Interview: EMKE founder Yusuffali MA

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Yusuffali MA, the founder of the LuLu hypermarket chain and boss of the EMKE Group, reveals how he created a retailing giant that is now worth well over $5bn

Yusuffali MA has built a business empire that has diversified from retail into manufacturing, foreign exchange and real estate

Yusuffali MA has built a business empire that has diversified from retail into manufacturing, foreign exchange and real estate

An hour in the company of Yusuffali MA isn’t very long. In fact, it’s actually half an hour. For a start, the self-styled and self-made boss of retailing giant LuLu Hypermarkets doesn’t usually grant interviews. And when he does, much of that time is spent looking at the other five people in his opulent Abu Dhabi office. His answers, like much of his business empire, are sharp and to the point.

“We are food [and] clothes. People need this on a day-to-day basis,” he says.

He has a point. Food and clothes have made Yusuffali one of the richest Indians on the planet with a fortune of $2.2bn.  During the space of our 30-minute conversation, his loyal shoppers have spent $308,220 – a sum that adds up to an astonishing turnover of $5.4bn a year.

Not bad for a virtually penniless man who made his way to the UAE in 1973 on a small boat to work in his uncle’s tiny distribution company.

Make no mistake: forty years on,  Yusuffali  has definitely hit the big time. The numbers are impressive:  104 stores in the Middle East, 500,000 shoppers a day, and a whopping 32 percent share of the grocery retail sector.

For the last four years, he has also taken up residency at the top of the Arabian Business Indian Power List.

But - like most things about Yusuffali -  you wouldn’t know that from talking to him.

“There is no influential person in the world. In each country the rulers are number one. If there is any influence, I will not use the influence for my business. If there is any influence I will use it for good for the people.”

What he is also very good at, however, is rapidly expanding his empire.

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Posted by: Manoj K Koshy

A great Visionary is Saheb Yousef Ali ! GREAT KUDOS to him for bringing World-class ambience in Sales, Quality, Price and Cost, yet being humble in his behavior - a GREAT IDEALISTIC person for all INDIANS and we INDIANS should be totally proud and to have him invest in India, especially KERALA !!

Posted by: Mr. Elie Saheb

I have enjoyed reading this article and the background of Mr. Yusuffali is very impressive indeed. From a humble beginning to a magnate.
Mr. Elie Saheb

Posted by: Velayudhan Sivakumar

Really it should be appreciated. Why Yousuf ji could not turn his attention to agriculture in Kerala, this will help us to increase our farm land and also could support Kerala agricultural community. I notice, most of the persons, like Yousuf ji never give importance to the agriculture. If they come in the front line, for sure, it could make it happen rather than depending on government. I hope, for sure, Yousufji will consider this to boost our economy and to help our agriculture community.

Posted by: Sajith Kumar

Quality and reliability of any item purchased from LuLu is excellent. My engagement shirt bought from LuLu at Slam Street, Abu Dhabi is still shining new even after 17 years. The jovial staff are very friendly and have sufficient knowledge about any product they are explaining, especially electronic items and we can even learn more about from them. When I see in my dreams buying something it is always from LuLu (by default brain memory).I felt proud when LuLu Mall opened in Kochi, Kerala.
Hope in future he can be a role model politician in India (Prime minister?)

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