By Courtney Trenwith
As we celebrate the Indians making significant contributions to Gulf economies and communities, they are increasingly turning back to their motherland for the next opportunity.
In its sixth year, Arabian Business’s list of the richest Indians in the Gulf has become a highly anticipated ranking that many of the top businessmen in the region vie to be included in.
There are a lot of familiar faces this year, both because they have appeared on the list before, but also because their contributions to Gulf economies have earned them attention and respect within the community.
But there are also many quiet achievers. Take Kulwant Singh, who joins our list for the first time. He founded Lama Tours in Dubai and through sheer hard work and the intellect to think outside the square has created an innovative tour company that has seen others follow in his footsteps.
Ajay Sethi is another newcomer and one who is sure to climb the rankings swiftly. The owner of Channel 2 has managed to combine his personal passion for India’s game (cricket) and business, proving that pleasure and work can be blended.
These are examples of entrepreneurs with spirit, willing to not only sacrifice for their ambitions but to do it away from their motherland.
But while all of the 50 people on the list are included due to their contribution to GCC economies, this year more than ever we can see an increase in Gulf-based Indians returning home to make their next investment. For example, GEMS Education is building schools in India, including the first ‘smart school’ in Kochi, while KEF Holdings is developing a $100m manufacturing park in Tamil Nadu that would be the world’s largest and first-of-its-kind offsite manufacturing park. It is expected to help slash the cost and time of building hospitals, homes, schools, hotels and infrastructure in both India and the GCC.
Dr Azad Moopen last year opened sports medicine clinics in Kerala and announced a 500-bed super-specialty hospital in the capital.
There will be more investment from the GCC into India as the two nations actively work to boost not only bilateral trade (the UAE is already India’s third biggest trading partner behind only China and the US) but foreign direct investment.
The UAE, in particular, has announced several significant investments from both government and private firms this year, and Dubai Chamber completed a trade mission there just two weeks ago and announced it would open a new representative office in Mumbai this year.
Indian companies based in the GCC are bound to ride on this wave and direct more attention home. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are ample new opportunities in transport, construction, healthcare, education, energy and the environment, as well as retail in response to the growing urbanisation and increasing household incomes. Businesses with Gulf experience but also Indian cultural understanding are in prime position to do well there.
And it makes sense. Many people on our list left behind a country struggling to offer them opportunity. Decades later, India is emerging fast and demanding investment. The results of this new flow of money are likely to be reflected in our list of the richest Indians in the Gulf in the coming years.