Putting the skates on screening processes

Night has fallen by the time Shreya finishes work in the office. That morning her husband had dropped her to work and she had said she would try and leave early and get back home herself. It worked out differently.

She now is looking for an auto rickshaw on the streets of Delhi, which look ominous past twilight. With a prayer on her lips, she gets into an auto rickshaw and is on the edge throughout the next 25 minutes. Until she can see the reassuring sight of her husband waiting at the gate of the condominium she lives in.

Imagine a different scenario. Before Shreya boards the auto rickshaw, using the registration number plate of the vehicle, she checks an online repository as a measure of precaution for the driver’s identity, criminal record, and even the authenticity of his driver’s licence.

A few seconds later having ascertained the driver’s credentials, she has a peaceful, even pleasant, ride home, listening to her favourite songs from Guide.
That carefree, jaunty ride home could become a reality for Shreya and for millions of working women with real time, online repositories providing the backbone that the background screening industry needs to measure up to the needs of the instant, on-demand economy.

Online repositories will in particular be a boon for criminal history checks, surely the most important of all checks that we talk about. This is one check we can’t afford to go wrong with. Consider this: as many as 30 million criminal cases are pending in the plodding Indian judicial system. If you assume, and it’s a fair assumption, that a third of these 30 million alleged criminals are actually guilty, it’s fair to say that there could be ten million criminals roaming about this very moment.
Frightening thought, isn’t it? No, my idea is not to alarm you; it’s just to underscore that a relative feeling of safety can only come with an online repository of these alleged crooks. It requires strong technology to take centre stage to be able to crunch massive volumes of information, analyse and draw patterns, and then to produce results—all in a few seconds. Advanced text analytics, artificial intelligence techniques and powerful search algorithms will make that possible.

In discussing online repositories, traditionally the focus has been on criminal background checks where checks can be done on the basis of information available from multiple sources—courts, police, regulatory bodies, even media—and verified using intelligent technology. Technology can help monitor this information.

However, the process of data aggregation is more pain staking in case of education and employment checks. No technology-driven alternative exists. Consider a 24 x7, readily available online repository with data aggregated from multiple sources- employers and educational institutions.

A strong repository of former employees of a company or exhaustive databases with details of all students and their educational performance will undoubtedly put the background screening process on skates. This will aid the process of basic employment screening checks including verification of employment record, academics, references etc. in real time. This calls for employers and educational institutions to necessarily contribute data to help create repositories.

Is that all too futuristic? No, I don’t think so. We in India should be ready to believe its likelihood. After all, we have undertaken the unprecedented task of authenticating the identity of 1.3 billion people. What the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is doing is that a unique identity number, along with other attributes such as biometrics, is submitted to UIDAI’s Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) for verification and the repository verifies whether the data submitted matches the data available.

So, repositories could mean the end of the road for painstaking manual processes and that’s not a death any of us would grieve over. Repositories of critical data are the future of the screening process. With technology advancement and need for instant results, repositories are the solution and we are moving towards online repositories faster than we realise.   Read More

Screening In The Age Of Global Nomads

International career opportunities are growing dramatically. According to PwC’s “Talent Mobility 2020” report, annual international assignments will increase by 50 per cent between today and 2020-having already grown 25 per cent over the last ten years. The business world is changing rapidly and this has transformed the way the global workforce is sourced, organised and managed. Knowledge, trade, technology, capital and goods are more globally connected than ever before.

This has led to a modern concept of global talent management which comes with its own challenges. Companies and executives both share the perception that international assignments are career boosters and therefore coveted. They contribute to a global mindset and help establish global leadership competencies.

In the Indian context, it is clear to me that corporate executives with international work experience have a definite edge over those who have remained in the home country. So, with mobility on the rise, the challenge for the background screening industry is going to be to offer foolproof global checks. Some sectors-and here I can straightaway mention financial services, IT and even some SMEs-will greatly benefit from the ability of verification companies to deliver robust global tracking solutions.

As the world moves towards enhanced global mobility, organisations will demand global verification checks that are both quick as well as reliable and, of course, adhere to global laws and regulations. Consider a scenario in which Company ABC is impressed with the background and experience of Mr. Sharma and is keen to hire him for a leadership position.

