The Interview: Ran Vijay Singh, Electro Security Ltd
Ran Vijay Singh, ESL
Electro Security Limited is a Fiji-based security integrator which specialises in project work for major clients. The company is headed up by Ran Vijay Singh who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in loss prevention and CCTV gained working for various security organizations in Sydney back in the 1990s. Ran speaks with SEN editor, John Adams.
JA: Ran, could you tell us a little about ESL, where you are based and what your specialities are?
RVS: Electro Security Limited, is a limited liability company under the Companies Act with registered office at WM Scott Graham & Co of Eldon Chambers, 9 Ellery street, Suva, that operates from Suite 5, 32 Spring Street, Toorak. We are a Fiji-based company which initially started providing security services in 1995, trading as Electronic Central Security based in Samabula, specializing in electronic security installation for domestic, corporate and industrial applications.
We specialize in CCTV, providing well-known and well-supported CCTV products and services such as Pacom, Bosch, Sony, Pelco, Panasonic, Ikegami and other brands to the marketplace. We provide service and support on a national basis with our in-house team based in Suva and a network of experienced technical agents in the western division. These agents are controlled from a single point of contact in Suva which, experience shows, provides many benefits to our clients and customers.
JA: You grew up in Fiji, then moved to Australia for high school and university, then to NZ, now back to Fiji – could you tell us the story of how you got into the security industry?
RVS: I grew up Tailevu, which is inland in Fiji, attended Natovi Catholic Mission School and later, Queen Victoria School. During the last years there I applied for an Australian International Development Assistance (AIDAB) Scholarship programme to study in Australia for my last 2 years of high school at Randwick TAFE.
Having relatives in Sydney made this much easier and after I finished the HSC, I lived at Redfern in Sydney and worked as a security officer at the local Woolworths store while studying for a Bachelor of Science in Computing at UNSW. Once I’d completed the Bsc in Computing I worked in various companies in Sydney and decided to move back to Fiji in 1999 to be closer to family and decided to set up a security installation business in 2000.
JA: What sort of security installations was ESL doing at the time?
RVS: At first we were doing domestic alarm installations – we were the first company in Fiji to install EDM alarm systems and Pacom CCTV and later, we started getting into more complex integrations, incorporating CCTV, access control, audio/video intercoms, gate automation and perimeter security.
JA: How did you transition from a domestic alarm installation business to integrated security solutions provider – it’s quite a bit step – was it a challenging process?
RVS: Any new business is challenging, and it certainly was difficult for us in those early days. We had to do everything by ourselves with limited resources – chasing new work, installing systems, maintaining systems, as well as making sure were trained and on top of new technologies. At first, we focused on domestic alarm systems, automatic gate installation, audio video intercoms and later we approached ANZ Bank for our services who engaged us for minor security system maintenance and later we won tender to install anti – jump barriers for local branches in Fiji. As this was outside our expertise, we partnered with Higgins from Brisbane to handle the installation.
Later, ANZ Bank Fiji contracted ESL for service maintenance and upgrade transitions ANZ branches Fiji wide with comprehensive Service Line Agreement (SLA). This also prompted ANZ Group Security to endorse ESL as ANZ ‘Approved Contractor’ status in 2014 for ANZ Group Standards. This enhanced business opportunities with other commercial banking sectors including Westpac in Fiji and the Pacific.
JA: ESL is an ASIAL member, isn’t it? What led you down that path?
RVS: I’ve been visiting the Security Exhibition for many years and in 2010 we decided to join ASIAL – we’re the only security company in Fiji which is an ASIAL member. A key reason for that membership is that ASIAL has a clear code of ethics and professional standards that we adhere very closely and it’s important to us and to our customers. We were looking for a way to differentiate ourselves and for an association that reflected our own ideals.
JA: ESL doesn’t just work in Fiji – the company has contracts going on all across the Pacific, doesn’t it?
RVS: Yes, that’s right – we are very active across the Pacific – especially with banking sectors, ANZ Kiribati, ANZ Christmas Islands, ANZ Vanuatu, Westpac PNG – where we just installed Dahua IP CCTV. We are also undertaking a complete transition for ANZ Santo in Vanuatu, as well as installing ATM CCTV for ANZ Vanuatu-wide. Other work is being undertaken in the Solomon Islands.
We have just completed major ATM CCTV upgrade works for Westpac PNG-wide, which involves 75 ATM sites with remote software setup designed by Dahua for remote access and system health checks that can be accessed by Westpac Head office in POM for live view and footage retrieval and by our Fiji office for troubleshooting backed up by Dahua tech support in Sydney and China.
JA: Tell us more about the work you are doing in the financial sector.
RVS: We are also engaged with security system design and build for commercial banks, financial institutions and developers for the security system layout. Normally floor plans are forwarded to us, we layout all the security devices – strategic locations and mountings for CCTV, security alarm system and integrated access control. The final enhancement are done by the corresponding architects before being presented to the stakeholders for approval.
Recently we have been awarded tender to upgrade three major ANZ branches here in Fiji for complete transition to Dahua CCTV IP and integrated Tecom Challenger 10 access control and alarm system. There’s also an analogue Pacom CCTV upgrade for ANZ Kiribati, with an upcoming transition to IP CCTV for other branches.
We have also introduced Dahua CCTV IP to Westpac Fiji main branch who are very impressed with the solution and output picture quality. Our focus is to keep functional high and costs low. For most our clients a key issue is court admissible evidence and that’s what we focus on – quality footage and easy operation.
JA: What other customers do you have in Fiji?
