India's private security companies flourish

Published 3 March 2009

As a result of the Mumbai attacks, the Indian private security industry has been growing by leaps and bounds; already the country’s private security force numbers 5 million, 1.3 million more than India’s police forces

As a result of the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year, there is one Indian industry growing in power and influence as the rest grind slowly down: the guarding industry. As the industry expands, Heather Timmons writes in the New York Times, companies want guards to be well-trained and professional and they want them to be armed.

In India, where the country’s police forces are stretched thin with about 1 officer for every 1,000 people, private security guards have stepped into this vacuum and are becoming de facto police officers. Already the country’s private security force numbers 5 million, 1.3 million more than India’s police forces. Arjun Wallia, the chairman and founder of Walsons, an Indian security firm partly owned by Securitas, told the Times that in some areas, the police are “nonexistent.”

This has led to a competitive security market in India, where firms lure young men through the promise of better pay and training. “Only those that deliver well-trained security personnel will survive” in the industry, said Harsh Wardhan, president and chief executive of Terra Force Securities, told the Times.

Before the clamor for improved standards for security guards, young men were recruited at random and thrown a uniform, according to retired colonel J. R. Trikha, executive director of the Central Association of Private Security Industry. Now, young men, mostly recruited from India’s small farming communities, must prove who they are, pass a medical exam, and show they can read and write and do elementary math. Still there are no rigorous investigations into a recruit’s background or character. Security firms argue that now mandatory training courses help weed out the weak and corrupt from the applicants. But young men wishing to become security guards have already likely been passed over by the police or the military but still want the prestige of wearing a uniform, according to the Times.

After training, these young men are relied on not only to provide police-like services, but to become across the board first responders. The Times reports:

In about a month, they are supposed to be able to determine who should and should not enter the malls, corporate office parks, apartment blocks and even public transportation in India’s urban areas. They are also the first on the scene in accidents and fires because fire and ambulance services are slow or nonexistent in many parts of India.

Mathew Harwood writes in Security Management that with so much responsibility, the starting salary of most private security guards is 4,000 rupees, or $82, a month. This means the typical security guard starting out in India will make approximately $984 in a country with a per capita income of $2,900 a year, according to 2008 estimates from the CIA World Factbook