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Thu 25 Nov 2010 09:37 AM

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Indian expats embrace Gulf retail

Oldest expat in Dubai set the trend for Indians making their fortune in retail

Indian expats embrace Gulf retail
Manghanmal Pancholia (far right) set the trend for Gulf Indians looking to make their fortunes in retail

Click here to view the first ever Arabian Business India Power List

When Maghanmal Pancholia (far right in image) arrived in the UAE seven decades ago aboard a Chinese cargo ship he was looking for a new life and a business opportunity.

Pancholia, renowned as the oldest expatriate in the emirate, eventually rose up through the business ranks and became one of the most influential players in the Indian community.

However, he set a trend for Indian expatriates to make their fortune in the retail sector. List leader, Yusuff Ali MA has made Lulu a household name in the Middle East and has built up a $3.5bn conglomerate, while LT Pagarani has helped make the Choithrams supermarket brand commonplace from Dubai to Qatar.

Whether it is the Regal Group, the Jashanmal Group or Unilever, Indian expatriates have dominated the retail division in the region.

Despite the recession, Indian retailers are not resting on their laurels and many have fought their way to the top from nothing and are in no hurry to curb their ambitions yet.

Earning the silver spot on the list is Micky Jagtiani, a billionaire self-made man who has not let the recession impact his business goals and is planning a massive expansion over the coming years.

From only one shop in 1973, Jagtiani now has 900 stores in 15 countries and is planning to break the 1000 mark in 2011.

With a turnover of $3.8bn a year, he is aiming to hit $5bn within three years and is investing nearly $55m opening 100 more stores by June 2011.

However, Yusuff Ali is not likely to relinquish his place at the top of the list any time soon and has already announced plans to invest more than $266m expanding his retail empire into Saudi Arabia and introducing the Lulu name to a whole new market.

"Now Dubai is booming, it's a wonderful place to live - 40 years ago it was not a wonderful place to live," the head of the retail conglomerate Cosmos-ITL Group, Ram Buxani, said in his autobiography. However, it is Indian retail giants like Buxani, Yusuffali and Jagtiani who have helped make Dubai the place it is today.

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