A multidimensional mogul, Adeeb Ahamed's influence goes beyond that of a single role or sector
“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community,” is a mantra that defines Adeeb Ahamed’s vision for giving back.
The managing director of LuLu Financial Group has given priority to public service activities focused on universal education awareness and empowerment of girls’ education including construction of community centres, classrooms, and hostels, among others. In addition, he provides a framework for the parents of children needing heart operations and facilitates the treatment of infants aged one to five.
Empowering the disadvantaged through a series of initiatives, he is adamant that charity must be about enabling people to support themselves, rather than becoming reliant on the assistance of others. It’s a sustainable, long-term vision that says as much about his compassion for those less fortunate as it does about his entrepreneurial ambition.
At just 39 years old, the trailblazer leads several companies, including LuLu Financial Group, which he built by turning a one-branch operation into a global network of over 185 outlets across 10 countries – and all being achieved during the height of the financial crisis.
Impressively, the exchange was set up in Abu Dhabi with the first branch opening in the emirate’s Al Wahda Mall.
“A lot of migrant income has to flow outside of the country. While the remittance side of the business is part of the banking sector, it hasn’t been catered to by the banks as such in this part of the world,” Ahamed says, speaking about what prompted him to enter the financial services business.
“We decided to try that portfolio first, rather than going into a non-banking financial license and then testing out with credit cards and other facilities like Walmart, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s have done. We decided to go to the bottom part of the pyramid, which is the remittances business.”
Ahamed told Arabian Business in 2014 that he started at a time when the market was at rock bottom.
“Since then, year-on-year, we are seeing double-digit growth.”
He explains that the company wanted to enter into “anything that deals with making a payment and that also takes into account moving money from one side to another.”
In order to achieve this goal, Ahamed convinced the group of the importance of embracing acquisitions as a strategy for expansion. Without acquisitions in the remittances business, he argued, growth would be constrained.
Ten years on, LuLu Exchange has become one of the biggest players in the market.
In addition, Ahamed is also the managing director of the LuLu Group International’s hospitality investment arm, Twenty14 Holdings, the entity that introduced The Steigenberger Hotel brand to the UAE. Earlier this year, it was announced that Twenty14 Holdings (T14H) was entering into a forward purchase contract with Swiss developer Necron AG for the upcoming IntercityHotel Zurich Airport Hotel in the town of Rümlang.
The addition of the hotel marks T14H’s first foray into mainland Europe and joins a $750 million portfolio across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and India.
Twenty14 Holdings also owns the prestigious Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London, UK, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian in Scotland and the Sheraton Oman in Muscat. The company had also recently opened its first hotel in India - Port Muziris - which is incidentally the first Tribute Portfolio Hotel in South Asia.
“It is an important milestone in our group’s portfolio as we work towards being a billion-dollar investment firm by 2020,” he says of the venture.
Ahamed is also the managing director of Tablez, which has introduced world-renowned F&B, toys, lifestyle and apparel brands to UAE & India. Ahamed is helping to steer Tablez on its ambitious expansion plan across India and capture a large share of the country’s $792bn retail industry.
“There is a lot more that can be done on the physical retail front in the Indian market,” says Ahamed, recently announcing Tablez’s $75m investment plan in India. “Our overall business is in an exponential growth phase currently and we expect it to break even at store operations level over the coming two years.”
His impressive stature as a business leader has also earned him a position on the senior advisory board of the South Asia Regional Strategy Group (RSG) at the World Economic Forum (WEF). The invitation-only flagship group and its members are committed to the shared mission of accelerating the regional transformation of South Asia through public-private cooperation. The RSG provides strategic guidance on the forum’s regional agenda, and is the highest-level decision making body for the WEF’s activities in South Asia.