The Major Who Turned Entrepreneur (And Detective)
After retiring with the rank of a major at the age of 27, a decorated gallantry officer who fought in the lines of Jammu and Kashmir, started a security firm in Bangalore. It has grown to encompass a comprehensive list of residential and commercial space maintenance and even the startup Reliable One Time Job Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (OTJ247). We speak to Major Prashant Rai about his very interesting life running a security firm, especially what it’s like to run a detective service.
The company is called Balram Corporate Services Pvt Ltd and is based in Bangalore where he decided to retire to after ending his service in the infantry.
“After retiring from service in 2005, I settled with my family in Bangalore. It was called pensioners paradise by retiring army officers. It’s an ideal place to live, pleasant weather and good neighborhoods.
Balram is the leading service provider of security to apartment complexes in Bangalore. Even I use to live in an apartment. It is natural to be concerned about your safety once you move to a new area. And my wife had concerns about finding reliable electricians and plumbers to work in our apartment. Perhaps because I was in the army, my neighbors used to ask me for similar home service professional’s numbers and that’s when my wife and I decided to start up OT247 through which we offer comprehensive property management services like swimming pool maintenance, gardening, electricians, plumbers, and security.”
Upon retirement, going into security services business seemed like the normal step for Major Rai. “Usually you will find army officers retire then join a security firm as an employee. Or back in the 90s, high ranking officers would become general managers and directors of companies after retirement. But things have changed; these are not the only options for ex-army officers.”
For example, the major did not give up intellectual pursuits during his stint in defence. He found enough time to obtain a masters in human resources from Symbiosis Centre For Distance Learning. He says he used the two months’ leave officers were allowed at the time for this.
Then the major went on to get his license to practice as a private detective from the National Institute of Private Investigation (NIPI).
“You can’t become a detective with the blink of an eye or just because you were a soldier. It’s a profession you must train for.”
According to Major Rai, just the private detective industry is a billion dollar one in India. It’s a regulated industry, all detectives must have obtained formal education of the discipline. Besides this there is an association for detectives in India - the Association of Private Detectives and Investigators (APDI).
“Usually the retainer fee for a detective from our service is 30,000 to 40,000 rupees a month. However it could be more depending on the profile, client and experience of the detective. For instance, for corporate cases around fraudulent activity and copyright infringements, the fees go into several lakhs per contract.”
There are about fifteen detective firms in Bangalore and likely to be hundreds of such agencies across India. Through Balram and OTJ247, Major Rai collectively offers access to around 200 detectives from across the country.
Recruiting detectives is a painstaking process and requires accurate judgment of character. “They need to have integrity, honesty and loyalty. Else issues of blackmailing and leaking secrets will crop up. Besides that, all detectives should have licence to practice.”
He recalls for us two memorable instances in his own work as a detective.
“One case involved a state level research organization and my final analysis was presented along with other documents to the International Justice Court. This was regarding an issue worth thousands of crores.
Another was a marital tiff. “One day a young man and his entire side of the family came with three lakhs wrapped in a brown paper bag and dropped it on my table saying, “You’re Major Rai. Can you help us? We need to find out some details about my wife.
Those people were misguided though. That’s not the process for hiring a detective. First an appointment is scheduled to discuss the matter, then a contract is drawn discussing conditions to be satisfied by the detective, findings expected by the client and fee structure for duration of the case.
We don’t over charge or under charge, we don’t need to because we have revenue from several avenues like OTJ247 and Fire Prevent System, for example.”
While speaking to the major you can’t help but wonder, “why would a man with enough business acumen to run several businesses ever join the army?”
“I went into army service because my family has traditionally been in the line of service. My father was a colonel. Although I loved the sense of glamour and romance attached to the feeling of being gallant, I also knew that I would leave the battlefield and take up my idea to start a business. It’s a dream I always entertained.”
By all that we hear it sounds like the major was good at what he did and has the makings of a resilient soldier. Maybe it was luck or skill, but he was never injured seriously during his service in army. He is a gallantry awardee, meaning he did naturalize a few opponents himself. By the pride and nostalgia in his tone you can tell he carries no war injuries, mental or physical.
“These are events that happen in war, and I fought for my country, I left service voluntarily to start my business. It’s an honor and privilege to be able to serve your country. Also I had the full support of my family during my career so I had no worries and anxiety to speak of.
Now my focus is building our businesses, and growing OTJ247 is a priority. We hope to make it the number one home and commercial maintenance services aggregator in the country and we will be looking to raise funds for this very soon.”
By his words it’s clear that Major Rai brings all his military tenacity in strategy execution to his new ventures and won’t stop until these targets are locked and loaded too.
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