With thirty years of experience on complex and sophisticated projects in and around New York City, Kanta Electric’s knowledge of the electrical industry is strong and varied. This leader in electrical contracting prides itself on state-of-the-art power and electric solutions, meeting the diverse needs of New York’s leading public and private sector clients, while its broad business experience means superior electrical and power services for numerous high-profile projects.
And no one can attest to this knowledge and accumulated skill better than Assistant Controller and second generation employee Parag Kapadia, whose father, Prakash, founded the company in 1991. Kanta Electric remains one of New York’s leading electrical contractors, founded on the premise and promise of providing innovation and integrity, with a proven track record.
“Through decades of practice, we have acquired invaluable experience and knowledge working with primarily public works contracts, including every NYC public agency and authority,” says Kapadia.
This certified minority-owned business has provided expert electrical solutions to the New York area, spanning multiple market sectors including commercial office buildings, high-rise residential buildings, hospitals and health facilities, cultural and educational institutions, environmental facilities and aviation and airport facilities, and the installation of the very first wind and solar farm in New York City at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Kanta also offers expertise in electric related systems, power distribution systems, HVAC control wiring, installation of communications systems, solar, wind and alternative energy systems, and much more.
Kanta will tackle a big project this year with the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel), rehabilitating the ventilation and fixed fire suppression systems, and replacing exhaust fans and motors. This marks the first time Kanta has worked for a NYC transit agency, the TBTA (Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority).
“It’s very exciting for us,” says Kapadia. “Expanding within public contracting and into another agency — it’s a major milestone for us.”
Every agency or authority within the public agency of government contracting operates on separate procedures, so for Kanta to move into this agency with this level of work is impressive.
“It’s a big accomplishment, and hopefully will open doors to more work in transit agencies.”
Following a brief foray into the private sector, Kapadia says the company, while successful, realized fairly quickly the public sector is its bread and butter, and will continue to operate most successfully there for now. However, growth is essential for any business.
“In the next 10 years we will focus on public works space, embracing the scope and room to expand with other agencies,” says Kapadia. “For a brief one-year period we stepped outside of that zone and we realized while we had success, it would take much longer to develop there.”
The public sector is more transparent and easier to navigate, says Kapadia, while navigating the private sector is complex and would take too many years to establish a proper foothold.
“It’s definitely an investment in time,” he says. “We made the decision to do it, and then collectively made the decision to move out at the right time as well. That’s a strength for us, having the experience and knowledge to say we tried it and it didn’t work, and then moving on. We made money, but it wasn’t what we wanted, though we may still consider it in the future.”
Kapadia attributes the company’s ongoing success and business decisions to a number of factors, one of which is the strong connection between staff and employees.
“I think as a second generation contractor in NYC, our success comes from maintaining a strong sense of family,” he says. “My father is president and started the company, my brother and I run the company together, and our employees are family to us. We have a low turnover rate, and some key people have been with us since the beginning, contributing to our ongoing success.”
These people, he says, help with core decisions that need to be made on a daily basis.
“We face decisions for projects every day, but it’s how you navigate those decisions that helps ultimately deliver the project successfully,” he says. “We take great pride in our relationships we establish with our customers.”
Government work can mean repeat work, he says. While you can lose a project, if you have an established work record and you’re competitive, you can still be considered over another firm. This strong ethic lends itself to repeat work with customers who like to see Kanta on their projects.
“We’re technically good and we often get the job done ahead of time,” Kapadia says. “We sit down with customers and tell them there’s a better way to do things. We evaluate using means and methods, and provide value engineering. We’re technical experts, saving customers labour and time, with a more efficient way to approach something.”
Kapadia says Kanta has offered literally thousands of hours of labour and savings to its customers, both private and public, over the years, on numerous projects.
“If a company helps them achieve that kind of savings, they love that. We try to provide value engineering where and when we can, and our customers appreciate that a lot.”
Operating in New York City isn’t easy, however, and the highly competitive landscape found in NYC comes with many challenges with market and real estate, and the high cost of doing business in NYC.
“In the past five to seven years, the insurance industry has also become lopsided and dangerously expensive, almost prohibitively so,” he says, with many contractors finding it impossible to work there because of labour laws that impose total liability on construction employers when employees are injured.
The Scaffolding Law is a frustration across the board for companies working within the city, he says, and one they’re eager to amend, though changes are slow to come.
“We’ll continue to focus on safety and working and growing, but a lot of contractors find it difficult.”
Other obstacles faced include the rising cost of labour and materials, environmental concerns, and the unpredictability of weather patterns coupled with climate change that can play havoc with the construction industry. Kapadia says severe weather has a direct impact on any construction projects, resulting in potential loss in productivity, delays and sometimes destruction.
“It’s always a concern, and something we keep our eye on. We work around it, or work it into our overall cost.”
Hurricane Sandy, for instance, caused massive power outages all over the city in 2012, and many public housing developments were severely impacted, losing power for numerous weeks. Kanta worked on the Sandy Recovery program, upgrading electrical infrastructure to help provide security and stability for future storms.
“Those concerns are there and have always been there, but are sharper and more defined now,” he says. “But we still find ways to try to get ahead of the curve, stay busy and stay working.”
When it comes to giving back to the community, Kanta has worked now for several summers with the NYC department of education’s summer youth employment program, partnering students from local high schools interested in engineering or architecture with local companies, including construction.
“Every summer we work with students, getting them involved with the work a little bit. It’s a good way for them to get exposure to the real world,” he says, as many of the students go on to engineering programs. “We give them a little bit of exposure and experience which is an eye-opening experience for them.”
Kapadia says looking ahead to the next ten years, Kanta plans to continue expanding in the public contracting space, with Federal government contracting work as a goal. In the meantime, they will embrace their strengths and continue to make customers and employees their top priority.
“When you come from a place of strength within the family with a tight-knit family enterprise that helps with everything,” he says. “We’re not surrounded by ‘yes men,’ and there’s healthy debate about what needs to be done. At the end of the day we walk away as a family. That’s our organizational structure, and that helps a lot, knowing what your strengths are and expanding on those strengths.”