Mr. Ajay Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director, Abhinav Immigration Services

Mr. Ajay Sharma

At Sugermint Media, our aim is to bring to our entrepreneurs community some of the inspiring and motivational stories from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Mr. Ajay Sharma (Chairman and Managing Director, Abhinav Immigration Services) interview with us.

This is the interview of Mr. Ajay Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director, Abhinav Immigration Services.

Being the first company involved in the immigration consulting business, how have you led the foundation?

Ajay Sharma: We are unquestionably amongst the first of the company’s that got into the immigration consulting business in India.

In 1994, the word ‘Immigration’ or ‘Permanent Residence Visa’ was considered to be confused with an ‘overseas job.’

Abhinav contributed to the foundation of the global mobility industry in India by educating people about the difference between a PR status and an overseas job. This was the biggest challenge and is also the achievement.

Another first for the company was introducing, way back in 2003, temporary and permanent relocation programs for entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals.

Recently, the company introduced a top-rated Canada Start-up visa program way back at the beginning of 2019.

The company has also introduced Member-in-training programs for Indian Engineers, again a first.

This will open up a new door of opportunities for select streams of four-year Engineering degree holders with five years’ experience and good English language proficiency.

Demand for immigration has been witnessing a vast change, kindly tell us about which countries have been pulling more immigration demand?

Ajay Sharma: The dynamics of immigrating out of India over the last 27 years have changed.  Initially, the essential purpose was to make money or earn dollars.

At the beginning of the new century, it became law and Order, followed by better study for children.

Another decade forward, it turned into overall quality of life, followed by high pollution in India and finally, post-covid, value of life.

For many, racism and respect for human rights also play a role in deciding about the immigration destination.

The new century had brought in more changes as more Indians started going to study abroad than ever before as well as businessmen and high net worth individuals started relocating to expand or shift their business to developed countries.

Most of the students going to study abroad plan to settle down permanently after completing their studies.

The immigration destinations have been changing accordingly. In the ’80s and ’90s, UK and USA were preferred destinations.

The pull-in factor was relations settled in these countries. They used to sponsor blood relations and spouses based in India.

Things changed in the late mid-’90s, and UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand opened the doors for skilled professionals to apply for permanent residence status, even if they did not have a job offer from a local employer.

While the USA continued to be the hot destination, its policies favour, to date, the family-based Green Card process.

Indians would love to settle down in EU member countries, language is a significant deterrent for them to look at such destinations long-term.

From the perspective of key objectives and purposes – as briefed in the preceding lines – behind immigration and liberal PR policies, Canada has become the world’s favourite immigration destination.

The majority of countries, including the UK and USA, are now carefully following Canadian guidelines to plan changes in their programs.

Start Visa Program is a classic example. Another instance is a post-study work permit (PSWP) for students post completion of their education.

Canada maintained a consistent policy of permitting them to work and also apply for a PR visa. UK had the most stringent PSWP rules but has now liberalized them.

Serving immigrants and providing them with an enriched safe travel experience has become paramount for businesses in the current market, how does Abhinav Immigration plan to upgrade its services particularly amidst such challenging times?

Ajay Sharma: Much before Covid struck, Abhinav Immigration already had amongst the most advanced database and client management systems in place.

In addition, almost all staff engaged were already using laptops. Thus, our client relations and servicing standards did not suffer even for a day. The company always had an in-house IT support team, which has come in very handy during the last two years.

Immigration is a key feature of our increasingly interconnected world and has become a flashpoint for debate that generates significant economic benefits. How does your company strategize its goals towards increasing benefits for the people on the move?

Ajay Sharma: India is the world’s largest recipient of inbound remittances. Irrespective, it is also considered as brain drain, and now – since businessmen and HNI’s have started looking outwards – wealth drains as well.

Our company is focused on ensuring that the application process is smooth. While not all applications will succeed in getting PR status or, for that matter, even temporary status, our strategy is to have an expansive Immigration product portfolio.

It will ensure that we can fulfil the ambitions of most, if not all, clients. Besides having a strategy of having country-specific partners that can assist our clients in the settlement and recruitment process, the company is also planning to open its own overseas offices.

These steps will help the company meet the clients’ expectations of a rewarding post landing experience and smooth settlement.

Technology has emerged as an enabler in almost all industries. Is the company focused on digitization and formulating an advanced technology-based solution for its clients?

Ajay Sharma: With future perspectives in mind, the company plans to have a full-time CTO, whose mandate will ensure that all company services are available at one click and on a single user-friendly platform.

‘Immigration’ or ‘Permanent Residence Visa’ are usually confused with an “overseas job.” How challenging is it to educate people about the difference between the two?

Ajay Sharma: It used to be a challenge in 90’, not anymore. These days, the applicants understand the difference between the two.

Our company complements the client’s desire to be the most prepared, vis-à-vis requirements of regulatory bodies and employers in the destination countries.

Is the market shaping up or reviving? What are your expectations from the current changing landscape of travel?

Ajay Sharma: It is reviving as well as shaping up. It is not the first time that the Immigration industry has seen such disruption.

A similar scenario developed even at the time after 9/11. For almost a couple of years after that, the entire travel and visa landscape suffered setbacks.

Post-Covid, understanding of the value of life is the critical driver of the decision to immigrate, and if anything, numbers wanting to migrate are increasing by the day.

As a company, we are confident of doubling our consulting billing in the financial year, 2022-23, from current levels.

All the countries have and continue to accept applications for permanent residence during the entire Covid phase.

The only way it has impacted is the increased application processing delays. That should be addressed once after the Covid scenario is internationally stabilized. In addition, there is a strong pent-up demand that will see a significant upsurge.

How do you plan to revolutionize the travel and Indian immigration landscape?

Ajay Sharma: We are primarily a Global Mobility Consulting Company. Our focus is on improving the clients’ experience, success rate rather than revolutionizing it. As a pioneer, we will continue to better our product offerings for the entire range of clients.

When revenues have taken a hit, how does your company strategize to stay afloat?

Ajay Sharma: Now the worst of the Covid phase is over! While revenues did suffer a temporary hit during the lockdown phases, we managed to meet our financial obligations to both internal and external stakeholders.

The key to our strategy during this phase has been cash flow management. We continue to enjoy high ratings because of our ability to meet debt servicing. We plan to repay the majority of our remaining long-term debt within the next 6-12 months.

What are your plans in the pipeline? Throw some light on your global expansion plans.

Ajay Sharma: We plan to open at least one international office in Canada during the remaining part of the financial year.

Over the next 12-24 months, our expansion plans include having offices in Japan, Germany, the UK, and the USA.

We plan to make inroads into tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. We have a five-year plan on the staffing side and increase it fivefold – from the current 200 to around 1000.

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