Mr. Sharma worked across geographies; US, China, Brazil and Singapore, apart from his work experience in India. So, while conducting a swift screening of Mr. Sharma, which laws should the background verifier follow?

-Those of the country in which Mr. Sharma’s employer is and has been?
-Those of the country in which the prospective employee is currently based?
-Or those of the country where you are doing his verification?

Mr. Sharma’s education too is in not just one country and he has spent extended periods of time in different geographies. What rights do you as Mr. Sharma’s prospective employer have? What rights does Mr. Sharma have? And who will guide you through this complicated process?

Well, that’s a conundrum but the answer is rather simple: it’s your background screening partner who will provide the answers and be your friend, philosopher and guide. The complexities of accurately verifying background information are many and that is why you need professionals well acquainted with global laws to diligently sift through the whole process and give you foolproof solutions.

Quality background screeners must have thorough knowledge of understanding of local regulations but beyond that they will also need to have an understanding of cultural challenges. Only then can they aspire to provide global tracking solutions to their clients covering, apart from prospective candidates, franchise partners, suppliers, logistics solutions providers and vendors.

Delay in providing effective and reliable background check has the potential to impair business outcomes. Equally, or perhaps more damningly, a less than thorough global tracking solution can deal a severe blow to corporate reputation, hence its integrity must remain non-negotiable, in spite of the complexities and costs of such screening processes.


Also Featured in Business World

The Instantaneity of On-demand Economy

Instantaneity is the prime driver of the on-demand economy. But, even as startups and established business are consumed by the need for speed, they are becoming increasingly aware of the risk to their reputation because of the antecedents of the people critical for the driving of the on-demand economy – among others, cab drivers, delivery staff and short-stay house guests.

That’s the first of seven trends I identified in my opening blog on key background screening trends for the year 2016. Let me now deliberate on each one, starting with the on-demand economy, for which let me coin an acronym – ODE.

Disruption is severance and it’s not a positive word but disruption is the holy grail of the on-demand economy. Regardless of the industry you are in, if you can improve the speed with which you have delivered the service, you have disrupted the market. So, with the likes of Uber and Ola, we have stopped waving down kaali-peelis and even Mumbai’s once trendy CoolCabs. That’s disruption. And that disruption came about because consumers needed an instant solution.

ODE is of course a great thing for consumers, but equally it puts great pressure on the regulators and the government to not compromise key issues like security. Recent efforts by the state government in Delhi to promote car pooling, even though necessitated by intolerable levels of atmospheric pollution, are laudable. But would you want to car pool with someone who has a record of rash driving? Can that be prevented?

Instantaneity of demand requires a modicum of vigilance, in the absence of which things have the potential to go horribly wrong. Consider these incidents:

  • Just over a year ago, we had an extremely unfortunate incident in which a vicious cab driver raped a 27-year-old woman in Delhi. There was a huge public outcry and the government’s reaction was typical overkill. It blacklisted and banned all but six radio taxi services. While what the government did in December 2014 was misplaced hubris, the case did bring to light the need for background checks of cab drivers.
  • In July 2015, Delhi Police on Sunday arrested a pizza delivery boy for allegedly molesting a five-year-old girl in south-east Delhi. The incident took place when the victim was molested by the accused after she had come out play in the staircase of her residential building. There was no one at her home during the incident.

If you think consumers only are at risk from service providers, think again. In October last year, an elderly man was taken into custody for attempting to molest a beautician, who had answered a house call in Hyderabad for a beauty treatment. When she showed up, the lady who had called was not home and the man tried to molest the beautician.

So, while delivery and shared services are creating opportunities for microenterprise and self-employment, providing opportunities to participate in the country’s economic activity and for others an opportunity to earn additional or supplementary income, they do present a challenge in safety and security terms.

You don’t want someone with a criminal record showing up at your door to deliver a pizza. Nor do you want, someone who comes to stay as a short-term guest in your apartment to be someone with a history of violence.

Total strangers are renting things to each other. Online social networks and secure payment mechanisms are allowing them to do that. But in this sharing economy security is the missing link. And that is where background screeners will be required to provide solutions to problems which, if not solved, have the potential to stymie the growth potential of this collaborative consumption.

