\nWhat a great year for Kerala-born Yusuffali MA. The boss of the EMKE Group owns many brands including the Lulu chain of hypermarkets. In April it opened its 100th store, in Ras Al Khaimah Mall. EMKE Group, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi and has offices in 29 countries, employs around 27,000 people — including 22,000 Indians — and has an annual turnover of $4.5bn. The company is forecasting a 20 percent rise in sales for 2012.
\nEMKE Group opened its first supermarket in the early 1990s in Abu Dhabi and gradually expanded to cover different parts of the UAE capital. Today the LuLu Hypermarkets, Supermarkets and Department Stores control 32 percent of the retail market share with 104 stores spread across the GCC, Yemen and Egypt. Yusuffali also became was the first expat to be elected as a board member of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI) in 2005.
\nIn June 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis, real estate valuations in Dubai were in freefall. Worldwide and in the emirate, access to financing dried up, default levels soared, projects ground to a halt, and investors desperately sought to offload assets.
\nIn the midst of collapse, few initially took notice of a major transaction in the heart of Downtown Dubai. An unidentified investor, bucking all the trends, quietly acquired two buildings in Emaar Square — including Building 5, which houses the Dubai headquarters of HSBC, and Building 3 — for a total purchase value of approximately AED750m ($204.15m). This enormous, and at the time unlikely, investment made a huge difference for Emaar Properties’ bottom line that year — and signalled the start of a new beginning for the property market in Dubai.
\nThe value of that AED750m investment has increased by over 40 percent in the past three years.
\nSo who was behind that extremely astute investment? Meet Raghuvinder Kataria, the savviest investor you may have never heard of, and a man who has a track record of unlocking the hidden potential of assets in the UAE, India and across the globe.
\nRaised in Uganda, Kataria moved to the UK as a young man. Early in his professional career, he led the formation of JT Telecom — a joint venture between Telia of Sweden and Thailand-based Jasmine Telecom — that pioneered mobile telephony in India. That JV company later merged with Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises to provide coverage across the world’s second-most populous nation.\nToday, Bharti Airtel is the number one provider in India and the third-largest in-country mobile operator in the world. As the driving force behind the launch and subsequent privatisation of mobile services in the country, Kataria remains a founding shareholder in that company — which now serves nearly 250 million subscribers across the globe.
\nIn addition to property investments in Dubai, Kataria also owns a wide range of real estate assets in both India and Europe. He is also a major investor in the financial services sector, with strategic stakes in firms such as Dhanalaxmi Bank and Destimoney, a brokerage firm headquartered in India, where he also owns a stake in a wind energy company that is set to compete in the emerging alternative energy space.
\nIt’s hard to believe that Micky Jagtiani founded the Landmark Group in Bahrain in 1973 with a single store.
\nToday, his Dubai-based company is one of the largest retail conglomerates in the region with interests spanning children’s fashion, footwear and cosmetics, with additional interests in leisure, hotels and electronics.
\nLandmark operates a string of international stores such as New Look, Shoemart, Steve Madden and Kurt Geiger and has also developed its own brands including Maxx Fashion, Splash, the Baby Shop and the Home Centre. With all those brands, it’s not surprising Jagtiani’s operations have a turnover of $4.7bn a year. It has a presence in eighteen countries with 1,300 outlets, 40,000 employees and commands a staggering 20 million square feet of retail of space.
\nBut it seems there is no stopping Jagtiani. He has set a goal of hitting over $5bn in sales by 2015, which includes plans to have 2,000 stores under his belt and a presence in 20 countries. Few would bet against him succeeding.
\nMehta heads up one of the region’s biggest corporate beasts, and is in charge of some of the world’s most famous food, personal care and homecare brands. Unilever is amongst the leading FMCG companies of the region and also the region’s single largest TV advertiser.
\nMehta told Arabian Business last month that he does not expect Unilever’s growth in MENA to slow down any time soon as “none of our markets are mature”. What is more, he believes that there is “immense potential” the company has yet to tap in countries like Iraq and the Maghreb states, such as Libya and Algeria. “In another few years time, if there’s political stability these markets will become really big.”\n“If you look at this region, we have nearly 350 million people [and the population] is growing at about two percent to 2.5 percent per annum. So that’s 7 million people coming into our fold every year,” Mehta added. “It’s an economy that, depending on the oil price, can have a GDP up to $1.72 trillion. So, by any length, this is a very attractive market for us.”
\nIn March 2010, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) appointed V Shankar as CEO, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Americas.
