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