Chairman Tata Surprised by Tricky Terrorists

Chairman Rata Tata, whose company owns the Taj hotel in Mumbai, gave a frank and honest interview to CNN. I would imagine that the Tata Group’s PR people and General Counsel are scrambling at the moment trying to do as much damage control as possible.

The sad part of this unfolding story is the feeling one gets that the terrible loss of life at the hotel may have been prevented or at least mitigated had proper security measures been implemented and if the security that had been in place prior to the attack had not been removed.

One eye witness who stayed at the hotel a week before the terrorist assault spoke about metal detectors and baggage being checked. The same witness then went on to say that those security measures had been removed within the last week, allowing people to enter without being checked.

The most surprising news to surface must be the Chairman’s comments regarding the terrible event. Unbelievably, he actually said; “They knew what they were doing and they did not go through the front. All of our arrangements were on the front entrance”.

Who is Tata’s security advisor, a kitchen worker? Actually, he might have been better off if that were the case since the terrorists entered the hotel through the rear kitchen door. ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL CHAIRMEN AND CEO’s; Terrorists are Tricky. That is their job. They are watching your businesses and will do the opposite to what you expect.

In the case of the TAJ HOTEL, you made it easy for them. Did nobody in Mumbai ever stop to think that a bad person can go through the back door? It is one thing for a cafe in a pedestrian area to be attacked as anyone can walk right by or walk through the front and open fire, but how can a major landmark that attracts Western vistors drop their security measures AFTER they have received terrorist alert warnings that the hotel may be the target of terrorsit attacks?

I don’t know if it was the case with the Taj Hotel, but cutting corners where security is concerned is common place in corporate culture. Security is often seen as a necessary evil and usually the first department to experience budgetary cutbacks. It is very difficult to convince some clients that nothing happening is really a good thing and that by cutting out security may open the door to evil.

This appears to have been the case with the Taj. There is no doubt that the terrorists had conducted hundreds of hours of surveillance in and around Mumbai. Was it a coincidence that the attack occurred the week after security measures had been removed? What might have been the result if security had remained tight (if you could call watching the front entrance and disregarding the back as “tight security”)? Maybe the terrorists would have held back another month or two…maybe in that time they would have been detected…

One thing is for certain, places like the Taj Hotel have to get serious about security. Mr. Tata’s claim that; “If I look at what we had…it could not have stopped what took place”, must be replaced by more progressive, proactive thinking. If the Tata Group had spent an adequate amount of funding on ensuring that a strict security policy was in force – if only for the period in question – then they might not now be facing a 5 Billion Rupee reconstruction bill. Who knows how high the civil suits against the Taj will run when compensation and punitive costs are calculated.

Kudos though to Chairman Tata for at least recognizing that the Indian authorities may not be able to handle the situation on their own. “These attacks underscore the need for Law Enforcement to seek outside expertise for training, equipment and strategic operations”, he said.

We agree Mr. Tata. We also hope that you will recognize the need for the Tata Group to seek similar outside expertise to assist you with your security planning and training.

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