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You are being watched!

February 25, 2008 09:01 IST

From CCTV cameras to mobile jammers and perimeter protection equipment, the Indian electronic security market is worth over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion).

Last week, when Ram Swarup -- owner of a mid-sized auto components firm in Pune -- was in a meeting with senior members of his team in the conference room, a cellphone rang and broke the rhythm of a very serious discussion.

This week, a livid Swarup decided to take action when calling for a meeting. Instead of banning mobiles in the conference room, which he felt was not practical, unknown to his team, he used a small device which jammed incoming and outgoing calls within a distance of 10 feet.

Called a 'personal mobile jammer,' and sold by Zicom Electronic Security Systems in India, it costs around Rs 13,000. When activated, it gives cellphone users in the vicinity a 'No service' messages. Cellphone jammers can be used to good effect during board meetings, conferences, and seminars.

"It is not illegal to own a mobile cellular blocker for personal use. But if you are found blocking other peoples cellphones, you may risk prosecution," clarifies Pramoud V Rao, managing director, Zicom.

Personal mobile jammers are only a case in point. Both citizens and firms treasure privacy and want to be secure. Cashing in on this need, electronic security vendors have introduced a host of contraptions which include access controls (like readers and cards), burglar alarm systems for homes and shops, video door phones, closed circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance systems, biometric systems, fingerprint and electronic locks, besides electronic road blockers, automatic licence plate reading system, under-vehicle surveillance systems, tyre killers, automatic sliding gates, and taut wires which can replace electrical fences.

The prices range anywhere between Rs 1,000 for a simple door camera to Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) for perimeter protection equipment.

Electronic surveillance systems find their place in state assemblies, Parliament houses, defense and R&D labs, temples, railway stations, airports and nationally-sensitive locations.

The Thane rural police, for instance, decided to install high-resolution cameras at five toll nakas on two national highways leading out of Mumbai, to track highway dacoits, record pictures of drivers and vehicle number-plates.

The police also plan to install biometric systems to capture the fingerprints of the drivers of all vehicles that pass through these nakas.

The Indian electronic security market in 2007 was estimated to be around $287 million (around Rs 1,150 crore), according to Frost & Sullivan.

Moreover, all the product segments are growing over 20 per cent annually which means big business for firms like Zicom, Siemens, Honeywell, Godrej and Aftek (majority of the other players are in the unorganised sector) which are enhancing their range of electronic contraptions, besides their business plans.

For instance, Zicom expects its turnover to increase to around Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.50 billion) from last financial year's figure of Rs 155 crore (Rs 1.55 billion). It recently entered into a 51:49 joint venture with a Singapore-listed firm CNA to introduce intelligent business management systems in the Indian market.

The JV will either be headed by a Singaporean or Canadian, according to Rao. Zicom has also made an initial investment of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) to manufacture burglar alarm systems in China (Shenzen). Towards this end, it has bought a production line of a Shenzen-based company with which it has a JV agreement.

Godrej & Boyce, too, has big plans in the security arena. The Security Equipment Business group is the largest supplier of security products to the banking industry and public institutions which include the Reserve Bank of India and various nationalised, private, co-operative and multinational banks.

"Our vision is to be 'The First Choice for Total Security Solutions,'" says Mehernosh B Pithawalla, General Manager, Security Equipment Division, Godrej & Boyce.

He adds: "Though we traditionally have physical security offerings like safes and locks which are doing good business -- both in domestic and international markets -- our electronic offerings are growing at a rapid pace too. In fact, we expect this division grow to Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) by 2012 from its current Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) turnover."

DigiHome Solutions, the home automation service arm of Aftek, is in talks with Intel Capital for fund infusion. Aftek has a 25 per cent stake in DigiHome which it plans to jack up to 51 per cent.

DigiHome is expected to provide digital solutions to almost 4,000 flats in financial year 2009, based on its current order book of around Rs 40-50 crore (Rs 400-500 million), according to company sources. It currently provides solutions to around 240 homes in Pune and Bangalore.

The future lies in installing internet protocol (IP) cameras, says Rao. Zicom has already implemented a Rs 10-crore (Rs 100 million) project for Mumbai-based IT firm i-flex. Delhi has installed India's first end-to-end IP solution in an initial implementation that meets all demands of the city surveillance project.

The system allows for archiving and viewing and storage of all video; and the ability to generate alarms for a number of pre-configured events, including illegal lane changes, red-light violations, illegal parking and other traffic events.

And when 3G and WiMax services start in India, security can be enhanced with live streams of video. Bandwidth, however, currently presents one of the main challenges for IP video.

Leslie D'Monte in Mumbai
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