Visas processes made easier in the UAE as BLS eyes growth

Number of requests from both investors and analyst communities has increased, senior official says


Allan Jacob

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Shikhar Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director at BLS International. - Supplied photo
Shikhar Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director at BLS International. - Supplied photo

Published: Fri 11 Nov 2022, 5:29 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 2:58 PM

As travel opens up, the need for passports and visas are rising among UAE residents. BLS International, an outsourcing service provider for embassies and governments that operates 5,500 plus visa-processing centres across more than 65 countries, is keeping pace with the demand. In an interview, the company's Joint Managing Director Shikhar Aggarwal said visa processing times have been cut in the UAE with the innovative use of technology. Excerpts from the interview.

Now that travel is back, and with your stock rising 15 per cent or more in India, what are your plans for expansion globally?

China and Russia, two of the key locations for us, are still not as open as we would like them to be. Despite this, we are seeing higher sales from the remaining geographies and achieving pre-Covid levels of revenues. Once travel in these two countries open up fully, our revenues should get a significant boost.

Moreover, contracts for several countries are in the process of re-tendering in the next 6–9 months, which present substantial opportunities to expand our footprint. We are exploring other opportunities with governments in addition to the visa services we provide.

Are there new investors coming on board? Nomura has been active?

There definitely seems to be increased interest in our company from the capital markets community, as the number of requests from both investors and analyst communities has increased. However, as a part of our stringent compliance practices, details of any new potential investors are not disclosed beforehand. The recent investment from Nomura was based on its conviction in our company.

How many visa processing centres do you have globally? Any new additions?

BLS has about 15,500 plus visa-processing centres across more than 65 countries. The Company has more than 1,00,000 customer service points (CSPs) across India for its Banking Correspondence (BC) segment and e-Governance services. We expanded our CSPs’ network recently with the acquisition of Zero Mass Pvt Ltd.

What innovations/improvements have you made for visa services in the UAE?

BLS has a fully functional centre with dedicated manpower deployed in the UAE to process visas for the countries for which we have visa contracts. We have upgraded our custom-developed software technology to efficiently and securely process these visas and have drastically reduced the waiting time through improvement in operations and customer service

Have you hired more staff in the UAE and other GCC countries to keep pace with demand?

We have a wholly-owned subsidiary in the UAE. Apart from this, we have our people deployed across the globe where we operate. We have added a few people in the geographies where volume growth warranted more people to maintain customer service levels.

In India, give us an idea about your initiatives. You recently struck a deal with the West Bengal government on e-governance?

Domestically we are present across two verticals: e-governance and Banking Correspondence.

Under e-governance, we have tied up with the West Bengal government. This expands our existing project portfolio, wherein we already had contracts with Punjab, UP, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. Through this vertical, we help government services penetrate into semi-urban and rural areas. Additionally, we are looking at opportunities that would give us a stronger foothold in banking correspondence. In line with this, we recently acquired Zero Mass Pvt Ltd.

In a business where privacy is an issue, and information is of a sensitive nature, what are the challenges you face?

We have been in this industry for a fair amount of time now and have proven our integrity in maintaining the sanctity of the information. We use cutting-edge technology and processes that are tested by local authorities and embassies to temporarily collect data for the application and purge it as soon as it is sent to the government. We use our experience and the technical skills of our partners to strengthen our security systems. This is one of the big reasons why we have earned the respect of our clients. This is a part of the technical qualification process which is considered when bidding for any new contract.

Coming to the customer, would they be able to apply for passports/visas from home soon?

Yes, we provide lots of visa and passport processing services from home for the convenience of our customers. They are assisted, of course, by a BLS team member who goes to their homes to guide them through the entire application process.

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