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Security: Have you got your biometric card yet?

india Updated: Dec 13, 2008 20:59 IST
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Ritesh Jain is the director of a Noida-based security agency that had so far relied mostly on deploying unskilled, migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as guards at apartments and offices in the National Capital Region.

Lately, Jain has switched gears. He now helps clients install surveillance devices at home and offices. And he now hires only graduates. “You need to be ahead of the market and position yourself correctly,” says Jain, confident that his investment will pay off.

The surge in terror attacks across the country in recent years — it has hit a record in 2008 — has put the spotlight on security, forcing companies and individuals to step up spending on everything from personnel to equipment and intelligence.

The result: the security services business is booming. Agencies like Group4 Securitas and SIS are hiring in thousands every month; companies like Zicom Electronic Security Systems are winning new orders; retired security officials are in demand for consulting and supervisory services.

The total homeland security spending in India is estimated to touch Rs 50,000 crore by 2016, of which a third will go towards securing the country’s airports, predicted consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in a report released days after the Mumbai attacks.

Both obtrusive (physical) and non-obtrusive (surveillance and access control) forms of security will see enhanced investments, says Ratan Shrivastava, a senior analyst at Frost and Sullivan. “There is huge scope for commoditised security items like biometric cards as companies will increasingly use them,” he says.

The government will also need to increase its spending on paramilitary agencies like the Central Industrial Security Force, Border Security Force and Railway Protection Force. Mega events like the ICL and IPL, cricket tournaments would also require bigger security cover.

A survey carried out by the Mahindra Special Services Group has showed that while a majority of companies — about 97 per cent — view security as an area of increasing priority in the future, very few have taken any concrete steps.

“The common reaction has been to employ more guards and install more gadgets like CCTVs,” says Raghu Raman, CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group. This, he says, “is akin to going through the motions but leads only to nuisance value, being more of a knee-jerk reaction to the last attack. Security should be viewed in a strategic manner, as a hygiene factor, and not as a cost factor.”

Sensing this shift, companies like Telesoft Technologies are pitching their products to the Indian market. The US company claims its mobile network monitoring technology “helps intelligence and law enforcement agencies nip the nefarious design of terrorists in the bud.” The technology can be used to trace whereabouts of mobile users and their movement within the network area.

There are also concerns over cyber security, which tend to get heightened in times of job cuts, as aggrieved employees become a potential source of threat to the companies’ security information technology systems.