Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Swift Spain Rollout – Race against time to overcome the stiffest odds

Winning the Spain Visa Outsourcing contract in September 2016 was recognition of our strengths, credibility and resources in the Visa/passport outsourcing business on a global scale.

Since, the tender stated a one week roll out which was in favour of the incumbent who had operations already running in different countries, since the earlier service provider was not flexible to provide a transition time if they were to lose the bid, when the usual norm is a minimum of 3 months for such scale of global roll outs.

BLS however took this challenge which even some of the leading companies didn’t and were confident of managing it seamlessly or didn’t want to risk fearing a reputational damage since they felt it can’t be done within a week.
Post the bid, as the results of the tender award was announced in favour of BLS International, we had acted quickly and decisively. Project teams were dispatched to 37 countries to begin the process of scoping for offices, partners, tie ups with vendors and complete the roll out within the 1 week timeline.

However all the excitement and preparations came to a standstill since beginning of 1st week of October 2016, BLS received intimation from the ministry that the project was on hold due to an appeal lodged by the competition. So we held back on preparation though we were informed that whenever it is announced, BLS International had to get everything going in one week to roll out.BLS International had to contend with uncertainty right through this time period.
However BLS was confident that the contract would be awarded to them and continued with their backend preparations without any official communication by the Ministry of Spain about the contract.
That’s when the determination of top management got us going. BLS International made financial investments, managing partner apprehensions wherever it was a tie-up, employee concerns in terms of a definite timeline and joining date, lack of clear timelines for planning the roll out and execution and also aspirations of vendors.

The competition created a lot of hurdles by way of planting false information and maligning our reputation. We had spent a lot on financial investments and manpower energies of the (Visa application Centres) VACs across countries and multiple locations.
The problems were manifold. Properties were finalised without Mission approvals since we were not supposed to get in touch with the Missions till the time the appeal was over. Some of these properties were not available as we had only blocked them unable to confirm on a clear start date.  This meant we had to lookout for alternate properties in prime locations for the proposed VACs.

Our competitor used every trick in the book to hinder us. Some of the vendors backed up in the last minute due to pressure from competition on non-compete clause.

Then, we had to grapple with manpower issues. Staff who had been shortlisted didn’t join as per committed timelines since they were retained by the competition or they were not keen to join given the ambiguity of contract awardence. This also meant that no training from the Mission could happen before the launch as the dates were not known.

While all the above challenges were being handled, on 12th December 2016, BLS International was informed that the contract was awarded in their favour and we had to roll out within a week as per our commitment. We had to go ahead with the earlier preparations and in just one week we signed the MOU, made travel plans, Mission communications, Mission meetings, legal formalities, opened bank accounts, hired staff, and created office infrastructureto meet the deadline.

Now that it was officially signed, we redoubled our efforts in a race against time. The biometric kits had to be dispatched to various locations giving no scope for customs and courier delays., In some cases the situation was so pressing that the kits had to be hand carried by the team to ensure we had at least one kit to start the project. Moreover, websites had to be ready not only in English but multiple languages in most countries, application testing had to be done, training on the application had to be provided to teams on the ground apart from sourcing the hardware as per the specifications in the last minute.

Despite these challenges, it was a matter ofgreat pride when BLS International rolled out on the due date in 36 locations and 53 VACs. It was a miracle that a task that takes no less than 3 months were compressed to a week on a global roll out.  

This was entirely a result of a strong management and extraordinary commitment of our employees. Within a week of the roll out the peak season for China had commenced on account of Chinese New Year and we processed more than 1000 applications per day. The staff worked overtime to ensure no delays in our submission to the Mission next day.

We had to overcome teething troubles when some of the locations were not approved by the Mission. We found new locationsand made transition in a short duration which meant added financial burden apart from going through the process all over again.

BLS International rolled out phase 2 and phase 3 locations within a month of the phase 1 roll out. We are proud to have rolled out 55 more centres with a total of 108 VAC as on date exceeding 5,50,000 applications processed as of May 2017.