The background screening industry will be required to step up and provide three quick checks for cab drivers, delivery staff and short-stay guests: identity check (to establish that the person is who he says he is), criminality record check (a straightforward check establishing that the individual in question has no criminal history) and accessibility check (an address verification).

Using these three check levers reasonable instantaneity will be ensured by background screeners giving a fillip to the on-demand collaborative economy. ODE is a good thing; positives far outweigh negatives. Its vulnerabilities are public relations challenges which they will need to fight. Background screeners can add a much required shoulder to the ODE wheel.

Also featured as Guest Post in iamwire

Know the law. Jugaad will not work

Jugaad is a word we in India are all too familiar with. Loosely defined, it means using skill and imagination, and some sleight of hand, to find an easy solution to a ticklish problem.

Increasingly, I find, people in other countries also becoming familiar with jugaad. Some day no doubt it will make it to coveted English dictionaries, much like words such as dhaba and bhelpuri. Words quintessentially Indian and so ubiquitously used in rapidly spreading Indian diasporas that familiarity with them for the world at large is inescapable.

The subject of my blog is why background screening must know the law that exists for conducting identity verification. So, what, you might justifiably ask, am I going on about jugaad? Well, here’s why.

We have had specific instances of organisations asking us whether we will conduct background screening on a potential hire without their consent. The law in India doesn’t say about what can and cannot be done in the context of background verification. So, technically if you conducted a background check without the person’s knowledge are you flouting the law?

My view is that more often than not law and its application is about plain commonsense. Would I like my employer to conduct a background check on me without my knowledge? The answer to that is a resounding no. And if a ‘no’ it is, background checks cannot, and should not, be conducted without consent. Yet, some organisations seem to think it is OK to do it. It’s jugaad

We at AuthBridge have had no option but to decline the business of clients who have made these demands. Yet, clearly, they have later found other companies to do the job, which implies that there are screening companies out there who have no regard for a candidate’s privacy. They do this without realising that doing so can seriously impair the employer’s reputation, apart of course from making a mockery of the candidate’s right to privacy.

In several countries there are strict dos and don’ts regarding employment background checks; in the US it’s the Fair Credit Reporting Act, in UK the Data Protection Act, while in Singapore there are privacy regulations. My view is that Indian background screening companies should look at these stringent regulations and follow them scrupulously. That is how they will build a robust reputation for themselves and dutifully serve the needs of their clients.

A competent, and completely scrupulous, background screening company alone will be able to lead a large corporate entity through the maze of legal formalities governing background checks. After all, some district level rulings or laws do not offer any protection or safe harbour from lawsuits despite following the law and giving ex-offenders a second chance.

There are different laws concerning social media, online privacy and records, sexual offence records, non-criminal offences and credit history, among others. Failure to understand and non-compliance can result in expensive lawsuits.

Other things that are country or region specific include:

  • What to do with the background screening data once a report has been generated and sent to the client?
  • What to do if candidates want their own reports directly from the background screener?
  • What should the employer do in case of negative report?
  • And, finally, what should the background screening company do in case its findings throw up something extremely damaging? Something that has ramification for the society, or the country? Should that be reported to law enforcement agencies? Or should the background screener leave it to the client organisation to decide how to handle it?

It is imperative that background screeners both in India and elsewhere come to terms with the need for speed in the growing, sharing economy and keep themselves abreast with global laws and lawful processes. Companies that focus on beefing up their knowledge of matters of law will find themselves better able to serve clients across disparate geographies.

Creating A Culture Of Confidentiality

“Sensitive” is a word I hear all the time in the context of the work done by background verification companies. Random people one meets ask about our nature of work and, when told, their immediate response is that handling sensitive data and maintaining its integrity must be the backbone of the background screening business.

That hits the bull’s eye. If sensitive information is defined as something that must be protected against unwarranted disclosure, then the information that we in this industry generate is ultra-sensitive. It must be safeguarded for legal and ethical reasons, apart from individual privacy and proprietary considerations.

If information security in the context of background screening gets compromised, it has a severe effect on all three concerned parties — the employer loses proprietary data of current employees to competitors; the individual could have his personal reputation compromised; and, of course, the background screening company could find its hard-earned brand reputation in tatters.

