Raj Pillai

Chief Technology Officer – JMC Projects

“Taking care of every employee’s emotional and physical health is one of the crucial duties of a great leader.”, says Raj Pillai from JMC Projects

Humble beginning that led to a fulfilling career

Raj Pillai, Chief Technology Officer at JMC Projects, faced a lot of pressure from his parents as a young boy to study computer engineering. Raj was a meritorious student — he had two offers from prominent universities in India, IIT Delhi and BIT Bangalore. He followed the will of his dad and chose to study computer science at BIT Bangalore. Raj had a keen interest in material engineering and thus, he proposed an offer to his friend to exchange their courses. This is how he made a shift in careers .and became what he is today.

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After his 4-year civil engineering, Mr. Pillai was offered a job role of a civil engineer at L&T, a multinational conglomerate, in 1988. L&T gave wings to his career. In the span of his 30-year tenure at L&T, Raj has worked at some of the leading construction companies such as Fletcher Challenge New Zealand (1995-2001), RMC Readymix India Ltd (2001-2010), Sobha Ltd. (2010-2017), Starworth Infrastructure and Construction (2017-2021) and is presently the <insert designation> at JMC Projects, since 2021.

He has been awarded the Vishwakarma award for the best technologist in India, as a token of appreciation for a pioneering mindset and for a stellar career, spent contributing to the country’s architectural landscape.

Core Philosophies as an Industry Expert


“There is no substitution for hard work.”

Even after having a prolific career, Mr. Pillai recounts days when he worked days and nights on projects, several days a month. And not only that, he recalls a time when he had to fly to different cities almost every day. He was flying 20 – 25 times a month. So, as life experiences taught our esteemed speaker, no one can hope to excel in their career if they don’t want to work hard. No matter how successful you become, doing a good job is always hard work.

“Learn from the impact of the people you work with.”

Raj feels like his life has been a roller coaster ride and his exceptionally long tenure at multiple architectural firms have taught him quite a lesson or two. There are always going to be your bosses, no matter what job or profession you have; he advises that one should learn from them. One should learn their ways of working, and the ways that they have built their respective careers. According to him, everyone we meet has a different approach toward life and we can learn a lot from them.

One such experience that taught him a great deal happened when he was working at L&T. His senior from a different country took him to the site and they thoroughly inspected the wet concrete through touch to gain the feel of the material. This taught him that seniority doesn’t have anything to do with hands-on experience. One should always be ready to do what it takes to get a job done!

“The world is dynamic; one should change with the world.”

Mr. Pillai believes that the world is dynamic, and every sector is changing rapidly. No matter who you are professionally, you may fail in your career if you don’t adapt to the changes in the industry. One should always be self-aware if they are sticking to their old beliefs or doing things the new way, at par with the rest of the world.

“Never compromise with your integrity.”

Our esteemed speaker shares that everyone gets an opportunity, at least once in their career — to do something profitable for their own selves but at the risk of causing great damage to one’s reputation and the work that one is involved in. His advice is to always deny such advances. He once encountered such an option, where he was offered a bribe indirectly. However, Raj recounts that he remained true to himself and rejected this person’s advances by saying, “I wish they would name MG Road in Bangalore after me.”

Conceptual Implementation that has Positively Impacted the Team

Raj has never been a huge fan of the indirect work approach or the hierarchy system. He has worked on some of the most challenging projects such as ready-made concrete mix, and pre-cast construction. India is the toughest market to enter, according to Mr. Pillai. It is very difficult to change an Indian’s thought processes. To circumvent troubles later on in a project, Raj used to bring his clients to the work site and show them how the pre-cast is going to be produced and how the projects will take shape in order to win their trust.

According to Mr. Pillai, the customer is very smart, and they look for differentiators. In huge projects, money or pricing is certainly not the thing that the customer worries about. It is all about the value that all the engineers bring to the table — not one or a few, but all of them. Everyone on the team must focus on bringing maximum value to the money of their customer.

Challenges Faced in the Grind

As our esteemed speaker said earlier, Indians tend to stick to the mindset and it is very difficult to change them. One needs to be very persuasive to bring changes in society. While working with RMC, he faced many problems in making vendors and contractors opt for ready-mix concrete, but he still pushed for it since, that’s the new technology and that is how the world is presently constructing buildings.

Joining Sobha Ltd. as an executive director, and leading the pre-cast project, now known as Sobha Dream Acre, he remembers living through some of his most challenging days, professionally. However, he tried to do his best to incorporate as much of modern architectural and construction norms as he could. He believes that in the next few decades, his struggles may actually help build with advanced technologies and using best-in-market products. His focus would however be, to change the construction norms and try to educate builders and contractors about precast, and also how this can increase their overall productivity and provide better results.

Suggestions to Vendors and Contractors

It’s more of a complaint that Indian vendors and contractors are impervious to change and absolutely oblivious to the benefits of these changes. To be candid, Mr. Pillai recounts, they are more focused on delivering the cheapest product in the market instead of delivering optimum value for the money. The builders and contractors in the country need to work the way the world does, and adopt an adaptive mindset, otherwise, they may very well risk being left behind.

A Note on Good Leadership

A good leader doesn’t just pass the orders and expect the work to get done, according to our esteemed speaker. One should be involved in the activities of one’s employees to execute actions with better results. A leader should also be kind. Being a leader doesn’t mean one has the right to behave badly with their employees; taking care of the physical and mental well-being of one’s employees also counts as one of the crucial duties of a great leader.

Mr. Raj Pillai believes that if the above two qualities are there in a person, then he is naturally a good leader as these are the two most important traits of a leader.