BY VICTOR ADAR
At the heart of security are various assumptions, the most glaring being that it is all about armed and strong guards standing in front of a gate. But this perception, especially coming from lay investors that security is about muscles, weapons and powerful guards, is making one Julius Delahaije disappointed.
Two and a half years now at the helm of Security Group Africa (SGA) having taken over from the founder who passed away two years ago, Mr Delahaije is aware that competition is always at the heart of every business, and agrees that there has to be a certain structure to remain relevant and make a killing. The security group was founded almost 50 years ago by a shrewd businessman who invested largely in construction industry, and lived most of his life in Kenya.
“The reason was to create a sustainable group,” Delahaije explains. “When I took over we were looking at putting more structure to the group to bring it more in line with the nature of business and our clients, and stakeholders and adopt international practices and standards emphasising on quality of products and tailor made solutions, and innovations.”
Looking at the nature of clients that the security group attracts, a mix of local and international companies and individuals, Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (quite high-end clients who need security solutions), you can quite easily see the reason why the 1959 born Dutchman must out think. For one thing, the chief executive and chairman of SGA Security is happier, arguing that he is on the driving seat of a high growth company that has been making a killing from services which include guarding, cash management, tracking, alarm response, security dogs, courier and special services in cyber security.
“It is absolutely a viable business, and the key in it is that it is a people business so it is important to have interaction with clients. The target market is broad, it’s for clients that have the need for the service but also can afford the service. We are targeting a set of groups, from residential to multinationals, NGos, governments, schools… we have a lot of international schools but in general high end markets or places where there’s more than average risks,” he says.
With Master’s degree in Business Economics and Tax Law from Tilburg University, The Netherlands, and background from ICT industry, he is likely to touch the sky. Before joining SGA, he was the CEO and co-owner of Linxtelecom and Linxdatacentre where he mainly advised on data centre solutions as well as ICT security in Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia.
Technology, he says, is an important element of future security. It is not particularly pegged on the number of guards, but security solutions consisting of alarm systems, alarm control, access control, response, close protection (maybe), residential protection, as well as safety issues. It’s not about having roomful of guards to be secure. That’s what people always think – more and more individuals, unfortunately have a perception the other way round.
“One would say, ‘just give me 50 guards, what’s the price’ or, ‘how much discount will I get?” the Dutchman jokes.
The bitter reality is that how do you know that you need, say, 50 guards? Perhaps you need only 20, but you may also need 800… Is the protection of the children at kindergarten the same as protecting money or people who are in the bank? What really do you need to protect? What’s your business? What do you do?
These are all the elements that experts must make assessment of in the first place before coming up with a security solution. That’s why it is also good, as a service provider to interact with a client, and that is how security has completely taken a different dimension thanks to technology and innovation.
“Our business is on one hand hardware but also software, but we need human factor to take care of it. Integrating these systems is very important. Everybody knows that what we now need is to upgrade from analogue cameras to digital and particularly focus on communication. Security without communication is useless. Security is about being proactive and avoiding the risks by being intelligent – not muscles, and use of weapons without brains,” he says.
Delahaije says that SGA has made considerable progress since he joined it some two years ago. In terms of innovations, he says, they have partnered with a couple of external software suppliers, which makes them quite unique in that aspect.
It has always been quite normal for some clients to negotiate, but that is something that goes against Mr Delahaije’s instincts. Bargaining, from where he sits, is tough and painful. He is sceptical arguing that a kindergarten is different from a bank and still people think that it is more important to protect the bank than the kindergarten.
“I sometimes get surprised,” he says. “Even big firms and organizations from which you’ll expect big business and knowledgeable, people have sometimes poor understanding of security. The perception is often poor of what real security means.
Of course, not everyone will understand the details as far as security is concerned. And that’s a big challenge that Mr Delahaije is facing particularly in Kenya where clients try to negotiate on price. Security, though, is not something to negotiate or to buy, he says.
“This is not about price. If I talk about life of my family, how I’m I going to explain, I did a good job and got a 50% discount but I put everybody’s life in danger?”
This is proof that security industry is still far from perfect so much that what gives him sleepless nights remain the corporates as well as individuals who fail to acknowledge the complexities involved. To him, those who deserve to lose – include the inefficient security firms especially the tiny start-ups that prefer taking short cuts where some of the small entrants offer ridiculous rates, usually below the recommended rates thus endangering life. From where he sits, SGA continues to boost its appeal to both existing and potential clients by being innovative. He points at the recent partnership with AxxonSoft firm to offer intelligent video management services as one specific milestone that will revolutionise security management in the region.
Through the partnership, SGA Security will be able to offer the market state of the art intelligent video management software that maximises safety through innovative technology. Based in Moscow, Russia, AxxonSoft mainly deals with smart integrated security and video surveillance systems.
“SGA Security is proud to be a trendsetter through technological innovations within the East African Region. Our commitment and dedication to supporting sustainable safety and security for our customers and the community will be made possible through the use of intelligent systems,” says Delahaije, adding that they will be able to provide customers with cutting-edge technology for event management, traffic monitoring, store management, automate monitoring of self-service cash machines and access control that maximises safety for any critical infrastructure.
The intelligent video management software that’s currently available in the market following the partnership includes Axxon Next which helps provide a near instant forensic search of recorded video using criteria such as colour or size, face recognition capability that allows one to upload a picture of a person of interest and the system will be able to investigate and filter recorded video by similarity. It also has the ability to capture license plates and access automated number plate recognition of both full and partial number plates and an interactive 3D map with a visual overview of all installed cameras on a site map.
The Axxon Intellect is a platform that allows for integrated CCTV with access control, perimeter protection, fire and security alarms, facial recognition and traffic monitoring through a custom-built security system. This solution allows for external storage support with notification services via SMS, e-mail or voice.
Others include the retail intellect, auto intellect, face intellect and the ATM intellect, which automates monitoring of self-service cash machines and remote facilities of banks through the integration of video with the transaction data and track alerts for live set protection. The security and video surveillance systems can be accessed via mobile or through the web platform.
“Our difference from the others is our approach to customer and tailor made solutions. We make clear assessment of what’s the real need and then we apply the right combination of human resources and technology to find the optimal solutions, and yes, there’s a price tag to it. But a price tag is what can be translated to quality that’s needed,” he Delahaije.