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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