It is quite exciting to think about private investigation as a legit career option. Sure, an engineer, or a doctor are the ideal Indian parent-approved ways of doing things, but there is no harm in breaking the norm once in a while and going for something a little different. But how edgy is too edgy? People are bringing out their inner Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, maybe even Byomkesh Bakshi, if you are patriotic that way, by enrolling in courses to become private detectives. The job will definitely offer you all the thrills you would expect from a career like this. So, what’s the problem? Well, it is technically still not legal in India, but they’re also not illegal. In 2007, the Private Detective Agencies Regulation Bill was introduced for licencing and regulating private investigators. Among other things, the bill would require detective agencies to have a licence from a central or state board to operate, as well as strictly regulate the functions of a private investigator. But the bill has still not been passed, which forces private investigators and agencies to be confined within that little grey area.
So, how do you become a private investigator in India? This is where it gets a little tricky. Since India does not recognise or has been unable to categorise private detectives as legal or illegal, one can’t acquire a diploma or a degree in this field. But, online courses are available and they’re all being provided by private detective agencies in the country. Akriti Khatri is the founder of one of India’s leading allwomen private detective agencies, Venus Detectives. Khatri pioneered this movement and helped create India’s most expansive course in private investigation. The course is categorised as a hobby course and is divided into a three-month course and six-month course. A three-month course comes with 15-day on-job training and a six-month course comes with 30-day on-job training. The subjects include chapters like Indian and international history of detectives, case studies, surveillance, inquiry methodology and other hardcore investigation techniques.
Dipti Satpathi and Priya Bharadwaj are two trainees who took the online course and are now currently being trained under Khatri. They both have had their fair share of exposure to the subject of criminology, a subject of their interest. Satpathi believes her interest for this vocation came because of where she comes from. “I come from a family where my father is a criminal lawyer. I also became a lawyer and I am an evidence specialist. I have always been familiar with this subject and I think that’s what attracted me to it.” Now, if an individual does decide to get into a gig like this, convincing the folks at home might not be the easiest thing in the world. Parents fear their child is making a career that is not yet legally recognised, or could soon become highly regulated or even illegal. Apart from that, the aspect of safety is primary, especially for parents with daughters. “The main reason why parents don’t approve of their kids doing this job is because of safety. My parents are aware I work at this agency, but I have not told them that I go on field because they would not be happy with that. I told them I just have a desk job and my job only includes looking after office operations. If I told them the truth, I don’t think they or any parent would understand because of the circumstances we have to be in or the situations we have to deal with,” says Bharadwaj.
The online courses will undoubtedly add to your theoretical skills as a private investigator, but most of your skills can only be sharpened by heading out in the field. Khatri had a peculiar introduction to this career, but learnt the fundamentals quite quickly. “I was always interested and passionate about being a detective, and I got my chance when a private detective agency advertised in a newspaper, looking for people. I got the job, but I was made to sit at a desk for almost three weeks. But I found out later, it was a test of my patience. Since my boss saw that I was a 21-year-old enthusiastic girl, my level of patience was something that he needed to be sure of.” So, what does it take to become a private investigator? “Passion and enthusiasm is highly important, but you also need to pair that with patience and presence of mind. In our field, just enthusiasm and no patience can get you in a lot of trouble. Apart from those things, you yourself need to be absolutely sure that this is what you want to do. People will taunt you and say what you’re doing is not legitimate, but you need to have immense passion for this work and only if you do, should you decide to join this line,” says Khatri.
So, if you were looking to do something edgy with your career and have the patience, courage and determination to become a private investigator, why not give it a shot? Just make sure you have another valid degree in your back pocket in case the law decides to make things difficult for private detectives in India.