From the Editor’s Desk: March 2014

Anxiety looms over India, and as the general elections draw near, we are in a state of suspense. Almost no policy decisions are being taken by the government, while the politicians are busy lobbying for party tickets. They are absent from their offices, striving hard to improve their visibility in their electoral constituencies. The bureaucracy has wilfully stopped functioning and has gone into a type of relaxed holiday mood. They attend offices but do precious little of productive work. The system has gone into limbo!

I asked a prominent security systems integrator, how is business? He responded by saying “Nothing much, just doing some spring cleaning, completing a few sales orders that were in the pipeline and just waiting for the elections to be over.”

It seems that apart from the political parties and people directly related to them, the rest of India too is actually on a self-proclaimed holiday! This may sound funny to the rest of the world, but this is how India behaves and operates prior to each national election!

However, despite the country showing no signs of facing its underlying problems of poor governance, increasing corruption, and political paralysis that has stymied the economy, almost all of us believe that things will take a turn for the better once a new government is established. This positive thinking has characterized India for the past couple of decades. Some time ago, this propensity even led Nielsen Holdings NV, the market information company, to label India as the “world’s most optimistic country!”

We are a strange nation. In spite of having a huge young population coupled with a high unemployment rate, our manned guarding companies are always short of guards. They just cannot attract and retain enough guards. Also, despite India training around a million and a half engineers each year, which is more than the US and China combined, our electronic security industry finds itself short of engineers who are willing to be trained to install and service CCTV cameras, access control systems and intrusion alarms!

As a result, poorly trained guards go about frisking duties in a comic style and wrongly installed CCTV cameras throw up poor quality images with which it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to identify and nail criminals. This aspect has been dealt with in our cover story this month. This leads to loss of image for the entire Private Security Industry and in a sense hampers its own growth.

An article in the New York Times by Joe Nocera caught my attention; he wonders…Is digital technology destroying middle-class jobs? Does it exacerbate income inequality? Does it boost economic growth and productivity – without creating the jobs that ought to come with economic growth? While traditionally, technological innovation has led to creation of more jobs, take for example the discovery of electricity and the invention of the light bulb, researchers are not sure if this will still hold true in the future. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, two economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in their newly published book titled “The Second Machine Age” state, “Rapid and accelerating digitization is likely to bring economic disruption, stemming from the fact that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for some kinds of workers.”

I spoke to the owner of a prominent manned guarding company recently; he was also of the view that in times to come, a guard will get paid as per the skills that he has acquired and leverages to serve the requirements of the end user. “Increasing automation will bring down the head count of the number of security personnel deployed at any site. Customers will rely on technology and processes while demanding improved skills from their security personnel,” he said. Therefore, I strongly believe that the road ahead for the Indian Private Security Industry is the one where employers take cognizance of this trend and set about improving skills of their people, as customers will stop forgiving complacency, while exploring other options available to them.

Till we meet next month, Cheers & Happy Reading,

G B Singh
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