In summary BLS managed not only to meet the timelines as per the tender but also a seamless transition within a week, which is something that competitors have never been able to achieve so far inspite of their years of experience

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Punjab Sewa Kendras touches 700,000 applications a month

Transparency and accountability are twin pillars of good governance. It is of paramount importance for any responsible government to ensure the delivery of its programs and activities reach the people without leakage and pilferage.

E-governance in India has no better ambassador than the state of Punjab. Launched in the middle of August 2016, these Sewa Kendras dot the state map in 2,147 centers. In these 9 months of operations, the daily footfall is over 30,000. Nearly 700,000* applications in the month of May, 2017 is sufficient proof that the citizens of this progressive state have embraced e-governance with both hands.

Each month since its launch, these Sewa Kendras have found favour with the citizens. Starting with 1.51 lakh applications in the first full month of operations in September, 2016; it has now touched 7,00,000 applications in May, 2017 showing a 24% increase from the previous month April figures. The response has been overwhelming and figures are nowhere any stabilizing; there has been an exponential growth on a month-to-month basis.

In a country like India with a wide geographical spread, bureaucratic complexities, red tape, stifling procedures; e-governance is the only tool to plug the leaks in the system. The corruption in the system is so prevalent that India consistently figures in the ratings as the one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Indian citizens are used to “running pillar to post” and “greasing the palms” for basic services – registering a property, applying for electricity or ration card, collecting pension, birth, wedding, death certificates, caste certificates to name a few – unless there is access to a Tehsildar, MLA, or bureaucrat in the top level of administration. Fortunately gone are those days. Welcome to e-governance!

Good governance practices that have installed transparency and accountability through computerization of all the public dealing Departments, including the Police, Judiciary, transportation, and registration of properties.

The development of information technologies has brought about fundamental changes in the relationship between citizens and public authorities and local governments. Today the media is vociferous in taking on vested interests and exposing acts of misgovernance and corruption through RTI. The Government machinery is more than aware that citizens have multiple mechanisms and cannot be inconvenienced.

Punjab is a proof that corruption can be curbed by systematic changes in governance through introducing participation, transparency, accountability and probity in administration. The government’s initiatives to incorporate Citizens’ Charters, Right to Information, e-Governance, Report Cards and Social Audits is an illustration for other state governments in the Union.

BLS International plays a major role in Punjab Sewa Kendras as they operate and manage all the 2,147 centers. They are single-point contact for citizens of Punjab for all their government documentation needs. Through investments in IT systems, robust Data Management System, disciplined workforce; these Sewa Kendras provide 82 citizen-centric services (of the proposed 223 as the rest of the services will be added subsequently).

The benefit to the citizens of Punjab is immense and immediate: convenience of availing services at a Sewa Kendra close to their homes in a time-bound and transparent manner and importantly 82 services pertaining to 17 departments under one roof.

E-governance in Punjab is showing the way for other states in India to follow in ensuring transparency and accountability for efficient and effective delivery of government services. 

*  The reduction in count from Dec-Feb was on account of the demonetisation effect.

BLS Spain Visa – Mission Accomplished

Visa/application processing is a niche market with only a few specialized players globally. BLS International is the only Indian player and is the second largest globally. It has processed ~ 16 million applications till date and ~ 1.5 million in FY 2016.

Winning the 175 million Euro contract of the Spain government in June 2016 has been a feather in BLS International’s cap. It is a testimony to our professional skills, technological competence and trained manpower to deliver services of global standards.

BLS International commenced operations of Spain Visa processing on 18th December, 2016. In this time period, BLS International opened Spain Visa Applications Centers (VACs) in 108 locations in 38 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. Our target is to open 129 Spanish visa application centers in 47 countries.

Being exclusively entrusted with a key element of the Spain visa process, BLS International recognizes that its VACs are, in most cases, the only direct contact that an applicant has with a Mission. Operating in 38 countries for Spain Visa processing, BLS International has quickly adapted to the different languages and cultures in these six months of operations.

At each VAC, BLS ensures world class office facilities to deliver the highest standards of customer service. An applicant is charged a nominal fee under the umbrella of word class services given to them. At most of the VACs, BLS International offers value-added services including Premium Lounge, SMS service alert, photocopy form filling, kids-corner and convenient courier services.

