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Decades of dangerous life

K. Satyamurthy

`Industrial security today is more than safeguarding installations and inventory,' says Kadur Venkatesh. — Photo V. Sreenivasa Murthy

What can possibly be similar between fighting militants in the Kashmir Valley and conducting employee fidelity checks for business units? K. Satyamurthy speaks to Kodur Venkatesh, whose Advanced Detectives and Securitas Ltd. provides everything from security solutions to background checks on prospective brides and grooms.

From fighting insurgency with paramilitary forces to tackling urban crime and industrial espionage as the head of one of the largest private security and investigation agencies in the region, Kodur Ventakesh has sailed through decades of a dangerous life. And "with a few bullet injuries to remember what it was like," he says modestly.

His sense of fair play prompts a kind of admiration for those he fought with in Jammu and Kashmir and as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka. "They were brave and highly motivated, good with arms and tactics and true to the cause they believed in," he says.

He still remembers an incident near the line of control in Kashmir when a search for a cache of militant's weapons led to a full-fledged battle. "Eventually, we killed them with their own weapons ... I was among those wounded on our side," he recalls. Then there was a sting operation with the National Security Guard in Punjab. However, here the people were with them and providing VIP security became a little easier.

Fighting militancy in the north-east was rather different. "The people there are so alienated from the rest of the country that they ask you: Are you from India?" The limited family and social life in the armed forces made him seek voluntary discharge after 12 years in service.

"Security agencies are the obvious choice for those leaving the armed services, but I wanted to create something better than what existed at that time ... there were, and still are, too many private security agencies and many are ethical in their operations. I wanted to have a different life and be able to offer more efficient personnel to clients," he explains.

Mr. Venkatesh's Advanced Detectives and Securitas Ltd. has its own training centre where young men and women with the right attitude and aptitude are put through rigorous training. "In some ways they are better than ex-servicemen who have been used to a relatively easier life," he says.

Private investigating agencies have roles other than providing security guards, he explains. He has also come across many cases that deal with drug peddling. There are also many cases of Indian brides being abandoned by their NRI husbands. "For as little as Rs. 500, we can investigate a prospective US-based bridegroom's antecedents, his character and if he is already married ... many heartbreaks can thus be avoided," he says.

Mr. Venkatesh says he is willing to join hands with women's organisations to provide such services at a nominal cost so that young women and their parents do not face a crisis after the wedding. In many countries such investigations of the antecedents of either marital partner have become commonplace.

"Industrial security today is more than safeguarding installations and inventory ... both espionage and sabotage do take place. A rival company sends a qualified person to get a job with another company, only to steal project plans and such valuable information ... we try to investigate employee fidelity," he says. Inside information is also often used by rival bidders to bid at lower rates and clinch an order, he says.

His company is also prepared to assist the traffic police and residents' associations in regulating traffic "at a cost much lower than what a policeman will have to be paid. We also train sniffer dogs to detect explosives, and investigate copyright and patent violations. And all these with well-trained men and women," he says.

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