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Private detectives: In the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes

With political, economic and common criminality on the upswing, this ill wind is blowing well for the new genre of private detectives whose number is multiplying countrywide.

Though crime detection and unmasking of the ungodly as a career fitted the legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes as naturally as his cape and deer-stalker cap, like Holmes, the contemporary sleuth requires an inquisitive nose, an analytical mindset, an eye for detail and increasingly technophilia, to succeed in the gumshoeing business. For people with these skill sets sleuthing could prove to be a challenging and profitable 21st century career.

Regrettably political, economic, and common criminality is on the upswing. But this ill wind is blowing well for the rapidly multiplying number of private detective agencies countrywide. During the past decade in particular, detective agencies have proliferated particularly in metros like Mumbai, where the market for detective services is growing fast and margins are high despite intensifying competition. Currently 50 Mumbai-based detective agencies have established Internet websites.

The work of detective agencies, which record an aggregate business revenue estimated at Rs.1,200 crore annually, is becoming increasingly diverse. Though they continue to discharge their traditional functions — tracing missing persons, shadowing suspect spouses, investigating the histories of prospective business partners and post-marital cases for determining alimony — their corporate client portfolios are becoming incrementally important. Increasingly, private detectives are being engaged to investigate business fraud, keep an eye on employees, check prospective employees, track loan defaulters, verify the assets of prospective acquisitions, and ascertain the credibility of Indian companies with whom offshore multinationals are contemplating collaboration. Moreover offshore employers frequently use Indian agencies to verify Indian job applicants backgrounds and qualifications.

SLUETHING ACTIVITIES. Tremendous growth in this line of business is in the offing given the continuous erosion of moral values in society, business, and industry. The belated dawning of the consumer age and the consequent desire to get rich quick has led to a sharp increase in fraud crimes which has increased the workload of detective agencies. And with police personnel becoming increasingly apathetic, private agencies will continue to mushroom,” predicts ace detective Vivek Kumar, managing director of the oldest private detective firm in the country, Globe Detective Agency (P) Ltd. As managing director Kumar supervises the sleuthing activities of the agency across India.

Established in 1960, Globe Detective Agency has a registered office in Delhi, a corporate office in Bangalore, its western zone, and national headquarters in Mumbai and 20 branch offices across India covering all metros and major towns. Over the past 48 years we have evolved our own style and systems of data collection and case summaries. Essentially we gather information and data which our clients cannot acquire themselves. And its a measure of our efficiency that the majority in our growing client list are long-standing repeat customers,” says Kumar.

After completing higher secondary education from St. Xaviers High School, Mumbai, in 1979, Kumar signed up with Globe. Today he is a member of the Council of Inter-national Investiga-tors, USA; Central Association of Private Security Industry, USA; and the World Association of Detectives, USA.

With over a decades experience in the sleuthing business, Kumar believes this is a viable career option which needs the support of society and Indian industry in particular. In his opinion the qualities and aptitude required for success in this off-the-beaten track profession are a graduate degree, an eye for detail, common sense, the ability to grasp developments quickly, presence of mind, patience, and self-confidence. Having knowledge of languages, photography, and driving are all additional skills of a good investigator. In western countries, there are private academies to train detectives. For example, Scotland is famous for such academies where students are trained to become detectives. Unfortunately in India, theres no institution providing formal training in crime detection. All thats available is on-the-job training,” laments Kumar.

According to him, currently Globe has 800 private investigators on its payroll. And contrary to the norm in the service sector, the pay is good.

Within two-three years a junior detective can earn over Rs.20,000 per month and at the senior level, over Rs.50,000. We need many more youngsters to view crime detection as a serious profession. True, detective work can be hard and often dangerous, but it can be very interesting because it is varied and mentally stimulating. Earlier, not many people wanted to join a detective agency. Today, being a private detective is considered to be a respectable as well as a well-paid profession. For youth, among exciting and stimulating careers, this might be just the job. However, theres a need for formal education in this field to attract more talent. The main users of our services — corporates — need to get together and promote an academy to provide formal training and skills to aspiring detectives. This will popularise this career option,” says Kumar.

Zooming crime graphs in urban cities, even if not in rural India as yet, are evidence of the nations under-trained and ill-educated keystone cops inability to cope with the newly emergent tribe of sophisticated criminals. Therefore, the obvious antidote to the rising tide of criminality is a supplementary law and order force. Enter the new genre of private detectives.

May their tribe increase.

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