BLS International sets sights on VFS Global’s territory

Shikhar Aggarwal, joint managing director, BLS
Shikhar Aggarwal, joint managing director, BLS

Summary

In 2023, BLS inked several deals such as electronic visa-on- arrival applications from 17 countries, such as for Thailand from India, for Poland in Manila-Cebu, and South Africa (Thailand), as well as from the US for Germany.

New Delhi

BLS International Ltd is vying for international visa contracts worth $2 billion, as governments worldwide are looking to make the visa landscape more competitive by including more companies, Shikhar Aggarwal, joint managing director, BLS, said.

The Delhi-based immigration and visa services firm was established in 2007 and manages consular services for various governments such as that of Spain, and has set its sights on direct competition with the industry giant, VFS Global.

In the last two years the firm has secured several contracts that were under the purview of VFS, it claimed. It has recently won a contract from Germany to oversee visa management operations in the US and Mexico.In 2023, BLS inked several deals such as electronic visa-on- arrival applications from 17 countries, such as for Thailand from India, for Poland in Manila-Cebu, and South Africa (Thailand), as well as from the US for Germany.

“Due to bandwidth limitations, many European countries, such as Spain which we manage , have seen a surge in visa application world wide, including India. Several countries are also keen to have more competitors in visa business," he added. To cash in on this opportunity, it is actively vying for visa contracts worth $2 billion.“Last year we processed 70,000 visas in India and saw an increase of 15% in ancillary services like mobile biometrics, at home or office, besides postal application services," Aggarwal said.

With an estimated 15-20% growth over the previous year, BLS aims to process the same number of tourist applications as it did in 2019 by 2023-end.

However, despite the rising competition, customer dissatisfaction with visa service providers is prevalent among customers. Online platforms are replete with complaints from users in India and around the world, criticizing BLS as well as VFS for poor time management at centres and for forcing them to buy ancillary services such as lounges or biometrics.

The challenge is compounded by the inability of many embassies to expand capacity amid the surge in post-pandemic demand. The visa operators are also found wanting as the ground staff at visa centres worldwide are inadequately trained.

According to a Mint report, BLS clocked over twofold rise in its consolidated net profit in Q4 to 76.73 crore compared to 35.20 crore a year earlier. Moreover, the company’s net profit rose by 84% to 204.27 crore in FY23, surpassing the previous year’s 111.2 crore.

Despite strong financials, its visa application volumes have not fully rebounded and stood at 75% of pre-pandemic levels. Around 80% of BLS’ business stems from visa consular services, wherein India contributes 10-15%, and China and Russia, accounting for 25% which is yet to return.

It was recently awarded a contract to offer visa and legalisation services in Senegal starting July in six countries under the jurisdiction of the Italian embassy in Dakar.

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