The rising trend can be judged by the sheer growth in the number of detectives that the country has right now. From around 500 investigators 10 years back, the number has swollen to 15,000 today, says Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of Lancers Network, a risk consulting corporation. And while detectives have helped the companies with information they need for their strategies and survival, this practice has not gone down well with the ethics brigade.
V.M. Pundit, chief executive officer of Multidimensional Management Consultants, a security and investigation company, says these days most companies are allotting sizeable budgets for ‘security purposes’, which include strengthening internal data security measures as well as keeping an eye on the competition.
The sectors that use these services the most are pharmaceutical and FMCG, adds Dinesh Pillai, chief executive officer, Mahindra SSG, since these sectors are such where a single product has the capacity to turn the company’s fortunes around. Blockbuster brands and drugs are known to catapult obscure brands to stardom.
Therefore, it becomes all the more important to protect information. Also, companies in these sectors are most prone to counterfeiting.
These days, most companies have tie-ups with investigative agencies which look into all aspects of a company’s functioning, be it setting up an office in a new area, launching a new product, hiring staff, keeping a tab on the current staff, internal communication, etc, says Singh.
Companies are also seeking background checks before entering into a partnership with other companies, he adds, and often this background check is done by both companies, and surprisingly, even though the companies know about this, they seem unperturbed.
Top company officials, he says, are only happy that a clean record would help them consolidate their footing in the market in the eyes of the competition as well as the customers.
Another common threat to watch out for is moles, says Pundit. According to estimates by his consultancy, as many as 65 per cent of the people who joined a competitor’s company have gone back to the company where they came from, also taking away with them loads of confidential information. He says there are companies that have investigators on the interview board so that moles can be sniffed out.
While detectives say they swear by an ethics code and don’t spy for companies which have the sole intention of knowing the business plans of others and launch a counter-product or service, there are those who allege that the investigators would often dig out confidential information for the sole purpose of making their clients aware of what they were up against. Investigators, however, refute this claim.