Even the Brits can't afford high Mumbai rents

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UK Deputy High Commission is planning to downsize its Visa Information office in BKC from 67 employees to just 14 by September 2015, as it can’t afford the high rents and operational costs in the city; most visa applications will be processed in New Delhi

If you needed further proof of property and rent rates in Mumbai being off the charts, the UK government’s plans of shuttering an office because it found accommodating 20 of its workers too expensive would be a good place to start.

The UK visa office at Naman Chambers in BKC. Pic/Satyajit Desai
The UK visa office at Naman Chambers in BKC. Pic/Satyajit Desai

The British Deputy High Commission is planning a major downsizing at, and even looking at the possibility of shutting down, the UK Visa Information (UKVI) office in BKC as it is finding the cost of accommodating 20 if its British employees too high. The decision was taken by the commission on December 2.

The British Deputy High Commission is located in Naman Chambers in G Block, BKC. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
The British Deputy High Commission is located in Naman Chambers in G Block, BKC. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Speaking to mid-day, an employee, who did not wish to be named, said that the commission is looking to cut costs and that similar downsizing has happened in their Colombo, Dhaka, Tashkent and Baku operations in the last three years.

He said Mumbai was chosen as the cost of running the Mumbai operation is the highest among the other Indian posts, largely because of the high rents in the city. “In the current scenario, reducing our footprint in Delhi and Chennai would not result in any significant financial savings, so Mumbai was targeted. A majority of the staff here has already been served notices for termination of their service,” said the employee.

The UKVI office in Mumbai currently has 67 permanent/long term employees 47 Indian and 20 expatriates excluding 7 who are carrying out messenger and other administrative functions. While the exact number of staff that will remain in the visa section in Mumbai is still being finalised, the section is likely to have no more than a staff of 14. The transition is expected to happen by September 2015.

Working unaffected?
According to documents in mid-day’s possession, the skeletal staff in Mumbai will be utilised to process some premium applications, but the overwhelming majority of cases will be transferred for processing in New Delhi. Verification of documents will also take place there.

The documents also state that there will be no change in service levels to customers and the deputy high commission would ensure a fair and transparent process, which would result in the best quality staff working for UKVI. They state that every effort will be made to find alternative employment within the organisation for those being given the pink slip.

Oliver Ferrari, Regional Operations Manager, Western India, who will lead the British Deputy High Commission on the transition in Mumbai did not respond to e-mails or calls and SMSes to his personal mobile number.

Behind the scenes
In an extensive FAQ e-mail sent to UKVI employees, a copy of which is in mid-day’s possession, the British Deputy High Commission has listed out the reasons behind the downsizing and how it will affect workers. Excerpts:

Is the Mumbai visa section going to be reduced in size?
Yes. Whilst the exact number of the staff to remain in the visa section in Mumbai is still being finalised, the section will be significantly downsized by the end of September 2015, to no more than 14 slots. Most cases currently being processed in Mumbai will be transferred to Delhi over this period.

Why Mumbai?
We are required to provide the best possible visa service while reducing resources. This inevitably means that we have to look at options for reducing our costs… Mumbai has higher operational costs than other Indian posts due to the cost of UK Based Staff accommodation.

What about other Posts in the Central Asia, South Asia and Turkey region?
We have already removed decision making from Colombo, Dhaka, Tashkent and Baku over the last three years. Reducing our footprint in Delhi, Chennai and Istanbul would not provide us with any significant financial savings.

What will be Mumbai’s new role?
We will still need a small number of staff in Mumbai to process some premium applications made in both Mumbai VACs. But the overwhelming majority of cases currently processed in Mumbai will be transferred for processing in New Delhi by the end of September 2015. Documentation verification will also take place in New Delhi. There will be no change to service levels to customers.

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