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Enabling Indians to begin a new innings abroad

In 15 years, about 100,000 families have emigrated by utilising the services of WWICS

Komal Amit Gera  |  Chandigarh 

Baljit Singh Sandhu

It was a chance remark by a stranger in Toronto, where Baljit Singh Sandhu had migrated after 22 years in the Indian Army, which made him turn entrepreneur. After 10 years in Canada, he returned to India in September 1998, and started Worldwide Immigration Consultancy Services Limited (or WWICS) - a company with revenues of Rs 25 crore in 2012-13.

"I lived in Toronto and worked as a land surveyor with Canadian companies. In my neighbourhood I found a number of people from India, Sri Lanka and Bosnia who were illegal migrants. It was due to sheer ignorance on the part of these educated people and silly mistakes in their applications that they were treated as illegal migrants," recalls Sandhu.

In his free time, he began intervening on their behalf with Canada's special courts for refugees, and his frequent visits to these courts attracted the attention of court officials. "One day, an officer asked me why I didn't help the foreign arrivals before they landed in Canada as illegal migrants, instead of wasting the court's time and energy after they arrived," recalls Sandhu.

"It was this remark that was to change the course of my life," he says. "I returned to India in September 1998 and set up WWICS in October that year."

He began conducting seminars in various parts of Punjab (and later, across India) to disseminate information about jobs and resettlement avenues available in different parts of the world, and the benefits of complete and accurate documentation in migration.

Today, the approach is more sophisticated. "We help aspirants to choose the right destinations that match their skills. Labour is scarce in countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom but the opportunity cost is different at different places," says Sandhu.

WWICS counsels applicants about job prospects in different countries and helps them choose those suited to their age and qualifications. It studies applicants and enables them to move to places that can fetch them the maximum benefits, charging a fee for its services. And it offers courses to enable migrants to upgrade their skills and compete for jobs in the countries they migrate to.

WWICS is present in 40 locations today. Within India, it has 20 offices in various state capitals. Overseas, it has offices in Toronto and Sydney, and a presence in Sharjah, Bahrain, Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, Muscat and Nairobi through associate offices. In 15 years, some 100,000 families have migrated by utilising the services of WWICS.

Consolidation is very much on Sandhu's agenda. "Our business cannot thrive on electronic communications and web portals. A physical presence is imperative," he says, adding that migration is a very sensitive issue and has to be handled meticulously - a person-to-person contact inculcates faith and removes apprehensions about resettlement in a foreign land.

Defying age (he is in his late sixties), Sandhu travels extensively across India and various parts of the world to drum up business from prospective migrants. "Direct communication with the audience during seminars helps me to connect with them and direct access to the chairman of the consultancy firm creates faith in the migrants," he says.

Sandhu has tried to mobilise people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but got a lukewarm response - they have no desire to learn English and no interest in setting foot in foreign countries, he says. They have the capability to replicate the growth stories of Punjab and Gujarat where NRIs have contributed tremendously in the development of their states, provided they change their mindset.

Sandhu also had to shut down his offices in Bhopal, Lucknow, Kanpur and Indore, because of poor footfalls. But people from Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala are keener to move abroad than those from other parts of India, he explains.

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First Published: Mon, September 09 2013. 21:10 IST