Detective Akriti Khatri Lets Us Check On Her Day And Gather Info On Real Life Nancy Drews
- IWB Post
- February 1, 2020
The Nancy Drew series has been a reading staple among young crime fiction enthusiasts. Who hasn’t dreamt of solving the neighbourhood crime cases just like America’s most loved female fictional character Nancy Drew? Interestingly, the lead character Nancy in the American mystery series Nancy Drew was created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer as the female counterpart to his Hardy Boys series. The books were ghostwritten by a number of authors and published under the collective pseudonym, Carolyn Keene.
Our very own Nancy Drew, Akriti Khatri, is India’s youngest and most successful female detective. Akriti and Nancy could be called two peas in a pod – both have exceptional critical thinking skills, courage, integrity, and passion for investigation. Much like Nancy, Akriti too has become an icon in the industry and opened her own agency at the age of 24. Her agency Venus Detective Agency is headquartered in Noida with branches in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, and Kolkata. Owing to her experience of more than 12 years, Akriti has led a number of investigations and has had an 85% success rate.
“I decided to be myself. When I started out I didn’t have 20 years of experience, so as a company we decided to project ourselves as a group of young people who were passionate about the profession. One should be proud of who they are and whatever they have. We weren’t the most experienced but we were the youngest,” says Akriti, on starting a company at a young age. As a detective, Akriti has donned many disguises and as one would expect, she has never read any books on the subject. She calls herself an ‘information gatherer.’
Talking about one of her most challenging cases, she says, “A missing person case is the most difficult. We were once investigating the case of a missing child from Rishikesh. His parents were told that he had drowned and they did not believe in that theory, so they hired us to investigate. After a tedious process, we found him in one of the ashrams of a godman in Rajasthan.”
In this engaging conversation with IWB, Akriti talks about the nuances of the profession, the risks involved and how being a female detective can sometimes prove to be a deterrent in the field.
You are one of the few detectives who opened their agency at a very young age. Tell us a bit about your journey. Why did you choose to become a detective?
Honestly, I never thought that I’ll be a detective. It happened by chance. I used to do some detective work in my school and college days but I never thought that I would pursue this as a profession one day. I was a tomboy in college and all my male friends would urge me to find the details about the girl they liked. My hobby was to gather as much information as I could about students and teachers. I once read a newspaper ad about an agency offering detective services and that intrigued me. So, I called them the next day to inquire about a job opportunity with the firm and the lady on the other side fixed an interview for me. My then boss took my interview and asked me to join his team. For me, it was sheer chance that I ended up in this profession.
There are a lot of shows that have a detective as a protagonist. Can you tell us what is it that films and TV shows get wrong about being a detective?
In India, one of the most popular shows is CID. People come to me and give all kinds of references on how to solve a case based on the show. I always tell them that a lot of things that are shown are not practically possible. For e.g., the characters flash their ID cards and pick up any person that they want to interrogate. In real life, that’s not how it works. In my initial days, some people would call me and say, ‘We want something like emotional-atyachaar’, based on another popular TV show at that time. I had to explain to them how real life was way different than the reel life. The service they were looking for is called ‘honey trapping’ – a tedious, time-consuming and costly process that doesn’t yield results overnight. It was difficult to make people understand that detectives are human professionals and not Gods – we can’t do anything and everything.
There are very few women detectives in the country. How does being a woman change things for you in this field? Could you highlight the obstacles faced while obtaining important information/evidence?
Though there are a lot of women inclined towards the profession, they don’t get much support from family, friends, and in-laws. It’s a risky profession, so everybody is pulling you down and people want you to take up a white-collar job. Nobody promotes you. I think being a woman always helps you in obtaining information from other people. People tend to trust women and are ready to give out information. It always gives you an edge above the others to investigate things in a better way. There are many detective agencies that hire females to investigate cases. This concept of female detectives is not new; it existed in the olden times as well. We have all heard of ‘Vishkanyas’ being hired to spy on kings and other prominent members in the king’s court. However, there are some drawbacks, too. For e.g., if you go to places like a factory where labour is involved, it’s extremely difficult to mix with them and get information. They will treat you as an outsider and make your job difficult. In such situations, male detectives work better.
The profession of a detective is not legalised in India. Could you highlight how that acts as a deterrent in your job?
It’s problematic every day. Since the profession is not legalised, we don’t have the privilege of showing our ID cards if we are caught unlike journalists and other professionals. Once caught, there is a lot of bargaining involved. I remember a case that we were working on eight-nine years back. I had given an assignment to my team and they had to go and do some investigation at a remote place that lies at the border of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The man we were investigating was tipped off by someone and our guys were caught and the man claimed that our guys were sharpshooters who had come to kill him. He had some influence on the police which made it difficult for us to prove our case. We face such difficulties every day and take a lot of precautions to avoid any scene.
You are known as the Nancy Drew of Delhi. Tell us a bit about some of your most challenging cases.
Well, there are so many cases – political, child abuse, corporate, etc. There was a case where I was investigating a woman who was offering escort services to high-profile parties. We were hired by her husband to see what the wife was up to. As the case progressed, we got to know details that we never thought could come across in such cases. The dark side of the society was revealed to us through this case. There was another case where we were investigating a college student who was involved with the pubs and clubs. We couldn’t approach her directly; there was a middleman involved. Such cases often have a huge network of human trafficking set in the picture. It was a very challenging case for us. Another one was where we were investigating a missing person from the famous Kedarnath case. Finally, we found her somewhere in Punjab. The girl had lost her memory and was staying with some family. Missing person cases are normally very tedious cases to handle.
Reveal some of your most interesting disguises as a detective. What have been some of your favourites?
One of my favourites is that of a corn seller. It’s very easy to set it up and sell corn on a footpath. Nobody will doubt you and you can stay there for any number of hours you want. Another one would be that of a maid. I had worked as a maid in a house as part of an undercover operation. A lot of deaths were happening in the client’s house and he wanted to know what was actually going on inside the house. Disguising oneself as a beggar, a fitness trainer, a student are some of the disguises that are very easy to pull off and don’t attract much attention.
You have a team of 80 people. What is your leadership strategy as a young woman?
We had clients pan-India who wanted to meet physically and discuss things face to face. This is why we set up offices all over India to have representatives who could meet the clients and discuss the issues. As a person, I am very optimistic and I believe in finding solutions instead of mulling over a problem. I run my agency like any other corporate firm – all thanks to my MBA education. I motivate my team by organising in-house events, parties, etc. I never sit on my chair and mostly sit and work with my team. To the women who aspire to be detectives, I’ll say be very confident about your decision. People bring you down but stand firm – be strong mentally. Investigation is not a job, it’s a passion. I truly believe that if you love your work, you’ll succeed no matter what.