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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Playing I-spy: DIY e-surveillance biz booms

The elevator of the starred Goa hotel where Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal allegedly sexually assaulted a junior colleague may not have had a CCTV installed but that's almost a rarity today. 

    India's electronic surveillance market—currently pegged at Rs 10 billion — is growing at a rate of 25% per year as an increasing number of people across the country opt for DIY surveillance. 
    Cameras are being installed everywhere — outside buildings to prevent burglaries, in cars to keep track of whether the chauffeur is giving unauthorized lifts, inside 
homes so that people can keep an eye on everyone from nannies to grannies. Even the pet dog has a watchful eye on him, as does the teen in the house. When it comes to security, privacy concerns go out the window—the one with the CCTV attached. 
    In Delhi, 46-year-old Varsha Singh (name changed) 
has installed seven cameras in her south Delhi bungalow to monitor four domestic staff. "They keep chatting all day or dry wet clothes on the gas stove instead of using a clothes iron," says Singh, who runs a business along with her husband. Move over watchmen, e-surveillance is here 
    Singh now obsessively checks real time footage on her mobile phone. (Security cameras can be connected to various electronic devices, like mobile phones, tablets and laptops). "If the network is down and I can't see the feed I get very anxious," Singh adds. 
    Two recent high-profile Delhi crime cases indicate the extent to which surveillance cameras have taken over our lives. One was the extensive monitoring of the movements of her domestic staff by Dr Jagriti Singh, the dentist wife of a BSP MLA, accused of beating a maid to death. The cameras of course also ended up capturing her reported brutality. Then 
there was the mysterious case of the suicide-murder in the home of bureaucrat K Vijay Kumar and wife Sitha in their Kaka Nagar home. Their home too had been reportedly fitted with several CCTV cameras. 
    Whatever the reason, urban paranoia is pushing up the sales of surveillance kits. "Security has emerged as a major concern across the country. People no longer rely on just the watchman. In fact, he is the first person to be blamed whenever there's a break-in or a burglary," says Marzin Shroff, CEO direct sales, and senior VP marketing, Eureka Forbes. The company's security solutions' vertical is growing at 40% year on year, he says. 
    The increase in nuclear 
families and disconnect from neighbours has also meant greater anxiety about safety issues. The neighbourhood is no longer a place where every face is familiar, and the dependence on domestic help has also gone up. 
    Two years ago, Griboshin VC, a general manager with a media firm in Mumbai, installed a security camera in his apartment to keep an eye on the nanny taking care of his young son, who is now four. Going through camera recordings one day, Griboshin discovered that the woman had invited an unknown person into their apartment. 
    "I was out of town at the time but I came back at once and asked her to leave the next day," he says. Since he and his researcher wife fre
quently travel for work, the camera helps them keep tabs on the help. 
    "Home security cameras can be very useful," says Sanket Shah, managing director of Mumbai-based Y-Cam India Private Limited that sells close to 5,000 pieces a year. Installing four cameras – usually enough for a house — costs around Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000. "In the last four years, we have noticed a spike in sales to homeowners who are looking for modern and intelligent security solutions," says Mehernosh Pithawalla, marketing head of Godrej Security Solutions. 
    Apart from cameras, video door phones and access control systems let users keep a better eye on their homes. "Motion detectors in 
cameras alert you about any major movement. The camera takes a snapshot of the movement and immediately emails it to you. This way you are alerted if someone has had a fall at home or if an elderly person with Alzhemier's walks out of the door," says Shah. 
    Aditya Kaul, director of Tranceorigin Electronics Pvt Ltd and India distributer of Schwarzadler surveillance equipment, installs around 750 surveillance cameras in residences in Delhi and NCR in a month. He says besides homes, those with expensive cars ask for cameras to be fitted in their vehicles. "They want to ensure that their drivers don't pick up passengers for money on longer routes or pilfer fuel," he says.

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