New Delhi, April 23:

India’s booming services and software industry Monday announced that an independent watchdog has been setup to create a “global safe-deposit vault” to halt data theft such as credit card details.

Shyamal Ghosh, a former bureaucrat, was named chairman of the Self Regulatory Organisation and said the watchdog will be independent of industry’s main lobby group, National Association of Software and Service Companies or NASSCOM.

“We will make it so critical (to join) that more companies would like to come in than stay out, as without accreditation it will be difficult to survive in the market,” Ghosh told reporters.

The watchdog will certify that companies who voluntarily join the organisation meet data security standards designed to prevent incidents such as in June last year when an employee of global banking giant HSBC in Bangalore was charged with siphoning off 230,000 pounds ($460,000) from 20 British account holders.

In September last year, a call centre employee in eastern India was arrested for using the credit card details of customers to make on-line purchases. The incidents raised concern that India’s outsourcing industry would be shunned by firms overseas concerned about data security.

NASSCOM predicts software and customer services outsourced to India will grow 25 per cent annually to $60 billion, or nearly half of the global market, by 2010. The sector currently adds more than $17 billion to the Indian economy. Ghosh said membership to the watchdog will be offered after verification of working and security practices at the companies by independent specialists hired by the organisation.

“A single security breach is a breach too many and we want to bring it down to zero as the goal is to turn the Indian industry into a global safe deposit for data,” NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik said.