VFS Global, which processed close to 2.5 million applications in India during Jan - May, 2019, has seen a higher surge than usual this summer possibly due to the increase in UK-bound travel because of the Cricket World Cup. “In fact, for UK alone, VFS Global processed over 200,000 UK visa applications in India between January and April 2019. Last year, we observed a 13 per cent year-on-year growth in visa applications and I expect the growth to be positive for this year too,” Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East and China, VFS Global, said. VFS had processed 5.28 million applications in India in 2018.
Elaborating on the growth strategy for India, Malhotra informed that VFS Global’s operations have grown steadily in India, from one visa application centre in Mumbai in 2001, to the current presence in 17 cities. “Today, we offer visa application service for 47 countries in India, serving an ever-rising number of outbound travellers. We have made significant advancements in visa process technology. India has been the key incubation ground for many new solutions aimed at easing the visa process and experience for governments and applicants alike. We will further extend and enhance our customer service capabilities to better support the visa application processes for applicants,” he added.
With the rapid growth of international travel, and more and more governments recognizing the benefit of promoting tourism to further their economic agendas, VFS Global can expect to reasonably expand its client base. “Paramount to our core service, however, remains our commitment to keep customer-centricity at the front and centre of our services, ensuring better, faster and more flexible services for the end applicants. Our Premium Lounges have indeed been a success among our visa applicants. We have recorded a 121 per cent year-on-year rise in applicants opting for Premium Lounge in India, during period of January to April 2019. This indicates to a very clear trend towards demand for more personalised visa application processes across markets,” he informed.
He further informed that ViVA, the first-ever visa services chatbot already launched for Australia visa applicants in India. ‘Powered by Artificial Intelligence, ViVA tackles applicant queries round-the-clock with highly nuanced responses, significantly reducing turnaround times and acting as an invaluable support to customer service teams. We will continue to identify, prototype and launch innovations that will enhance the visa application process and cross-border travel of the future,” he revealed.
Talking about the trends in easing visas by different governments, Malhotra informed that governments and service providers are constantly building efficiencies in the visa process to firstly, ease the process for customers, and secondly, rationalise processes while maintaining security through the use of tech-enabled services. “For instance, earlier this year, UK Visas and Immigration rolled out its self-upload solution, enabling applicants to scan and submit their visa application form and supporting documents online from the comfort of their home, so they can visit the Visa Application Centre with just their passports for biometric enrolment,” he said and added that e-visas too are an emerging trend.
VFS Global values the travel agent fraternity as one of its biggest stakeholders and engage with them on a regular basis to improve the overall visa services ecosystem. “This is done through regular meetings in all cities of operations, road shows, and special offers and packages, while at the same time, being as being mindful of their requirements so their customers can enjoy a superior visa application experience. Furthermore, we also offer travel agents a wide range of innovative and extremely useful services that smoothen the visa application process for their customers,” he added.