The challenge of information security is all the greater considering that it has to extend to all situations, ranging from physical theft to natural disasters. Hence, customers engaging the services of background screeners must look beyond pricing.

To gauge the efficacy of data protection in the background screening process, companies must ask themselves the following questions:

  • What are the physical and logical barriers to data access?

  • Is data access in the background screening company allowed strictly on a need-to-know basis? For example in my company, the verification teams are not privy to the name of the client(s) on whose cases they are working on at any point in time, thus ensuring a hard firewall.

  • Who in the background screener’s organization has access to negative reports?

Not long ago, I interviewed a candidate who wanted a job with us after having worked with a competitor. Nothing exceptional, right?  Happens all the time. Well, this individual was carrying 50-odd candidate reports with him to help support his claim that his current employer was doing poor quality work. Imagine — 50 confidential and highly personal reports being bandied about in such cavalier manner. (Needless to add I did not meet this candidate again.)

We need to also sensitize our clients on the need to be extremely careful about using sensitive information. A couple of years ago, one of our clients — easily among India’s top 50 companies — sent us a list of their employees whose background screening had to be initiated. The list should have contained employee IDs, name, email and contact address. That’s all. The sheet we received had their compensation details too. Besides it had similar details of the top leadership hires done recently by the company.

In dealing with confidential information, strict adherence to industry standards and government guidelines is a given, but my view is that confidentiality is more a culture-related thing — it goes beyond building technology barriers; it is about creating a culture in the company that respects data security and confidentiality. Organizations seeking enhanced information security should create a culture in which employees are loath to discuss sensitive information with anyone, no exception.

In the emerging global economy, background screeners will be required to continuously expand their business, which will require them to get into more collaborative efforts. As business grows and more collaborations take shape, information security will continue to assume greater importance. Clients will seek, and rightly so, tightening of controls and will need to know about how secure the data being shared across platforms is.

In conclusion, I will say that accreditation to certifications related to information security systems will play a key role as our business grows and goes to the next level. However, information security and confidentiality must remain an article of faith for background screeners and those who work in our industry. Not a mere leap of faith.

First Posted on Huffington post

Swiftness and Thoroughness – Will the Twain Meet?

Background Screening

Being practical while seeking what is desirable – that for me exemplifies the increasing demand on the background screening industry for being swift in doing their checks. The need for speed and the need for accuracy can often be in conflict and there could be a tradeoff involved. So, the question that must be keeping background screeners awake at night – and it should if it isn’t – is: does instant verification necessarily come at the cost of quality?

There is an argument to be made that instant background screening comes at a price and in their quest for speed companies may not be getting the protection that they need from erroneous information being doled out by opportunistic employees. And the backbone of background screening is the integrity of the check. That integrity must never be called to question; it is sacrosanct..

Weighing the pros and cons of the issue and after careful deliberation, my view is that instant verification and quality check may not be antithetical. A wise man once said that there is no decision in life that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice. But in my view this industry may be standing at the threshold of achieving a perfect balance between swiftness and thoroughness.

Let me elaborate that point. Instant verification is the principal driver of the speed that the on-demand economy seeks and this instantaneity is currently made possible by identity checks. At least that’s the case here in India.

We announced at the start of this year that AuthBridge has built the capability of instantly verifying the identity of Indian citizens using government-issued documents, such as a passport, PAN or Aadhar card. This first level ID verification caters to the need for speed sought by on-demand services but can companies risk their reputation on a quick but less than thorough background check? Do they need to?

The answer is no, they don’t. Next in line for instant verification could be a litigation check. Companies big and small would like a very clear view that the person they are hiring has no criminal record. Hence next checks to go instant would be criminality, litigation, reputation and credit default.

Instant verification of address, education and employment still in the realms of fantasy? Or is it likely to appear on the horizon any time soon?

Intriguing, exciting question. Right? I am going to defer the answering of that question to another day. Another blog.

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Technology holds all the Aces

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbAAAAAJGU2Y2MwYzcwLWJkNzMtNDg5Zi05MmIxLWI3MjYzOGFhM2RhNwTechnology today is all pervasive. It is difficult to think of many moments in our day, professional or personal, when technology is not aiding us in accomplishing the things we want.

