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Firms Ratchet Up Efforts to Boost Security

Security is a huge concern in India and is taken seriously by both client and vendor, since Indian companies win contracts that give them access to a client’s proprietary information. Clients often perform random security audits on their Indian vendors.

August 17, 2007
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Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Global Business Issues, Managing International Operations, Safety and Workplace Violence
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Less than a year before Kafeel Ahmed rammed his gasoline-laden Jeep Cherokee into a terminal at Glasgow International Airport, he was an aeronautics engineer at Infotech Enterprises in Bangalore, a company whose workforce helps to build planes for Boeing and Airbus.

    Ahmed is not suspected of doing anything untoward during his time at Infotech, but the incident in Scotland on June 30 is an example of why Indian companies are increasingly performing background checks on their employees.

    "In India, this process is just maturing," says David Raj Jesumarian, director of human resources at the Hyderabad office of IT consulting firm Virtusa, which performs about 1,000 background checks a year for its prospective new hires. "It’s a shock to the recruits, but we’re upfront with them at the first interview that offers are valid based on a background check."

    Virtusa, based near Boston, has outsourced its background checks to First Advantage, a St. Petersburg, Florida, company that verifies a candidate’s education, work experience, personal background and criminal history. Candidates must also undergo a drug test.

    Security is a huge concern in India and is taken seriously by both client and vendor, since Indian companies win contracts that give them access to a client’s proprietary information. Clients often perform random security audits on their Indian vendors, says Sivaramakrishnan Kalyanaraman, global head of human resources for Intelligroup, a technology services company whose clients include General Electric. The company has dedicated a floor to housing GE data inside its office in Hyderabad.

    "Clients want to make sure we are following a strict process for [checking] backgrounds," Kalyanaraman says.

    Every company that has U.S. clients has some degree of security personnel standing guard outside its offices, many of which are housed inside gated office parks. The largest companies have the most stringent measures.

    At Wipro Technologies’ Bangalore headquarters, laptop serial numbers are recorded to make sure the same computer that is brought into the building is taken out. Employees wear passes that say whether they have clearance to bring laptops to work. At UBS, the Swiss financial firm, cameras cannot be taken inside the company’s newly constructed glass and granite building. Such global security standards have been exported to nearly every Indian company or offshore office of a multinational.

    "We follow international standards and practices of security now," says Jagrant Pandher, a former lieutenant colonel in the Indian army and a senior manager for security at Verizon’s office in Hyderabad.

Workforce Management, August 20, 2007, p. 28 -- Subscribe Now!

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