RVS: Other customers we have in Fiji include Academic institutions including schools, colleges and universities, high commissions including Australian High Commission, South African High Commission , British High Commission and PNG High Commission, manufacturing companies , supermarkets, petrol stations and depots, gold mine, hospitals , transportation sectors, commercial banks include ANZ Bank, Westpac, Bred Bank, Reserve Bank of Fiji, and corporate installations. Besides Fiji, we look after installations in Vanuatu, Kiribati, Xmas Islands, Solomon Islands PNG and we are talking to potential customers in East Timor about a Geutebruck installation.
JA: More than most integrators, you seem to install across multiple manufacturers in each market segment – how many manufacturers do you support and why?
RVS: We have been trained and certified by Hills NZ for Tecom Challenger, which we comprehensively use for major installations, its robust and easy to programme. We also like the functionality of the system with its simple but effective relay boards and input/output boards. We have also used Inner Range Concept 4000, Gallagher from New Zealand, Genesis from Mainline Security and IDtek from Ness Security. Our techs are also trained and certified by Geutebruck, Dahua, Axis and ASSA ABLOY.
We have access to acquire most security hardware as per requirement by individual corporate client or scope of works for projects. We support a diverse group of manufacturers because we are the security integrator our clients need us to be. Some customers may want us to recommend a solution to them based on cost, but others have specific ideas about an installation and want to use products and solutions here that they use elsewhere in their organisations. If they want to use those products and solutions, we need to know how to help them.
JA: When it comes to CCTV, do you exclusively install IP systems, or do you do some analogue, too?
RVS: We work almost exclusively with IP surveillance solutions but there is still a lot of analogue here in Fiji that we might do upgrades to or maintenance on. We’re certainly in the process of assisting major customers with the digital transition – that shift to IP is now really getting up steam.
JA: What about alarm monitoring technology in Fiji and the Pacific? In Australian the transition from PSTN is almost complete, with most systems employing wireless and/or IP connections to get alarm signals to the monitoring station. Where is the Pacific at when it comes to monitoring comms?
RVS: Most links in Fiji and many other places in the Pacific are still PSTN, with some customers beginning to use a combination of GSM and PSTN or just GSM if they have connection and the site is remote. We recently did some work at a gold mine and because of remoteness they needed to monitor the alarm using wireless via satellite uplink. Certainly, the transition to wireless alarm reporting is well under way.
JA: When we spoke at the security exhibition last year you mentioned you had no sales people – how does that work?
RVS: Fiji is a smaller market than New Zealand or Australia, so word of mouth is very effective if you provide a quality service. We win jobs based on the quality of our work and are committed to standards and our reputation allows us to work on referral with no sales people. Assisting in this is that we concentrate on the high end-market where there are fewer but larger jobs.
JA: What are the challenges of working in multiple markets across the Pacific?
RVS: Initially everything has to be planned precisely to get the techs on site, work permits, itinerary, connecting flights, accommodation, transportation and logistics. There’s acquisition of hardware from overseas suppliers, shipments, port of entry customs and delivery on site. We must work out the duration and schedule of works, implementation of sub-contractors on the ground from that country if hired previously.
Other factors that could be a hindrance to any installation include things like the sea spray issue in Kiribati and Christmas Island, where equipment corrodes fairly quickly due to salty air. Rodents are another issue where low voltage cables get chewed in the ceilings, especially for remote ATM CCTV installations. Power fluctuations and surge are very common issue across the Pacific that requires adequate UPS protection during design and installation.
Vandalism, graffiti and tampering is also common for installed security in public places mainly for ATM CCTV.
Access control readers, a lot of installations we undertake are internal or undercover but those that are outside are exposed to weather – sun and heavy rain – must be IP66 or 67 and IK against vandalism. The same applies for CCTV cameras. There’s also personal risk to attending techs and staff that requires added travel insurance policies, personal security considerations and secured transportation procedures and adherence to ‘no go zones’, especially in PNG.
JA: Starting out as a security officer you must feel proud of the success of the ESL – did you ever think the business would grow as large as it has, or cover customers in so many different countries?
RVS: Initially it was very difficult due to financial burdens and buying power, loan facilities and access to overseas suppliers. Once we have started working with commercial banks, we built our confidence for loan facilities and letter of credit to acquire hardware. Service line and contractual agreements with clients also helped us maintain long term serviceability and continued works to sustain profitability. Prompt service and quality workmanship with branded security hardware gave ESL the niche in the security industry and referrals then brought us to the attention of additional Pacific clients.
JA: What advice would you give to security installers wanting to break into the integration market? How can they grow their business and make it more profitable?
RVS: We believe in customer service – any low voltage equipment installed requires periodic maintenance and service schedule especially CCTV for picture clarity and peak performance. You cannot just install and forget. In Fiji we always emphasise using high end gear for high end integrations. Durability and robustness play key factors in major installations, meaning fewer breakdowns and unnecessary attendance during the defects lability period (DLP), or warranty work – especially for access control installation, automatic doors, gates and barriers, and vehicle entry systems.
For security business, proper assessment, correct proposal and tender evaluation, code of ethics and practice, member of association, licensing and certification, specialist skills and workmanship are some of the key factors installation companies must be across to grow in this industry. A member of association or trade association professional affiliation is an added advantage for any integrator seeking to promote a code of ethics and code of professional conduct. Integrators should also align closely on the in-house standards required by client or local standards and Standards Australia/NZ as required for professional installation practices.
JA: What should security managers and other end users look for in an integration company? What qualities do you think are most important?
RVS: For end users, it’s important to find integrators who conform to objective standards and strive to meet a code of ethics. This is not always easy to do. In Fiji we do not have any evaluation system in place that would allow this – there is a licensing board managed by the Ministry of Defence which assesses security companies to some extent and provides a general security license, which does not distinguish installers, integrators, distributors, security guards and security contractors. A licensing system is very important because if skills-based it allows an end user to assess the expertise of the integrator.