Take cabs. Technology has made finding a cab to reach your destination amazingly simple. For years I have been travelling to various places in the country, especially Mumbai and Bangalore, and until even two years ago finding a taxi was a struggle. For timely attendance of back-to-back business meetings the only option was to hire private taxis.

Not today. All I have to do is pick up my smartphone and the Uber or Ola apps will get me a cab in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, convenient and cost effective and it’s technology at work.

Or take e-commerce. I confess I used to be a sceptic when it came to making purchases online. No longer. Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal, among others, have changed the way I shop. From the comfort of my living room to be able to order almost anything for me surpasses anything the touch-and-feel buying experience has to offer.

In this wired world, background screening service providers have a vital role and technology is the backbone which is enabling us to play our part with the efficiency and alacrity that the service-driven economy demands. Our clients are increasingly asking us to deliver our reports faster and with the same high degree of integrity and reliability.

Background screeners have to provide efficiency and speed even though we have to rely on external agencies for critical inputs: for checking qualifications we are dependent on educational institutions; on employers for employment verification; and police departments for criminal record verification. Moreover, we have to depend on field executives, our own or outsourced, for actual address verification.

How do we accomplish a high degree of reliability with the need for speed? Technology is the only answer. Creative use of technology will help us in our endeavour.

Many background screening service providers have embraced technology solutions to cut down on internal processing times. However, we now have to think beyond that.

We at AuthBridge have published a case study ‘Innovating HR Operations in India’ published by Cornell University on how using technology we managed to convert an otherwise batch process of background verification to an assembly line operation. While it was a remarkable development, perhaps even ahead of its time, there is now a world of difference in the technologies available that allow us to accomplish more and faster.

The need of the hour is for background screening companies to find cutting-edge technology driven solutions to all those aspects of the business that show processes down. While I am aware of some work being done in this space by some existing players, AuthBridge included, more ‘disruptive’ work needs to happen to significantly reduce turnaround times and streamline workflow and, of course, all of it requires customer-end validation.

Technology is the critical enabler in addressing the dynamically changing requirements of new-age consumers, me included, who are picking up their smartphones and tablets and are expecting deliverance.

Forecast of Background Screening Trends for 2016


Do you have to be Nostradamus to be able to see what the industrial landscape will be like in the year ahead? Maybe in some industries you do need to try and match the abilities of the world’s most famous astrologer, but that is not the proposition here. Certainly not for the background screening industry.

So, in spotting trends for our industry in 2016 I am not trying to gaze into a crystal ball. Far from it. My eyes are instead firmly focused on empirical evidence of the immediate past. And never losing sight of that evidence, I am trying to see what trends may emerge in the immediate future, based on customer needs.

For me, the most gratifying facet of the development of background verification space is that increasingly corporations, big and small, are realizing the risk to their reputation because of shaky hiring and on-boarding processes. It has been a long and difficult haul but no longer are we grappling with existential reasons; the linkage between background screening and corporate reputation, therefore with sustained profitability, has been clearly established.

The emergence of startup operations on the back of macroeconomic stability means the need for background verification is mounting rapidly. Moreover, we in this industry find ourselves in a happy situation where we find background checks going beyond the obvious, and very perfunctory, checks. Now our customers are demanding newer, more technology-driven screening solutions.

So, without further ado, let me get down to the task of spotting trends in 2016. There are 7 of them:

On-demand economy

The need for speed is going to propel the background screening business ahead. In the on-demand economy, instant solutions would be required without compromising on thoroughness of the checks. The business will also go beyond screening employees to include business partners, delivery staff and even house guests. Technology will enable all those checks to take place in a timely, efficient manner.

Technology, the driving force

It is technology that will drive the background screening business leveraging multiple sources and techniques to provide immediate and reliable solutions. It will bring down turnaround times considerably, apart from eventually bringing costs down as well. An automated data repository will also eliminate the risk of losing information, or of it being misused.

Instant verification

The universe of people who need to be verified is constantly growing, and growing exponentially. Businesses are loath to wait for these screenings to take place and reports generated; they want the reports here and now. And it is technology which will help us deal with the requirements of things needed pronto.

