CEO of VFS Global
Transitioning into the post-pandemic era, Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global, talks about building an organisation future-ready, more customer-centric and focused on sustainable value creation.
How is VFS Global catering to the evolving demands of customers and governments?
Recognising the fast-developing demand for personalised services, we are bringing the visa application process online and to the safety and comfort of our customers’ homes. We are expanding our very popular Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD) service across various countries, allowing customers to complete visa submission and biometric enrolment securely from the comfort and safety of their homes or offices. These services are used by 33 of our client governments across 49 countries, and there has been an increase in VAYD applications this year. Similarly, other new services such as Digital Document Check (DDC) helps in better document preparedness through pre-submission review of their visa application, while our Digital Application Submission (DAS) service helps customers in conveniently submitting their visa applications with our assistance on video chat.
How did VFS Global maintain service excellence benchmarks and deal with data security concerns during the pandemic?
We were quick to integrate the COVID safety checklist, in line with WHO regulations and local government directives, into our operations. As a result, by December 2020, we were able to resume operations in 1600 Visa Application Centers (more than half our global network) catering to over 50 client governments across 129 countries. Though the applicant counts were low initially, our ability to bounce back quickly, reinstated our client governments’ trust in VFS Global’s service standards. Although the pandemic escalated data security risks in a world working remotely, VFS Global deployed numerous cutting-edge security solutions against potential cyber threats. Most importantly, data security is fully embedded within the design and functioning of our processes. A case in point is the continuation of the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification that demonstrates a high level of assurance throughout our information security processes.
How are you preparing for the post-pandemic era and future-proofing your business?
In our 20th year of operations, we witnessed a paradigm shift in the travel services industry, which underlines the critical importance of being future ready. Keeping pace with these changes our businesses have become even more customer-centric, resilient, and efficient across our global network, which is the biggest in the industry having operations in 140+ countries.
Our new-age digital services are reimagining the customer experience. The idea is to further enhance customer convenience and ensure completely secure and reliable services with minimal physical contact points.
While visa application services are our core business, we are expanding our passport and consular services portfolio to support client governments managing these services for their citizens living in foreign countries. We have maintained our unique value proposition in this domain. Our trusted partnership with 11 governments – Austria, Bulgaria, Ghana, India, Italy, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, stands testament to this. Similarly, considering the emergence of biometric technologies, our in-house Multi-Mission Model (MMM) solution, which is accredited by the UK government, is designed to serve multiple missions’ requirements from every single biometric workstation.
How is VFS Global equipping its employees for the future?
We used this time of introspection to empower our people through learning and development. During the pandemic, 215 training courses were offered virtually through our ‘Learn From Home Programme’ in 2020, registering a staggering 111,000+ participant logins. More than 43,000 enrolments for e-learning courses and 8,370 participant logins for webinars were recorded in 2021 for our ongoing InstaLearn programmes. We also amplified global efforts for the wellness of our workforce. For instance, our HR teams in Europe rolled out a comprehensive well-being programme focussing on the six core areas of an individual – mind, work, life, sleep, active and food.
Having maintained a strong gender balance in our global team (women to men ratio of 58:42 in 2021), the creation of the Women Network, a recent milestone in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy, would further facilitate career development and growth of our women colleagues. With professionals from 118 nationalities in our global workforce, cultural diversity has hugely benefitted our thought process and business practices.
How has the pandemic altered your sustainability vision?
In this unpredictable world, business success requires new levels of resilience and agility, rooted in responsible practices that will help preserve our planet. As a result, we have identified five strategic pillars – contributing to sustainable growth, delivering good governance, nurturing our colleagues protecting our environment, and supporting our communities, to anchor the next phase of growth at VFS Global.