India; ‘Hard to predict when immigration companies will start functioning’

The view from the “immigration industry” in India, similar to the spoken or unspoken fears of the “immigration industry” in Canada:

The dreams of thousands of youngsters of the region to study abroad will take time to take wings as uncertainty, caused by the rising number of Covid-19 cases throughout the world, prevails everywhere. With high commissions dysfunctional and restrictions imposed by almost all countries in the world and international air services suspended due to the Covid pandemic, the companies providing overseas solutions and consultations to people are suffering huge losses. In an interview with Ajay Joshi, Sumit Jain, Director of Jain Overseas, shares how the visa consultants are struggling to sustain in the market these days. Excerpts:

How has the lockdown impacted your business?

The lockdown has greatly affected the IELTS and immigration businesses. Till last year, the growth in the number of visa applicants from Punjab had outpaced throughout the country, but owing to the Covid pandemic, the business of the immigration industry has been reduced to nearly 10 per cent. Even if students aspiring to study abroad want to appear for their IELTS exams to improve their score, the IELTS coaching is not possible as such coaching centres have shut down their shops for some time.

Do you expect your business to pick up in the near future?

Looking at the situation, it’s really hard to predict when our businesses would resume or start gathering pace. Immigration business is primarily dependent on IELTS, so until immigration companies start functioning again, consultancy services would barely give any profit. Besides, we are also dependent on resumption of VFS centres and high commissions for approval. Online documentation wouldn’t be possible due to the uncertainty over the promotion of Class XII and graduation students.

Have you paid salaries to workers during the lockdown period?

Jain Overseas has its head office in Jalandhar and regional offices in Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and other cities. To survive in the market, salaries were paid every month to our staff. Staff of around 120 people work in Jalandhar but there were no lay-offs, however, their salaries were deducted to 10-20 per cent.

What are the lessons you have learnt from the lockdown as a businessman?

Undoubtedly, the lockdown has taught many things. We have become more tech-savvy. We realised the value of digitalization and how it can be a saviour in any crisis situation. For the expansion of our business, we utilised the lockdown period to upgrade our Enterprise Resource System (ERP). Also, my team and I observed that with the help of digital media we can get more productivity in lesser time. Workforce can be used in multiple tasks for making deals or client engagement. Through online conferencing we reached out to our clients sitting miles away. In future also, travelling could be reduced through virtual session and meetings.

What is the share of online trading in your profession?

Our share of online trading is limited. We reach out to clients or gain profits through social media and websites. We increase budget for that and get a good response.

Do you consider the current crisis as a challenge or an opportunity?

Definitely, the pandemic situation is more of a challenge. Instead of wasting our time in pondering over it, we worked on how to bring out the best from it. We are devising new plans and strategies and drawing out plans on how we can approach our target audience in future.

What are your expectations from the government?

Considering immigration as the growing industry, the government needs to support it. Amid financial loss, tax benefits should be given to us. As we have to take care of our staff, rents should be waived. We are losing money every day.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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