Jasbir Singh Solanki_Project Security_ProjectsMonitor— Lt. Cdr Jasbir Singh Solanki, Head – Critical Infrastructure Group, Mahindra SSG

Mahindra Special Services Group, a strategic business unit of the $15.9-billion Mahindra Group, is a leading corporate security risk consulting firm that helps organisations reduce risk and enhance competitive advantage. It is engaged in information security, cyber security, physical security, disaster management and fraud investigation. Lt. Cdr Jasbir Singh Solanki spoke to Sandeep Menezes on the critical need for security solutions in industry and infrastructure segments.

What is the current size of the security solutions market in India? What is the expected growth in this sector?
The total market-size of homeland security is Rs.50,000 crore which includes homeland security, police modernisation programme, border management and other components. If you only consider critical infrastructure security which will include power plants including nuclear plants, steel plants, airports etc., it ranges somewhere between Rs.12,000 crore and Rs.15,000 crore. But it depends because, currently, most projects are getting delayed and their managements are not ready to make the security-related investments. Sometimes managements are not sure how much they need to spend on security. For instance, there may be two steel plants beside each other. While one steel plant is spending nearly 1 per cent of project value on security, the other steel plant is not bothered about security or maybe investing only 0.1 per cent of project value on security.

Out of the Rs.12,000-15,000 crore critical infrastructure security market, how much is likely to come from government and private sector projects?
The major growth requirements will come from both government and private sector. It will come from government side because it has large assets spread across India and the threat to government facilities is more compared to private sector.

The challenge to private sector comes when they have steel plants in states like Jharkhand and Odisha. Without security systems in such locations, their plants will not work. When major critical infrastructure is in disturbed areas, then private sector is ready to invest in security.

Aren’t security-related costs an additional burden that will add to the overall cost of project and delay financial closure?
When people are conceiving projects they should consider security as part of their insurance programme and include it in budget estimation. If they don’t spend 1 per cent of project value on security then they will have issues later. Project security is itself a huge challenge because lots of issues happen during project execution such as material theft, someone getting killed at site, and riots. This impacts the project badly since a lot of time, cost and infrastructure is wasted.

There are hundreds of power plants, steel plants, airports etc., and every one of these need to have their own security systems. Since there are no government guidelines on security-related issues, some managements are doing it on their own while others are ignoring it.

Most critical infrastructure being built is government initiated. How can these projects consider security-related expenditure?
This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Indian chief security officers are not aware of the technical requirements of a project. It is a vendor driven market in India. Therefore, the vendor goes and starts educating these people to push their specifications and requirements without a holistic risk assessment.

For example, at Delhi Railway Station there are two huge scanners in front of the station. The x-ray and baggage scanner vendor may have gone and convinced the chief general manager of the Railways that all airports have scanners so why can’t railway stations have scanners too. It got approved and public money was spent on these scanners. Now there are 100 different ways to enter the railway station. Even if one intends to plant a bomb in that station, there are 99 different ways to enter it. Therefore, you can’t apply the rules of airport security to railway stations. There are many gaps and there is no holistic approach to security.

So what is the solution?
Proper risk assessment of the facility needs to be done, to identify the type of threats being faced and which of them can be mitigated, then identify the controls to be implemented. Those controls can be in the form of guards, type of response mechanisms and standard operating procedures to be followed. The selection of right technology and right mix of people and processes with an integrated approach is important.

Do you see increasing awareness about security among project developers?
There is awareness amongst project developers that they need to go in for security. This is especially so in private sector which is aware that it has to plan for security at the development stage itself.

But the important aspect is that they should have professional people within their organisation to design security systems or do risk assessments. Else, they should hire the services of security consultants who will help them take a systematic approach.

Is cost the sole determining factor for the security needs of Indian industry and infrastructure?
Absolutely. There are two types of customers that I have faced. The first type is very cost conscious. Though they say at the start that they want the best security system in the world and not to worry about cost, when it comes to selection of a system integrator they insist on cutting this solution or removing that thing; then we have to start cutting down the requirements which disturbs the entire system because if you take out one component of integrated security solution, the risk level goes up.

The second type of customer has the right budget and is ready to spend good amount of money on security but the challenge in the market is that there are no good system integrators who can deliver a project at the right cost, right quality and right time.


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