The great entrepreneurial spirit shown by the GCC's Indian community is at risk of dying out
This week, we have decided to devote almost the entire issue of Arabian Business to Indians in the GCC, as we celebrate their remarkable success in our first ever Indian Rich List. They’ve done rather well haven’t they? Five billionaires in our top 30, with the legendary Micky Jagtiani leading the way with $3.2bn.
Having chaired the meeting two weeks ago when we finalised our wealth estimations for the top 30, two things quickly struck me: most of these guys (in fact I would say 90 percent) are from the UAE. Second, even more of them (I would say 95 percent) came to Dubai many years ago with virtually nothing. Today, they are amongst the richest people in the region, all with far more money than they could possibly consume through the rest of
This tells us couple of things — that Dubai is, and has always been, a fantastic place to come and start your business. And second, Indians make great entrepreneurs. Micky Jagtiani had one small shop in 1973, today his revenue is $3.8bn. BR Shetty ran a small pharmacy in Dubai back in 1973. Today he is the boss of the New Medical Centre with a fortune of $1.72bn.
And my personal favourite, Yogesh Mehta. Having first run a smaller chemical trading business in Mumbai 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,” he tells me.
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.
Today he has $623m. Wow. But here is a thought: in 21 years from now, when my successors are printing the 21st Arabian Business Indian Rich List, will the guys on it have this much cash? I ask that because the great entrepreneurial spirit shown in the past by the Gulf’s Indian community no longer exists in my view. The younger generation (many of whom I have met), seem to have it rather too easy.
Nice education, nice house, nice car. Guaranteed future. No need, no desire and no hunger to succeed. They may all have degrees from Harvard, but where is their real business acumen? Where is their determination to take risks? Where is that Yogesh Mehta spirit of a car and four walls not being good enough?
Life after Wadah Khanfar
The resignation of Wadah Khanfar is a hugely emotive subject, especially here in the Arab world. The station’s coverage of the Arab Spring has been masterful or misplaced, depending on your point of view. Likewise, his departure is being celebrated and mourned in equal measure. So I will keep my views to myself.
But leaving aside the politics, I would say this: purely as a journalist, he was amongst the very best in the world. Four years ago, I sat next to Khanfar at a dinner party hosted by our chairman.
The subject of the war in Iraq came up, and one of the guests asked Khanfar what his experiences in Baghdad had been like (he was the Bagdad bureau chief during the Iraq war).
His reply, which I made a note of at the time, is worth reprinting here, as it sums up perfectly the man and the company he led.
“A war is not about military air strikes, and the movement of armies and all these kinds of issues. It is about human beings. It is about the human being who is being killed and about the human being who is doing the killing. The proper journalist looks into this culture and is not consumed by other things. Some of our colleagues have just been consumed by giving data. It is not about giving data, it is about giving spirit. And that is important, and I think Al Jazeera has been able to capture that.”
The jury is out on whether Al Jazeera, without Wadah Khanfar, can continue to capture that spirit.
(Anil Bhoyrul is the editorial director of Arabian Business. The opinions expressed are his own.)