Like many of our Rich List, Manohar ‘Manu’ Chhabria started from humble beginnings but that didn’t stop him becoming one of the region’s most successful businessmen.
The former radio parts trader established Jumbo Electronics in Dubai in 1974 with a modest capital base of only AED50,000. Using Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony, as an inspiration, Chhabria played a key role in transforming the consumer electronics business in the UAE using innovative marketing strategies and aggressive acquisitions.
The Harvard business graduate earned the nickname ‘takeover tycoon’ following his acquisitions of Shaw Wallace, Mather & Platt and Dunlop India, to name but a few.
Following Chhabria’s death in 2002, his wife, Vidya, and three daughters, Komal, Bhavika and Kiran (shown left; a partner in the company), took over the running of his business empire. Now, 38 years after Jumbo Electronics was founded, the firm deals with some of the world’s biggest retail names, including Apple, BlackBerry and LG.
It has also branched out into telecommunications, office automation, enterprise solutions and even building services. And the growth just keeps on coming; in the first half of this year, Jumbo Electronics posted a 20 percent increase in sales in comparison to the same period in 2010. It has also spent heavily on its customer service centre and warehousing facilities, which are based in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone.
Today, despite legal wrangling over Manu’s estate, and the impact of the global recession on a number of the firm’s brands, the Chhabrias remain one of Dubai’s most prominent expatriate success stories.