Security firms in demand in India following terror attack

A SHAKEN and stirred India Inc is scrambling for a terror shield in the aftermath of the 26/11 carnage. What's worse, with more and more Indian cities finding themselves on terrorists' radars, corporate India is pressing the panic button, injecting huge funds into beefing up security in offices and factories.

The panic began soon after the Mumbai bloodbath during which terrorists left 180 dead and hundreds wounded in India's commercial capital. Companies responded immediately by rejigging their senior executives' travel plans and postponing or scrapping scheduled public events and conferences.

Management consulting firm KPMG, for instance, has postponed its international conference 'India Goes Global - A World of Opportunity', scheduled to be held in Chennai and Mumbai this week.

Many top hotels too have deferred their promotional events. Says the general manager of a leading five-star hotel: 'The company has taken a collective decision to lie low for a while. We have postponed all celebrations and events.'

Unlike earlier, many five-star hotels - famous bastions for the cash-lush to tie the knot - are also turning down requests to host weddings.

'It becomes tough to monitor security arrangements during such events. So until such time that we're comfortable handling crowds, we'll not be hosting weddings,' says a hotel manager.

This move will obviously impact hotel revenues as the wedding segment makes up a sizeable chunk of their business, especially from October to March, considered prime season for the Big Fat Indian Wedding!

On the contrary, hotels have been beefing up their security, forking out hundreds of thousands for new, more sophisticated security measures - gun-toting guards, metal detectors, frisking equipment and other sundry gadgets to forestall terror attacks.

Ditto banks, hotels, cinema halls and malls across the country. Multinational companies too are apprehensive about the security environment in the country and are taking measures to protect themselves.

In fact, the terror attacks have brought about a paradigm shift in how security personnel are viewed and how security arrangements ought to be re-assessed in offices and factories. In the last few years, private security business in India has become a 250 billion rupee (S $7.6 billion) industry, growing 25 per cent annually and employing 5.5 million people.

But post-26/11, this sector is poised to grow exponentially. Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI), said: 'Nine big foreign companies are looking for joint ventures in India and big corporates are planning to start their own private security agencies.'

Mr Singh added that big corporates are now contacting security companies to get their risk analyses done and then put in place relevant safety measures. 'Security is no longer being viewed as an expense but an investment.'

Ergo, bomb-detection kits, executive protection, bullet-proofing of installations and vigilance staff apart from armed guards are all kosher in this new war against terror.

With India Inc in a panic grip, the business of security agencies has ratcheted up almost overnight. Said Ramesh Iyer, executive director of the Mumbai-based Tops Security Ltd, which has 45,000 personnel employed pan-India: 'Nearly 500 of our corporate clients want terror protection. And we'll soon be launching a terror-protection package.'

Due to India's increased vulnerability to terrorism, international security companies too have begun eyeing the country as a huge potential market. A slew of them - Beni Tal Security (BTS) from Israel, Aegis, a London-based security agency and ADT of South Africa, for instance - are already negotiating with Indian companies to provide security solutions to them.