Camera: Nitin Chopra, Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Producer: Zijah Sherwani
Ever been told you couldn’t do something because it’s a “man’s job”? It’s time to shut the haters. For Women’s Day, we present you stories about women who’re acing conventionally male-dominated jobs and smashing ‘StreeOtypes’ along the way!
“People easily speak to women because they feel women don’t pose a threat. Being a woman, people trust you and don’t doubt you.”Akriti Khatri, Founder, Venus Detective Agency
Thirty-three-year-old Akriti is the founder of Venus Detective Agency which she started in the year 2011. She has lost count of the number of cases she has investigated and solved. A quick-witted person who prides herself on never having been caught during investigations, Akriti is always on her toes. Currently, she works with a team of 15 people in her Noida office.
When Akriti was called ‘Nancy Drew of Delhi’ by a few publications, she says she had to google ‘Nancy Drew’ as she had never read detective magazines or novels!
An MBA, she joined an investigating agency at the age of 20 after reading a ‘detective services’ advertisement in the newspaper. At that time, she was the only female field agent in the company.
“Even today you can count female detectives in India on your fingers as many women don’t see this as a career option.”Akriti Khatri, Founder, Venus Detective Agency
Akriti wanted to experiment with her cases and try new investigating techniques but working under someone she found herself tied up because her ideas weren’t approved easily. That’s when she realised that she needs to start her own company.
Akriti’s aim is to create an environment for women to talk about their problems comfortably, while also encouraging women to look at private investigation as a viable career option. Currently, she has five offices across the country and more than 300 female investigators working in her agency, including college students, housewives, and some freelancers.
Her youngest detective, Bharti (pseudonym), is 21 years old.
“I really enjoy my job. Spying on people and getting evidence is very exciting!”Bharti, Private Investigator
Bharti did not reveal her real name to us, but did say that she is probably the youngest female detective in India. Fresh out of college, she is undergoing training under Akriti for the past 3-4 months.
Bharti's initial cases, she tells us, included ‘pre-marital surveillance’, which is a method a lot of parents are choosing nowadays to look into a potential bride or groom before zeroing in on someone for their son/daughter's marriage. Although cases of cheating on partners are rising, a shy Bharti tells us that she believes in love but will thoroughly investigate the person she likes before dating him.
Akriti has several interesting anecdotes about her clients, whom she does not name:
“Nowadays, more men come crying (literally) asking for evidence to prove that their partner is cheating on them.”
Akriti has a unique style of working: She mingles with the crowd so that no one notices her, especially when she has to wait around for the subject for long hours, lurking around the same place. Interestingly, she mentions that she doesn’t hire people who are really good looking or who stand out too much or even Sikh men, because of their turbans.
She also clarifies with a laugh, “Detectives don’t wear over-coats or hats as we have seen in the movies. Detectives carefully chose their attire to look as inconspicuous as possible.”
Suman, an undercover detective working for Akriti, tells us that a detective needs to be a good actor as they have to play many characters. Suman has played many roles for her investigations, from a corn seller to a college student to a house help and many more.
“You have to make up your mind about what character you are playing. No one should be able to read your eyes or know what you’re thinking. And once you overcome any initial hesitation, it’s very easy.”Suman, Undercover Detective
Suman agreed to come on camera for us as she is confident, she claims, that she will never get caught because of her “looks and different get-ups”. Even if someone recognises her, she will have a quick response ready to belt out, she declares.
Akriti emphasises that although this is an uncommon profession, especially for women, it's “like any other job”.
“We work in shifts, like other companies. Every job demands your time and skills. It’s just that people have some inhibitions about working as a detective – which we are trying to overcome. Apart from counselling, we have started a service where people can take the training online and understand this profession better.”Akriti Khatri, Founder, Venus Detective Agency