With over 25 years of experience under her belt, Ashwini Walawalkar, Country Head, Technique Control Facility Management is one of the leading lights of India’s FM community. In this interview, she speaks about how the industry has evolved in her time, bridging gender gaps, harnessing the potential of both technology and the local community, and more.
Your rise from assistant housekeeper to country head of a leading facilities management company is pathbreaking. What are the lessons you have learnt about your field along the way?
In 1995, I started my career as an Assistant Housekeeper with Taj Hotels. In 1999, I joined a company called Cleantec which was later acquired by ISS Facility Services in 2005. During that time, Facility Management (FM) was at a nascent stage in India, and was only meant for basic cleaning and upkeep of spaces. Post 2000s, as more and more MNCs came to India and the whole concept of IT and Business Parks picked up, that is when Facility Management began its transformation towards a larger scope. I recently joined Technique Control Facility Management (TCFM) in 2021 as the Country Head.
At the moment, we are the leaders in this industry that caters to an extensive range of demands and needs, from housekeeping and technical equipment maintenance to sustainability and social equity. Our role as FM service providers has become more crucial ever since CAFM (Computer Assisted Facility Management) along with ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) have become an important norm for real estate development.
What encouraged you to contribute to the growth of the facility management sector?
During the 2000s, the FM industry was growing at a remarkable pace, due to which there was an urgent need for skilled and trained professionals. This fuelled my interest to contribute to the upskilling and development of people as a resource. While operations were always my forte at work, I took on new responsibilities in L&D, and became accountable for skilling and developing over 55,000 employees.
Now, we have employed over 9,000 professionals across India. My main motive is to ensure that more and more people find a job and a prosperous career at our organisation and enhance their skills while contributing to the growth of the sector.
At TCFM, we strive to deploy women staff wherever possible, but never at the risk of their safety and protection. Our main agenda is to ensure that our staff has a safe and secure work environment. – Ashwini Walawalkar
What are your thoughts on the existing gender gaps when it comes to large FM corporations?
While talking about the facility management sector from all aspects, it is quite apparent that the nature of job, type of locations and skill sets required are often not suitable for women. Mostly, the locations are remote or isolated, the timings are round the clock and the tasks involve more manual intervention, etc.
At TCFM, we strive to deploy women staff wherever possible, but never at the risk of their safety and protection. Our main agenda is to ensure that our staff has a safe and secure work environment. When this is so, women also find more solace in pursuing their jobs in this field. These are some of the challenges in achieving gender-neutrality in the industry. However, the situation is getting better.
With a vast portfolio, what are the key steps taken by the company to streamline complex processes?
When TCFM was acquired by Embassy Services in 2016, the vision was clear. We had the forethought that there will be a significant demand for skilled professionals in the sector, and the best way to leverage this opportunity would be to establish a competent organisation that focuses on training and development. We have established practical training centres for our staff; this helps us in scaling up our services across the country to a varied clientele.
What technology does TCFM use to manage and monitor its facility’s performance?
Currently, we have about 12 sets of tools under a platform called E-Spectrum. These tools provide assistance for all the 3 layers of FM from the ground teams and supervisory teams, all the way to the executive leadership. These tools enable digitised management of operations in an entirely remote and real-time ecosystem. These tools are integrated to IoT and the cloud to deliver reports and analytics. This further adds value to the system by allowing a data-centric pursuit to facility management.
A facility manager who has several teams and geographies under his portfolio can utilise these tools and observe operations from a central location, thus easing his job to complete numerous tasks.
What challenges have you faced while working at a massive commercial campus or property?
As of now, we are managing a portfolio of over 85 million square feet. Most of this portfolio includes large business parks and commercial offices. One of the main challenges that we confront as an industry is attrition. However, by employing people from the local and surrounding communities and providing them with career development paths, we have made significant contributions to our community at large.
What initiatives has TCFM taken to support local communities and the youth?
We recently launched an NSDC certified FM Skilling programme where we provide certification training to students who have passed out of our CSR sponsored government school. Presently, we are assisting over 1.2 lakh students from over 120 schools in Karnataka.
Upon completion of their course, they are hired at TCFM, where we groom them to take on managerial roles in the future. We already have over 50 such students who are working with us.