\nBased in Dubai, Shankar is regarded as the most senior executive of an international bank to be located in the Gulf. A Singaporean, Shankar is known as ‘Bhagwan’ by his team and before joining SCB in September 2001, he was with Bank of America in Asia and USA for nineteen years. Shankar completed his Masters in Business Administration at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and a Bachelor’s Degree majoring in Physics at the Loyola College, Madras. He is married with one son.
\nNo slowing down for NMC Group boss Dr BR Shetty, who is considering opening hospitals in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with further expansion across the MENA region once political stability returns. In an interview with Arabian Business, the chairman of the group said the company could use cash generated from the business, or else it has the option of bond issuances and additional loans.
\n“In about three years’ time, we plan to open one hospital in Doha and one in Saudi. In Saudi they give the land but also give some money. We have been approached by so many people, but we don’t have anything planned yet. When the political situation improves we might look at the MENA region,” he said.
\nEarlier this year, Dr Shetty decided to float 30 percent of the healthcare side of the business on the London Stock Exchange in a bid to finance its ambitious $330m expansion plans. So far, it has raised $187m from the IPO. Several additional sites will be opening this year. Among them will be the first private maternity hospital in the UAE, due to open in the second half of 2012.
\nSunny Varkey is the brains behind GEMS Education, one of the largest private school operators in the world for students from kindergarten to grade 12. Under Varkey’s leadership the group morphed from a single school, Our Own English High School — which he established in Dubai in 1980 — to an operator that oversees the teaching of 110,000 students in 100 schools across eleven countries.
\nHe established the Varkey GEMS Foundation, a philanthropic trust — which is chaired by former US president Bill Clinton — and introduced the Guruvar Awards in India, which honours over 144,000 teachers in around 3,000 schools across 45 cities in India.
\nRamesh Prabhakar joined the group in 1985 and within five years became CEO. Today, the Rivoli Group has established a footprint in the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain with a diverse portfolio featuring over 110 international prestigious brands. Rivoli straddles a wide spectrum of all things premium — from watches, eyewear and leather accessories to writing instruments and luxury communication instruments. From its headquarters in Dubai, the group has swiftly established a reputation as one of the largest importers, distributors and retailers of luxury products with over 300 stores in the region. The Rivoli Group also manages on-board duty free sales for leading airports and airlines.
\nYogesh Mehta came to Dubai at the age of 29 with no job, no plan and no future. This year his company took over spectacular new offices in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Things have turned out pretty well: Petrochem Middle East FZE was established in 1995 in the free zone of Jebel Ali in Dubai and has its own state-of-the-art storage terminal for bulk and drum chemicals.
\nEstablished as a partnership with Petrochem UK, the company has grown from strength to strength and has become one of the largest independent petrochemical distributors in the Middle East.
\nHis profile has shot up this year after being selected as a judge on ‘The Entrepreneur’ talent show.
\nWhen salesman Rizwan Sajan was forced to leave Kuwait during the Iraq invasion in 1990 he asked his wife to give him six months to make a go of his new business, a building materials company he named the Danube Group. Sajan spent nearly all of his AED100,000 ($27,700) savings on establishing the company, renting an office and hiring a car (an AED3,000 a month Pajero because “a businessman couldn’t be driving a Toyota Corolla”), all of which left very little behind for their personal life. It took just three months before Sajan made his breakthrough. Two decades later and testament to Sajan’s determination sits his Bentley, parked proudly in front of the firm’s Jebel Ali headquarters, a vast property portfolio and a company that has 38 offices across the Gulf, India and China, employs over 1,800 people and has an annual turnover of AED1.5bn ($408m), putting the company on track to reach revenues of $1bn by 2015.
\nHe moved to Dubai from Chennai 40 years ago, but it was an incident in 1998 that changed his — and many people’s — lives. K Kumar and his friends between them raised AED75,000 in blood money to help release from jail a young Indian caught up in a case of accidental death. Kumar then approached the Indian embassy with the idea of creating the ICWC to formally help Indians in difficulty. Since then, he has been involved in countless cases to help largely construction workers facing legal issues. Working with a team of full-time volunteers, he also provides advice to hospital patients and labourers unable to return home due to financial difficulties.
\nFounded by Vasu Shroff in 1952, Regal Traders was set up on the banks of the Dubai creek, to deal in wholesaling and indenting of fine fabrics from Japan and India. A pioneer in the region, it soon grew to become the flagship company of the Regal Group, setting up its first retail chain outlet in Dubai. Best known as one of the UAE’s largest fabric retail chains, Regal offers an extensive range of fashionable fabrics from the world over and is the preferred source of quality fabrics to the UAE’s leading couture houses.
