Murali Raghavan, COO – South Asia and CIS, VFS Global demsytifies the visa process and the part VFS Global plays. By Sayoni Bhaduri
Could you throw some light on VFS Global as an organisation.
VFS Global started as an entity 10 years ago and our first client was US. Today we are present in 63 countries working with 37 governments across 526 visa centres. The initiative started in India and the growth undoubtedly has been phenomenal. In India, we cater to 27 governments. The company is registered in the UK, and wholly owned by Zurich based Kuoni Group. This was done simply because most of Schengen nations are our clients and the proximity helps.
The idea of VFS Global is to be a facilitator to embassies and consulates for their administrative visa processes since they have limited infrastructure. We organise, prepare and scrutinise forms and data, and forward it to them for further processing. This benefits the consumers as well with more convenience. We courier and allow online tracking of the entire procedure, being pretty much a one-stop-shop. Quality is a core focus for us together with innovation.
All our centres in South Asia are ISO 9001:2008 certified and soon all centres across 63 countries will be ISO 9001:2008 certified. We are also being audited for ISO 27001 certification. By the end of 2012 we are aiming for ISO 14001 certification.
How do you adapt to the visa requirements of different countries?
Every mission has a different and specific set of criteria and we have to adapt to them. Innovation and quality is what we specialise in. We offer solutions to all these varied differences, including online appointments, documentation, etc. We are constantly inventing solutions to further add value to our services. It is a challenge to convince governments to outsource visa facilitation as it is sensitive data and information linked to the security of a nation.
Which are the new governments that you have tied up with?
Of the 27 countries, South Africa, Hungary, Japan are some the new governments that we are working with. We also have global contract with Spain for 37 countries and Austria for 11 countries.
What is your opinion on the advent of the biometric systems? Which nation according to you has been a step ahead in these systems?
UK is a pioneer in visa facilitation systems, with the right system, outsourcing and even biometrics. Biometrics are more secure way to go about visas, with security threats that exist today. Schengen nations will be biometric in a year’s time.
We will be the enrollment agency for UID. With the technology development over the last 10 years anything is possible and soon there might be day when hard passport may not even exist.
What is the revenue model for VFS Global?
The revenue model for VFS Global is completely based on service fee from the applicant. We charge nothing to any of the consulates that we work with. The initial investment for everything that the consulate requires for its visa processes are provided by us. Infrastructure and IT are our biggest costs. Most of the IT systems have been designed by VFS Global internally.
What is your strategy to reach out to smaller locations in the country?
We are open to go into smaller cities based on the financial viability. If it is a large group, VFS Global will travel to smaller cities for the facilitation. Very recently VFS Global opened a centre in Pondicherry to cater to French and German visas.