Dimitris Platis: Balance and Harmony, as in Greece

On July 13 at the Greece Visa Application Centre in Moscow, the representatives of the «Новый Крит. The New Crete» met with GVCW CEO Mr. Dimitris Platis, who presented his company and answered our questions.

“It all started in 2015, when GVCW won a tender launched by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to select the most appropriate companies to provide visa-related services in Russia,” began Dimitris Platis. We had to open 28 Visa Application Centers (VACs) in Russia…

But what is a VAC? Three are the main components that constitute a VAC:

  1. The first one is finding the most suitable office space. This can be sub-contracted to a local company, since it does not make sense to do it from Greece. When we took over this job, we asked VFS Global, which was servicing Greece before us, to use the same premises they used for Greece until then. They graciously accepted. Since the location is convenient for the applicants, the building itself is safe, the premises are spacious, bright and very functional, we decided to remain there and to have our own flagship VAC alone, independent from other Missions.
  2. The second important component is to find the most suitable staff to man the VAC. Since VFS Global was previously servicing Greece employing a large number of experienced employees who were also known to the Greek Consulate in Moscow, we asked VFS Global to utilize the same employees, which they graciously accepted. These qualified and experienced employees are of a great value to us, as they continue their work under GVCW and were the ones who guaranteed a smooth passing from the previous Visa Service Provider for Greece (VFS Global) to the new one (GVCW).
  3. The third major component is the IT component, the heart of the process itself, which includes the hardware (H/W), the software (S/W), the secure storing of sensitive data that we collect, the transmission of the data to the Russia Data Center, its cooperation with the Greek Data Center etc. Only in Russia we have more than 250 work stations, deployed in 30 VACs, Moscow being the largest. Our S/W, called “EasyVisa®” is unique; it offers applicants the possibility to fill-out their application on-line, to set-up an appointment and to come to the VAC to submit their application and give their biometrics. GVCW cooperates with the largest Greek Telecoms Company OTE, privatized and bought out by Deutsche Telekom. We are constantly investing in this sector, to keep our state-of-the-art system always updated.

Having said the above, what we see here today is the result of the cooperation of two large and experienced players – GVCW and VFS Global, each of whom uses the most of its experience and strength. VFS Global provides the office space and the experienced employees; GVCW provides the new technology. The combination of the two determines the present success. GVCW offers applicants a quality service, and an individual approach to everyone during the filing.

– With the service and the volumes offered by your company, does the Consulate cope with such load? Do you bear a moral responsibility for the work of the consulate?

Of course, there would be no success without the Consulate. We can work from 7 am to 9 pm and on weekends, but we still would not be able to satisfy the applicants’ requests without the constant support of the Consuls and the very able staff working in the three Greek Consulates in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novorossiysk); we are grateful to the Greek Consuls for making maximum efforts to process the entire volume of applications sent to them. Their determination and professionalism are the reason why there are no delays in the issuance of the visas. As we see, the maximum time limit for the issuance of visas in Moscow is two days; for regional centers, delivery time is still required. This is a very fast process: you hand over documents, for example, today—on Tuesday and on Thursday you will already receive your passport with the visa. Back in 2017, before we took over, there were some problems with the deadlines, but now everything is in order: comparing it with the visa centers of other countries, Greece is most likely the leader in this regard.

– How do you manage to track and implement the latest IT-technologies to achieve such short terms in obtaining a visa?

When we talk about IT, the answer is: investments, investments, investments. The system of receiving and processing documents which we use is called “EasyVisa”. It was developed by GVCW and we are constantly improving it. For example, recently we had a problem with our cameras in Russia: we had to restart the program after 10–15 photos. This was taking 7-10 seconds of delay. But for us any delay – even a few seconds – is important. Our managers here reported the problem to us in Athens and the problem now has been solved. Of course, this does not come cheap: every improvement requires a financial investment. Our system can also be applied to other Schengen Missions in Russia: with our up-to-date state-of-the-art “EasyVisa” system we can offer the highest quality service to foreign Missions making them save time and money for the Russians who chose to visit their country.

How many only Greek visa centers are in Russia?

In total, we have 30 Visa Centers in Russia, 28 permanent and 2 temporary (from May to October). There is also a Visa Center in Minsk, which also sends the applications they collect here in Moscow. The Moscow VAC for Greece is one of a kind, since here we provide services exclusively for the Consulate of Greece. As for the VACs in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novorossiysk, we are hosting a small number of other missions as well. The rest of the Greek VACs are collocated with other Missions. It needs to be stressed that the Moscow VAC for Greece receives 93% of all applications.

Do you pay attention to such seemingly irrelevant detail as atmosphere in the visa center? Russians are used to the fact that Greece is a country that greets them with open arms, like dear guests. Is this component important for you in the work of the visa center?

– This is a difficult question (he laughs), and a difficult task but a doable one. Firstly, we recruit additional employees for the high season and train them regularly. We teach them that what is important is to be friendly to the applicants and smile. We also motivate employees financially in this respect. One of our tasks is to make them feel that their work place is not just a place where they have to appear every day to make money, but it is a place where they can feel as a family. Our most important achievement for our efforts in this regard is to see our employees feel satisfied for doing their job and to serve our visitors in a nice and positive manner, making them feel greeted as if they are already in Greece…

In other words, balance and harmony, as in Greece (smiles).

Recorded by Svetlana Zaitseva