From a chaiwali to a college student: the multiple disguises of ace detective Akriti Khatri
Akriti Khatri, Founder of Venus Detective Agency, which now has offices across major Indian cities, applied for a detective’s job on a lark. In fact, the agencies she applied to were not even hiring. She came across their ads in the newspaper looking for clients, and decided that it would be an interesting profession to pursue. Brimming with confidence, she called them up.
The first agency told her it would call back; the other asked if she could come down for an interview the next day. “By the time I got over the shock of an immediate interview, I received a call from the first agency, asking me to come immediately,” Akriti recalls.
It took her one-and-half-hours to reach the office that was situated at the other end of Delhi. The founder asked her to outline a check list for a pre-marriage investigation. She gave one; that led to her selection for an internship-cum-training and she was asked to join the next day.
For the next one month, the 20-year-old was not assigned any work and sat idle. Exasperated, she asked her boss “what the deal was”. He told her it was a test in patience and that she had passed. She finally got an assignment to do a pre-marital check, one she passed with flying colours.
“I knocked on the door of the neighbour of the person to be investigated. The woman was only too eager to give me information. It was easy.”
From then on, for the next five years, Akriti became a full-fledged investigator with the agency. A small tiff with her boss led her to leave the job. It was then that she thought of starting up on her own, and founded the Venus Detective Agency in 2012.
An ‘information gatherer’
Born and raised in Delhi, Akriti completed a bachelor’s degree in science and an MBA from Delhi University. As one would expect, she never read any detective books but calls herself as an “information gatherer”.
“I was a tomboy and would be up to date with information about teachers and students in school. My hobby was to gather information about others. My classmates used to come and ask me ‘kya naya chatpata story hai’,” she says with a laugh.
Initially, Akriti did not want to compete with her former employer and decided to do only employee verifications. “I opened an office, hired an assistant to help me, and by the end of the month I was bored only with employee checks. I decided to switch to investigative work.”
Since then, Akriti’s work has grown manifold and she now has offices in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh, and Jaipur. She employs over 75 staff and freelancers.
The investigative work falls under two categories: personal and corporate. Personal investigation includes pre-marital checks, post-marriage checks, checks for maintenance claims, child custody, etc. Corporate investigation covers brand copyrights and trademarks, employee checks, labour court cases, cheating, and undercover surveillance.
Akriti explains, “We only approach the police when raids are required. Usually, we hand over the information to the client to act upon. The profession is not legalised in India and that’s a big deterrent.”
Her most challenging cases have been those where politicians and businessmen were involved. She says it’s difficult to investigate them, as they are always surrounded by people and there is a huge element of risk involved.
As an undercover detective, Akriti has donned many disguises, ranging from a college girl, chaiwali, buttawali, etc.
“Yes, it’s a risky profession. But before entering any place, we are taught to check for exits as well. You need to be mentally and physically fit, and be alert at all times. The most important quality you need is confidence. The good thing is I don’t look like a detective or investigator.”
Thought there aren’t a number of women detectives in India, Akriti says she receives a lot of enquiries from homemakers and college students. “The profession is frowned upon by most people. Parents wouldn’t want a daughter to become one. There is some amount of danger involved and there is nothing to back me up; I don’t have a card. Also, we don’t have formal qualifications available in investigation,” she says
On the other side, Akriti says you get paid very well and there is no monotony; every day brings with it a new challenge.
For all the intrepid adventurers wanting to become detectives, Akriti has some words of good advice. “First of all, complete your studies. And then take it up and it will be difficult to manage work. Be extremely confident. There will be many saying ‘yeh bhi koi kaam hai’. Ignore and move forward.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)