The big business in keeping safe

The devastating terror attacks on several Mumbai landmarks have taken the wind out of the economy and forced many foreign businesses to temporarily shun India. But one sector has never had it so good: the security industry. While most Indian companies are facing bleak times, security firms are having their day in the sun. Anusha Subramanian reports.

The devastating terror attacks on several Mumbai landmarks have taken the wind out of the economy and forced many foreign businesses to temporarily shun India. But one sector has never had it so good: the security industry. The security systems market is seeing an avalanche of requests from companies, hotels and other commercial establishments for systems that can thwart the next potential attack on their establishments.

Rs 4,000 crore and growing: Private security in India
Rs 4,000 crore and growing: Private security in India
Pushing security solutions that range from biometrics to video surveillance, companies like Zicom Electronic Security Systems, TOPSGRUP and Zen Technologies have seen their domestic fortunes skyrocket while the rest of corporate India continues to feel the credit squeeze. Zicom has seen its stock price shoot up 30 per cent in just this last week, while Zen’s shares have climbed 22 per cent.

Security is good business in India, and is rapidly becoming great. According to industry sources, the electronic security systems market in India is worth Rs 1,800 crore and growing at a hefty 30 per cent. TOPSGRUP’s Executive Director Ramesh Iyer estimates the real number for the security market in India to be Rs 4,000 crore if you include human guards, electronic security systems, intelligence systems, fire protection and detection systems. From most accounts, the Mumbai terror attacks have swelled these figures considerably. India is now one of the hottest markets for security products.

This wasn’t always the case. “Between 2001 and 2008, we have seen more than 12 blasts in the country. One would have expected that there should be a demand to increase security. Enquiries have poured in the past as well but nothing really comes of it, says Pramoud Rao, Managing Director, Zicom, who feels that India’s lackadaisical attitude vis-a-vis implementing safety measures has cost it dearly. “We are fundamentally not a security conscious culture. Until one actually experiences a threat, there is a tendency to not take security seriously,” he adds. TOPSGRUP’s Iyer, concurs, blaming the mindset of Indians for looking at security as more of “an expenditure rather than an investment”.

All that has changed with lightning speed in just a week. From BPO companies to banks, corporate entities are scrambling to upgrade their existing security systems or install new, state-of-the-art ones. Almost immediately after the Mumbai attacks, Zicom was awarded a first of its kind wireless “city surveillance” project to be executed in 48 strategic locations in Gurgaon.

The project consists of 148 highly sensitive CCTV cameras with pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) features on a Wi-Max network. The most important feature of this wireless city surveillance project is the video analytics software that will transmit automated notifications to the authorities in areas such as number plate recognition, over crowding in a pre-defined area, parking in no-parking zones, and identifying people lingering on in “detection regions” for longer than the predefined time. Zicom has also just received a large order from a national bank to set up security systems across all its branches in the country.

One company that stands to benefit in a big way from government contracts for its securityrelated products is Hyderabadbased Zen Technologies. Zen is one of the leading outfits in the design, development and manufacture of world class, state-of-theart training simulators. Ashok Atluri, Chairman, Zen Technologies, says: “Government was already planning to procure systems that would prepare the security forces for such attacks. The plans may well be expedited now.”

 Mumbai beefs up its security

Several companies and public places in Mumbai have already begun the process of a complete overhaul of their security systems. Siddhivinayak Temple, one of the most crowded religious sites in Mumbai, is revamping its security infrastructure by installing more CCTVs, metal detectors and X-Ray baggage machines. HSBC Bank has stepped up the hiring of security guards and is also undertaking a thorough systems overhaul. FirstSource, one of India’s leading BPOs, as well as Mumbai’s Intercontinental Hotel, have done the same. A famous hotel on the outskirts of the western suburbs of Mumbai is understood to have asked for an additional 30 guards. A nationalised bank, which had very lax security in place, has now been galvanised into action, installing a top-notch security system in its branches across the country.

Zen was the first company in India to commercialise PC-based visual simulation technology for small arms training simulators. These simulators enable the use of direct fire weapons, including rocket launchers in simulated real world scenarios. These simulators are provided by the company to Indian security forces. Attempting to predict future terror attacks can be a morbid preoccupation. Still, doing so while taking proper security safeguards can both end up saving lives as well as padding the coffers of those hired to protect you.