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Rediff.com  » Business » There's no business like security business

There's no business like security business

January 03, 2008 10:50 IST

Detection and surveillance solutions -- from biometrics, video surveillance to biologic/explosive/hazard sensors -- continue to gain momentum, given the increased public and government attention to the potential threat of terrorism.

No surprise then that systems like background screening, data analytics, biometrics, digital video and sensor-based detection have become major security investment themes in recent times.

The Indian security market is close to $187 million and is expected to grow approximately by 25 per cent this fiscal. The total imports are estimated to be around $120 million in this financial year.

Surveillance equipment are most popular in the security gadgets segment, followed by access control and alarm systems.

Smart card technology, being hailed as a boon in the world of networking, is being adopted by the Indian government to enhance transparency and accountability in their systems.

Besides SIM cards, driving licences and vehicle registration certificates are expected to increase the demand for smart cards drastically.

The market for electronic security equipment (alarms, access controls and CCTVs etc) in India is expected to grow at 25-30 per cent in the next 5-10 years. The corporate and retail sectors are the major strength behind this.

The mushrooming of MNCs in various sectors has catalysed the growth process as most companies consider automated security systems a necessity. The rising number of malls is the second factor behind its growth.

However, the market for electronic security products remains largely unorganised and is flooded with inferior products from Taiwan, China and countries in South-East Asia. These products score in terms of price, which established players find hard to compete on.

Moreover, the electronic security market remains largely dependent on imports. Despite India's expertise in software engineering, the country is essentially an import market in this field with almost no local production. This is because most Indian firms have small-scale operations.

Anant Maheshwari, director, Honeywell Security, says: "Most security-related technologies and product developments have been done by global companies due to the need for large-scale product and technology development. This concentration of domain knowledge and the need for global scale make it unviable for new entities to invest in development from scratch and also unviable to match the comparatively large outlays required for product development."

Honeywell Security is a business unit of Honeywell International's Automation and Control Solutions group, a leading global supplier of electronic security systems. The company has been roped in to provide security cover for the much-awaited Beijing Olympics.

But there are some impediments which are bogging the security gadgets industry down. The market is very disorganised. Organised players comprise only 20 per cent of the market but account for 80 per cent of the revenue. Lack of sufficient knowledge is also a drawback.

Fire and security systems on average only account for 5 per cent of the total building budget. But how many in the business of building management consider it? Maheshwari feels that the absence of regulatory guidelines for security products is one of the biggest deterrents currently.

"Also, while technology is evolving and products having better features and graphic user interface are being introduced, a proper operation of security systems is still dependent on human interface; lack of trained resource pool or facilities to create the requisite trained manpower is a huge lacuna," he says.

However, with the participation of major foreign players, like Honeywell, Tyco, Cisco International and others, the industry can look forward to becoming an organised market soon.

The industry players feel that there is a need for reduction in duties and tariffs. Although Customs duty on the import of security-related items has been relaxed, import tariffs and local taxes remain high as compared to other countries.

Seema Sindhu in New Delhi
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