\nThe firm started from humble beginnings with just one store in Iraq in 1919 and has grown into one of the most successful retail conglomerates in the region.
\nJashanmal overseas the retail and wholesale trading of high-end luxury and consumer goods and services.
\nThe company represents various global retail franchises in the region and operates a newspaper and magazines division which oversees the marketing and distribution of books and magazines in the Gulf region.
\nFor over two decades, Sunil John, the founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, has served as a trusted advisor to public and private sector decision-makers.
\nWith a client portfolio that includes both regional heavyweights (such as Emaar Properties, Emirates NBD, Etisalat, Ma’aden and Saudi Telecom) and multinational firms (like American Express, Ford, General Electric, McDonald’s and Total), ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller is today, by far, the largest public relations consultancy in the MENA region. It has 11 wholly owned offices and 150 staff, stretching across the Gulf, North Africa and Levant.
\nHe also serves as a director at DAR Motion Pictures, an India-based movie production and distribution company that currently has nearly 20 feature films in production, some in partnership with international studios. He is also a major investor in agricultural commodities in Africa, including through the ownership of a large-scale commercial farming business in Uganda.
\nThey call him the ”comeback kid” and with good reason. After being exonerated over fraud charges that threatened his livelihood for two years, the CEO of SKAI Holdings is once again making his mark in the Dubai property market.
Mulchadani has wasted no time stringing together a series of mega property deals worth close to $1bn in the past twelve months. Apart from buying land and taking over unfinished projects, he has also moved into the hospitality sector through hotel developments. All of this, however, is about to be put into shade: watch out in the next couple of weeks for a huge announcement from SKAI on a $2bn Dubai property deal that is really set to shake the market up.
\nThe name of the company is an acronym: the “S” stands for the first name of Mulchandani’s brother Siddharth; the “K” stands for Kabir; and “A1” is shorthand for “are one.”\n“There are a lot of good projects out there and a lot of quality developers, I meet them all the time… [but] there is a lack of traditional capital. The banks are heavily exposed to real estate, here as well as globally,” Mulchandani told Arabian Business last year. However, he is not targeting distressed assets with a quick exit strategy, but properties that are solid business opportunities but are simply facing cash flow issues.
\n“We are not a lender, we are an investor. We can afford to hold and realise gains for the developer, for us and for the market. It is good for everyone.”
\nThe role of air cargo is often overlooked, but not only does it provide an indicator as to global economic health, it also provides a substantial quantity of airline revenues.
\nIn the case of Emirates Airline, its freight subsidiary Emirates SkyCargo, posts as much as a fifth of the entire airline’s turnover.
\nNo wonder Ram Menen, who has headed up the cargo division since the carrier’s launch in 1985, is held in such high regard. He has masterminded the transformation of Dubai into a major freight hub, with billions invested in what was formerly Dubai Cargo Village. Menen was inducted into the TIACA 2005 Hall of Fame in recognition of his efforts and contributions to the air cargo industry and for his achievements as head of the cargo division at Emirates Airline.
\nMenen began his career in aviation in 1976 at Kuwait Airways and later directed the cargo operations in Kuwait of British Airways. Trained as an engineer, Menen was responsible for conceptualising and developing the LD-36 type of Unit Load Device (ULD) which increased usable space on the lower deck pallet base by 33 percent and is widely in use with various airlines.
\nAvi Bhojani has been running the Bates PanGulf (BPG) network since 1991, having started his career in the UAE as a strategist with Gulf News in the 1980s.
\nSince then Bhojani has been instrumental in setting up some of the emirate’s major retail initiatives and business hubs. Among his accomplishments are the Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises and Dubai Internet City. BPG itself has grown to encompass an extensive network of offices, including in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Jeddah, Doha, Baghdad and Erbil.
\nHis 30-year career spans industries such as advertising, investments, publishing, private equity and government.
\nRight now, Bhojani is spearheading BPG’s push into newer technologies. This year, the company announced that it was setting up a social media unit.
\nBhojani is also the managing director of Innoventure Educational Investments LLC and a board member of Dubai Private Schools Group, as well as Pan IIM Alumni Network Ltd.
\nIn a cricket-obsessed nation, Sania Mirza stands out as one of India’s few female sporting giants. She is the country’s highest-ever ranked female tennis player — hitting 27th in the global rankings back in 2007. