see this representing an opportunity for the country?
When investment is made into the ports, it will be good for business and the economy. A lot of investment is needed but it will provide strong returns.
How would you define the corporate culture of Vijay Construction?
Staff feel that they are looked at as human beings and not just as a worker. This gives them a different kind of incentive to keep improving. My core policy is that nobody working with us should remain at the same level for five years. You must progress. The company is celebrating its 40-year anniversary soon, and every time we have a reason to celebrate, it is always with the staff. For the event, we will also announce a social project around education and sports.
What is your vision for the company for the coming five years?
The only vision is to carry on as we are. We have progressed in business with this philosophy and with this practice. We are doing much more business now than we were doing 20 years ago, so there is progress.
What would you like potential partners, clients and investors to know about Vijay Construction?
Vijay Construction is a company with a simple setup and whose work speaks for itself. We make sure that our product is better than others. If we set a standard, then others will copy, so we set the standards in Seychelles. And then we improve, to make sure that the competing businesses do not beat us. That is the key for any business. If you want to sell your product, you have to keep improving it to make sure it is better than the others.