Its headquarters is in Zurich and Dubai, it has 64 governments as clients and its operations spread across 140 countries. But VFS Global, a market leader in the visa processing business, has an Indian origin and that is in focus as the company is set for a change in ownership.
On Thursday, Blackstone acquired a majority stake in VFS Global from Swedish private equity firm EQT, pinning hopes of a rebound in global travel post the pandemic. The deal values VFS Global at $2 billion as per a media report.
VFS was conceptualised in 2001 by Zubin Karkaria, then a chief operating officer of Kuoni India, to address the pain points of Indian globetrotters. Back then, visa applicants had to stand in long queues outside consulates while visa officers pored through their applications. VFS made the job easier for consulates as they had to only decide on granting or rejecting a visa, while VFS would handle the collection and scrutiny of documents. The first pilot project was with the US consulate in Mumbai, followed by Pune and Ahmedabad.
Soon, more contracts followed and by 2005, Kuoni India was processing visas for 11 countries in India, including the UK, Canada and Australia. Karkaria also became the CEO of the Indian business that year.
The company’s global foray began in 2007, when the UK government outsourced visa processing in 33 countries.
Today India is among the top three markets for the company and also houses the global support office for the company. It handled six million applications from 51 centres in 2019.
“Zubin’s success is conceptualising, executing and nurturing the business. He understands the travel and visa segment really well,” said a former colleague.
While VFS Global is a market leader today with over 50 per cent market share in the visa processing segment, the business idea initially was met with skepticism.
“My colleagues thought the Americans would never agree to such an idea,” Karkaria said in a media interview in 2015. Theirs was the toughest visa regime, with more processes and documentation than any other country, he said. Karkaria now serves as CEO of VFS Global.
“VFS’ core business operations are process-driven and the company has been successful in replicating them around the world,” a former colleague said. In this business.
Visa processing is a niche business, driven by trust and relationship with governments. Contracts are awarded by governments at local and global levels and that requires the company to maintain a high standard of service delivery while adhering to data protection laws. “VFS strength has really been its operations team,” he added.
Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.
As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.
Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.