Enjoying a sumptuous meal in the home of the Afghanistan President still brings a smile to the face of Bollineni Krishnaiah. He knows the country well and easily speaks of distances between cities or the difficulty in transporting goods. To Krishnaiah's credit, BSCPL Infrastructure, the company where he is the Chairman, is a well-known name in Afghanistan.
The first project that he clinched was laying the road from Kabul to Kandahar. Of the total 360 km stretch that went to four companies -- of which three were from Turkey -- Krishnaiah's chunk was 85 km. It took the Hyderabad-based BSCPL about a year to finish it and that immediately made an impression. The celebratory dinner took him to the President's palace where he joined another 100 dignitaries. "It was a very big moment and eating Indian food was a nice experience," says the soft-spoken Krishnaiah in an exclusive chat with Business Today.
Word about his work spread, thanks to the network of consultants and that landed him the project. That was in 2003 and for the next 8-9 years, the workflow never abated. Seven more roads were laid, though the big moment was the contract for the parliament building in Kabul. "It took us over five years but that was special," he admits. The size of that contract was around Rs 850 crore and the total value of business generated by BSCPL in Afghanistan has been Rs 2,300 crore. Another high point was building the Indian Embassy. "It was bombed in 2008 and rebuilding it was a different experience."
Understandably, Krishnaiah is concerned about the crisis in Afghanistan. "It was always a challenge but never this bad. Our work started slowing down in 2013 and the signs looked quite bad even then," he explains. Till then, he had 60-70 of his own staff stationed there, apart from the locals who had been trained. Even in the early phase, there was trouble when two employees (both from Andhra Pradesh) were kidnapped and later killed. "It got steadily worse when cars were stolen and critical machinery was burnt. We could not deal with so many things," recalls Krishnaiah with regret.
Apart from having travelled to Afghanistan several times, the bond of friendship too strengthened. One local was flown into India for a heart surgery that went off well. BSCPL also set up a diabetic centre in Kabul through a partnership. That was, of course, then and today's narrative makes for a terrible story. Krishnaiah is not hopeful of business fortunes picking up anytime soon and maintains a lot of other things need to be in place. "You cannot work in fear. That has to change but a lot of time will go into it," he says, more out of hope than optimism. Safety first before business is the sad tale in today's Afghanistan.
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