It doesn’t take too long before we get down to the important stuff. Money. And Yogesh Mehta knows how to make it and spend it. “Money is a very important grease to the machinery of a good life. Without the good life why are we even living? We might as well be robotic animals,” he says.
Nobody could ever accuse the Petrochem boss of that. The 51-year-old multi-millionaire, with boundless charm and energy, is living the life that most of us can only dare to dream about: the nine luxury cars, a customised nightclub in the basement of his villa, his summer mansion in London, and a collection of Bollywood’s biggest stars for pals.
Oh, and in between, there is the small matter of running the hugely successful Petrochem empire, a company he started from scratch in 1995 that today is raking in over a billion dollars a year in revenue. Make that $3bn by 2015, alongside an IPO that could well value the company at close to half a billion dollars.
Not bad for a guy who came to Dubai in at the age of 29 with no job, no plan and no future. “I came here on a hope and prayer. But I had lots of dreams,” he explains.
Most of the dreams have turned to reality, with Mehta now at the helm of one of the world’s most prolific chemical distribution companies. It owns a state-of-the-art distribution terminal in Jebel Ali which cost $33m to build and that no rival has been able to match.
His global expansion plans have resulted in offices in Dubai, Jebel Ali, Mumbai, Antwerp and London, plus an office and distribution facility in Singapore and China. Today the company has exports of over 250,000 MT of products to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East and the Asia Pacific. Pick any country on the planet, and the chances are Petrochem has been involved somewhere down the line.
Little wonder that Mehta was ranked seventh in last year’s Arabian Business Indian Power List. Alongside the likes of Landmark founder Micky Jagtiani (a regular house guest) and Lulu Hypermarket supremo Yusuf Ali, Mehta is one of that elite group of Indian superstars now pulling the strings on a fair chunk of the region’s business.
But Mehta’s success masks his earlier struggles. Having first run a smaller chemical trading business in Bombay that ended in failure, he picked Dubai as his next move, 21 years ago. “I just said to my wife let’s go some place where there is more opportunity.”
Mehta spent his first two months in the emirate visiting the library each day to learn more about the region’s chemical industry, before starting a chemical division within a food company. But four years later, in 1994, he decided it was time to run his own show. “My wife said we have a car and four walls, let’s not change. But I said let me start this, let me try it. I have a dream to build a terminal,” he says.
With his business partner and friend David Lubbock, he founded the company and soon embarked on the project, building the Jebel Ali terminal in four phases. So impressive was the outcome, Mehta had in one swoop shut out most of the competition, as they simply couldn’t compete with his facilities. “That raised the bar for the industry. We did this to offer service to the end user a variety of chemicals. Right time, right place, finding the needle in the haystack,” he says.