Though demand for most services has been hit because of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, there is one service company that is working extra hours to cater to the 'unprecedented' requests and calls from its clients; and that is SIS, the country's largest security firm.
Apart from providing security personnel at offices and sites, SIS is also the second largest player in India in facilities and cash management segments.
"For companies, security personnel and those cleaning the premises are the first line of defence against coronavirus. The surge that we are seeing in demand for our services is the highest ever and is unprecedented," SIS CEO Rituraj Sinha told Moneycontrol.
Sinha added that while demand for security services has gone up by two times, that for facilities management is up one-and-a-half times. "Cash management continues to be robust as both banks and the government are keen that ATMs are well stocked as people are in need of cash," he said.
With constant reminders from the Centre and state governments, and advisories from organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), health and hygiene has become top priority to limit the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The virus has taken more than 14,000 lives and nearly 3.5 lakh people have been infected. In India, seven have died and 390 are reportedly infected.
For companies looking to limit the damage - as an infection to just one employee would mean a host of protocols to be followed and loss of working days - monitoring of visitors and hygiene is important.
"CEOs and MDs are now directly taking stock of the situation," Sinha said.
Even as some clients ask for security guards be trained in handling a thermal censor, others want cleaning to be done more frequently. "We have had to deploy additional resources, both personnel and things like disinfectants," says Sinha.Overseas learning
SIS has considerable overseas presence through its acquisitions in Australia and Singapore, which is coming in handy to the company in India.
"While in India, we were hit by the virus in March, these countries have been facing it since February," Sinha said.
Though cancellation of some events, including the Formula One's Australian Grand Prix was a setback for SIS's Australian unit, there was considerable learnings from that experience. "From planning to devising a strategy for India, we used a lot of that experience from our units in Singapore and Australia," says Sinha.
SIS trained its personnel and also quickened the process of sourcing material. For instance, the company used its WhatsApp group to clear purchasing requests from managers of its 170 branches across the country.
But there is also risk. A SIS employee had to be quarantined as he was working at a building in Mumbai's BKC where an employee was confirmed to be infected with coronavirus. "We understand that our employees are at risk. There is special attention on training them and providing them with protective equipment," Sinha said.Industry changing
Though SIS is the largest security company in India, the sector is still largely unorganised.
Coronavirus though, says Sinha, could alter that. "It will be very difficult for smaller firms to survive a phase like this," he said.
And that is because clients will defer payments, making it difficult for some of the security firms to even make salary payments.
SIS, which had a revenue of Rs 7,093 crore in FY19, generates more than half of its consolidated topline from the security solutions business.
Facilities and cash management segments make up for the rest. The company had a revenue of over Rs 4,000 crore in the first six months of FY20, a growth of 24 percent from the year earlier.