The company is already working with certain state Governments and plans to work with more in the area of G2C services in India, which will be enabled by technology platforms.
The company with an expanse of operations in 124 countries, 9 data centers with over 2100 offices, 12000 users, and working with 50 governments. Abhishek Raval speaks with Dhiren Savla, Group SVP & CIO, VFS Global Services Group on the recent business and IT initiatives at VFS Global.
Technology centric recent global trends in the space of visa processing
VFS Global is the largest partner for various governments in the visa processing space. Globally, there are several developments happening in the visa processing space. Introduction of Electronic Visas (e-Visa) is gaining momentum, wherein visas can be applied for by using mobile and other alternate channels.
Another trend is around security. The Governments now want to add biometric information as an additional layer of authentication for the travellers visiting their countries. The Governments are becoming more & more sensitive about the profile of people visiting them.
What kind of businesses is VFS Global entering into in India?
With an objective to provide easy access of government services to the citizens, recently, we have got into the citizen services wherein we become the interface between the citizens and the government.
Partners like us have a much larger reach and options of offering alternate channels like mobile, website and other mechanisms of consuming various services. This supports Governments in reachout programmes that adopt a PPP model.
So are you in touch with any of the state governments to enter into partnerships to provide such citizen services?
We already do work for some state governments. We continue to pursue opportunities with various governments in India & abroad.
VFS has been working on a variety of technology platforms which is delivered by our internal teams & our partner eco-system. We have developed various bespoke solutions for our clients and have also done significant work in the Biometrics space. Our approach is to apply various technologies to solve business situations faced by our clients.
Please elaborate on the recent announcement from VFS Global on using portable biometric devices for issuing visa to the citizens.
The ‘On Demand Mobile Visa’ service brings the visa application procedure to the citizen’s doorstep. It enables applicants to complete the entire visa application procedure, including biometric data enrolment, from their homes, offices or any location of their choice. The service is available at any location throughout India, and is especially useful for larger travel groups like corporate employees, college students or even film production crews. Right now we have introduced this service for visa applicants to the UK and some Schengen client governments subject to a risk assessment of the proposed location, and on any day of choice, including weekends.
We have also developed the latest generation of fully automatic visa kiosks as part of a pilot project in Mumbai, India. These kiosks allow customers to submit their applications, biometric data, photos and make payments on their own at the visa kiosk. The kiosks are VFS Global’s response to the increasing demand for automated “self-service” application facilities.
Data during capture, transfer and storage is always encrypted and is not readable or accessible by any third party tools. This gives required sense of security to the applicant
Developments happening in the travel and tourism Industry
In the travel and tourism Industry, the way services are being consumed itself is changing. Secondly, the customer is young, knowledgeable and willing to experiment. Until a few years back, it was more of a knowledge business because we knew about the destinations and products. However now, the knowledge is openly available online. Thus the tourism business is becoming more technology dependent in terms of the options offered by travel and tourism companies to the customers.
For me, the travel and tourism business has metamorphosed into a technology business. Companies need to understand and apply the openly available knowledge and structure products around them. Usage of analytics in identifying trends is important.
Wearables can be used for context driven applications for the tourists. We are also doing PoCs with wearables.
VFS Global is a kind of a Government arm, and thus security is of paramount importance. Any new initiatives in this space lately
Security is of paramount importance to us. We are almost in the security business as well. The internal and external threats are increasing by the day. Due to the sensitivities of our business and partnerships with different client governments, we are naturally often susceptible to attacks from hackers. So, we have 24/7 security monitoring and the service function to ensure security against internal threats and zero loss of data.
We have put variety of security tools for data – be it at rest, in transit and when data is created. A lot of preventive work is also done with security vendors and security advisory companies to validate what we do. We follow a ‘Four-Eye’ principle, there is a maker and checker always.
We also run continuous security awareness programmes in the company. We work with most of the big fours – Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y and PwC and don’t limit ourselves with the knowledge of one partner. Every year, the company renews the ISO 27001 audit and certification. Last year we implemented a GRC platform, which monitors GRC processes of the group, globally in 2000 offices.