Information security

In the emerging global economy, as background screeners expand their businesses and get into more collaborative efforts, information security will assume greater importance. This will be an area of special focus for the industry with solutions sought for tightening of controls and secure sharing of data across platforms.

Know the law

Even as background screeners deal with the need for speed, it is imperative that they keep themselves abreast with global laws and lawful processes. Companies that focus on beefing up their knowledge of matters of law will find themselves better able to serve clients across disparate geographies as with experience and stronger need for compliances, customers are today far more wary and aware of legalism.

Global tracking

With mobility on the rise, clients will look towards background screeners to give them foolproof global background checks. Sectors like financial services, IT and even small and medium enterprises will greatly benefit from the ability of verification companies to deliver robust global tracking solutions.


Repositories of critical data are the future of the screening process. With technology advancement and need for instant results, repositories are the solution.

That’s it then. 7 trends for the background screening industry. The businesses that come out on top will have a superior capacity for innovation and constant reinvention, and will be agile enough to quickly capitalize on emerging opportunities.

This Blog was also featured in Business World.


What makes Executive Screening so critical?

Leaders are in a capacity to leverage authority & drive the business towards greater success hence, an organization must know if their investment is worthwhile. Leaders are the role models bringing business results with integrity therefore, thorough executive screening is highly critical. It is significant to conduct a lengthy executive search on the background of the prospective leaders as they represent the character of the company & hold a position of trust.

In the process to fast track the way up the corporate ladder, many candidates resort to creating an impressive resume by exaggerating & manipulating details. We have all heard the saying- ‘One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch’ likewise one toxic employee can have real costs on the company which is why the criticality of screening goes up. Lying on the resume can come back to haunt you maybe a few years down the line.

There is a need to step up the screening process of the leaders to ensure better regulation & compliance in place.A thorough background check acts a key to ascertain the potentiality of the leaders to be taken on board.Screening of high-level senior positions must also be subject to critical analysis to ensure that no wrong candidate takes such a position of value defeating the purpose of its existence.

AuthLead by AuthBridge, highly intense executive screening, tailor-made suitable to the broad specifications of the company & the leadership team. AuthLead indicates the smallest of discrepancies.There are many corporate fraud cases and examples from real world to show that an ‘inadvertent’ error in executive  hiring can impact the company image, branding and stock position irreversibly.

Leaders make or break the image of a company. Their actions, conduct & performance determine their conditioning & how far their contribution will be a boon to the success of the company.

For more information:


Can hiring CXOs be challenging?

Do you think stringent Background Check on CXOs is justified?

With corporate governance becoming the driving factor of all background screening practices, more precision is required inverifying the prospective leaders. Though, a thorough verification on the senior executives can cause intrusion but its worthwhile considering the magnitude of damage caused with senior level fraud. The growing trepidation about the senior management exploiting their privilege positions substantiates the need to conduct powerful checks focussing on every aspect of the prospect’swork life.

Citing a case from last October, a senior executive for a technology firm was turned down due to his involvement inbetting with huge losses on Indian Stocks.The finding was workable only with formal due diligence. Shortlisting for senior positions has always been sensitive & contentious, but its criticality was only realized with rise in senior management frauds.

Executive verification can vary depending upon the thoroughness of the investigation.Owing to greater fraud risk perception, higher legal liabilities & a tougher regulatory environment, a need to thoroughly screen the C-suite executives arises. The New Companies Act also necessitates increased disclosure & declaration to avoid damages of non-disclosure later.

Unprecedented number of corruption, bribery & corporate fraud cases reported in the year 2014 &2015 have commanded higher intensity & impetus on advanced background verification of the senior executives. The transition from basic to exhaustive screening has been remarkable considering the new age risks of fresh hiring at responsible positions. A recent study indicates a conspicuous risk of shift towards strategic risks over the operational ones.

Pharma is intensely hit by corporate frauds &demands a review of the system as a whole.

For more information:


The key pointers during the verification process include ethics, integrityissues, conflict of interest, management working & authenticity of the candidate. Sexual harassment cases & legal constraints too have a strong bearing on the candidate’s profile. These factors make it clear why piecing through the veil while hiring CXOs becomes an essential.

Large companies are cautious about good corporate governance, which is why every minute detailcontributes to making a good choice of senior executives.