BLS International has taken painstaking efforts to delivering world class service. All our BLS International – Spain VACs displays prominently the Feedback IDs and Information Email ID’s for the customer to get in touch with our team for any clarifications/ assistance. BLS has devoted call center teams that provide 24*7 solutions to our customers through customers’ E-mails and the Helpline.

BLS International commenced operations of Spain Visa processing on 18th December, 2016. It gives us great pride to have processed 560,000 processed visa applications to Spain as on May 26, 2017.

We are extremely proud of our partnership with Spain MAEC (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation) marking our entry into the prestigious Schengen market. By executing the Spain contract successfully, BLS International has proved itself to be in the major league of Visa processing industry. 

With India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi visiting Spain on 31 May 2017 to boost strategic and investment partnership and help grow the India-Spain partnership, BLS International expects Spain becoming a popular tourist destination.

BLS International expresses our heartfelt thanks to Spain embassies in these 38 countries, applicants, our dedicated employees and the general public on their unstinted support and cooperation.

Annual Results: BLS International registers exponential growth

For the financial year ended 31st March 2017, company reported gross revenue of INR 635 crores, up 26% and an EBITDA of INR 82 crores, up 124%, while the PAT stood at Rs.50 crores, up 62% over the corresponding year last year.

During the Q4 ended March 2017, the company rolled out its operations for the Spain contract. It reported gross revenue of Rs. 194 crores, and an EBITDA of Rs. 34 Crores, up 70 % and 529% respectively, over the corresponding period of last quarter. The Company maintained robust EBITDA margins of 51% (40% corresponding period last year) on Net revenue.
Shikhar Aggarwal, Joint MD, BLS International in an interview to CNBC-TV18 spoke about the company’s Q4 performance and the outlook going forward. Mr. Aggarwal said Spain order and Punjab e-Govt rollout will aid FY18 revenues. “Besides these two major projects, BLS International is bidding for more global contracts & domestic e-Governance projects,” he said.

Punjab Sewa Kendras, the flag bearer of e-governance, bringing transparency in citizen services

Digital India, a campaign launched by the Government of India, aims to reach the Government services to citizens electronically by improved online infrastructure, increased Internet connectivity and digitally empowering citizens through advances in technology. Digital India is a transformative game-changing tool of governance; it eliminates middlemen and provides access to public services accountable, transparent and efficient.

What are Sewa Kendras?
As of part of ‘Digital India' initiative, 2,147 e-governance centres called “Sewa Kendras” were set across Punjab state connecting every major village and town in the state. The citizens can access government services close to their residence and in a timely manner.
These Sewa Kendras minimises public interaction with various offices and act as a catalyst to help people get their routine administrative works done in a speedy manner. The Department of Governance Reforms currently provides 82 citizen-centric services of the proposed 223 to people working with 17 departments under one roof.  The rest 151 will be added in a phased manner.
Any citizen of Punjab can approach any of the 2,147 Sewa Kendras and apply for a new or renew various documents like Birth & Death Certificates, Arms License, Affidavit Attestation or avail of services such as, Bus Passes, Electricity Bill Payment, Identity Card Services, Marriage Registration – there are 82 citizen services available currently from the Sewa Kendras.

Performance of Sewa Kendras
BLS International was chosen as a delivery partner for its strengths and proven expertise in Strong technology expertise, Data Management System expertise, Proven Track record, project management capabilities, quality human resources and response management.
BLS International has deployed state-of-art-technology to secure and maintain sensitive citizen data and personal details. The company has so far processed over 700,000 applications in 8 months of operations.  With a daily footfall of approx. 30,000, these Sewa Kendras are making a huge difference in the lives of citizens in Punjab through efficient delivery of government services.
Social Impact of Sewa Kendras
BLS International employs an army of 4721 youths to processes approx. 700,000 applications a month.  
BLS International not only provides employment but also inculcated discipline, imbibe new jobs skills from working on IT/ Non IT systems, handling customer grievances and latest project management skills.