Rituraj Sinha, Group Managing Director of the SIS Group joined NewsX for an exclusive chat in its special segment NewsX A-List. SIS Group Enterprise is a private security firm in India, Australia and New Zealand. It was set up in 1985, one of the largest manpower security firms in the Asia-Pacific region

Addressing the global Coronavirus pandemic and its effect on his sector, Rituraj said, ” On 24th of March, Government of India declared private security and cash logistics as essential services, along with the likes of banks and healthcare establishments and e-commerce, etc. So we’ve largely continued to operate through the first quarter, which is the April May June period. Resultantly, in terms of revenue impact, we can say that we have potentially lesser impacted in Q1 compared to various other sectors that were actually in complete shutdown mode. But more interestingly, you know, I mean, it once again reconfirms the demand resilience for services like ours, which is essentially supporting businesses in good times. Yeah, but also needed by businesses in crises, like the one we’ve seen now. So it sort of underlies the demand resilience and also in some ways, the supply side capability and the execution capacity of services like us.”

Mr Sinha is also the chair of the committee on private security. Talking about the impact of the lockdown and the pandemic on the overall security sector in India, overall facilities management services sector, Rituraj said, “It would be fair to describe this, the COVID pandemic brought to forth the critical importance of these services to businesses establishment. For example, the private security staff became the first line of defence outside of every office taking the thermal checks and doing the Aarogya Setu compliance checks etc, mask compliance for, all businesses irrespective what current establishment to run. Similarly, if you look at facility management, it has pivoted to smart surface disinfection, fumigation and other services.  COVID is completely brought to forth the importance of hygiene, as a business continuity imperative, you cannot run an establishment for your customers or your employees without addressing the health and safety issues. Facility management is absolutely an essential component.”

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Talking about the mitigating measures, the government has also announced a series of steps, of course, came up with that, the humungous financial stimulus package, the RBI also announced a series of measures. Addressing these measures, Mr Sinha said, “I believe that the government so far in the last three odd months has come up with largely monetary measures, which are welcome. And on the fiscal side, also, any measures taken are more on the supply side, they’re talking about long term reforms and long term correction, which is all very good, welcomed and also very important. But, you know, let me give you context. SIS operates in Australia, we are the largest security provider in Australia, we are the fifth largest security provider in New Zealand. We are the third-largest security services provider in Singapore. In all these three jurisdictions, services like ours, or businesses like ours, which are essential in nature. Plus, they are very large job creators. In all these three countries, we have received some or the other form of job security or payroll incentive scheme or job protection, incentive frameworks, things that have enabled businesses in these jurisdictions to continue to keep employees and pay them in full. Whereas in India, while we’ve seen a lot of long term and midterm solutions, there is there isn’t much that’s been done on the immediate demand stimulation. And my particular view on this is that essentially when you put money in the hands of people, you stimulate demand. It’s as simple as that. And you want to put money in the hands of people, the best way to do it is to target 13 crore Indian households, which are actually employed. Not farmworkers, but employed in the private sector largely. If you protect these jobs if you enhance their pain, and if you stimulate that, it translates into demand directly. And I’m sure the government is sticky about it. But one would hope that at some point in time, we see more concrete action during work supporting job-creating entities and sectors, like security, like tourism, or like various other sectors of that kind.”

Giving advice to the entrepreneurs, Rituraj said, “These are a little bit gloomy times. And, you know, if you look at the statistics around COVID, it’s quite clear that India is still in the thick of it, and probably, there’s more pain ahead of us than behind us. So we continue to be in a period of extreme uncertainty for the next three to six months, at least. But having said that, I’m a believer that, whether it was the 1990s slow down, or it was the global financial crisis, or if you look at even disruptions like Demonetization, India’s always had a V-shaped recovery. Indian economy bounces back and the underlining factor is the domestic consumption that drives the Indian economy. And the second thing is the entrepreneurship, the fact that people are resilient, they are fighters &  they are looking to make the best of whatever circumstances prevail. So I think that aspirational India, is potentially what is going to hold the economy together. And, you know, one hopes that we, if not a V shape, at least we get a U shape recovery out of this crisis.”

According to Rituraj, the services that they render at SIS are essential for the Indian economy, because they work for all their customers which are auto, cement & steel factories, hotels and hospitals. “So in one sense, we are a proxy for what’s happening in the Indian economy. What I see amongst my customer base is a great spirit to streamline supply chains. They’re also streamlining supply chains, they’re all sort of getting back into it after the unlock was announced. A demand recovery will take time, I don’t think demand recovery is going to be as instantaneous, we all understand that. But honestly, I still believe that there is some substantial hope that the Indian services sector particularly will show a faster uptake, hopefully, then the Indian manufacturing. So overall, I still maintain as we are reading about the growth forecasts of minus 5% and minus 7%. I’m still hoping against all these indicators, the Indian economy is not that deeply impacted.”

Talking about Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, Rituraj said, “I think I completely believe the idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat, I think it’s a great thought. But as an entrepreneur, I believe that we need a little bit more structure around it. For example, I think what India needs to do is to pick winners segments and invest in that, like for example, Indian IT is a segment that contributes more than 5% to Our overall GDP. There are sectors like these which have the potential of the services sector side to take India to the world. The Indian government needs to pick up such sectors on the services side and manufacturing side and invest in them. You cannot sort of fixed the entire puzzle at one goal, you need to pick up pieces and prioritize. And the government is doing that. So my only input on Atmanirbhar Bharat is, it’s a great idea but we need a little bit more structure. We need a little bit more prioritization.  India needs to first become a service provider for the world, a manufacturer for the world economy and then bring those benefits of scale and better pricing down to the Indian consumer. I think we need to pick the right segments, that’s the key.”

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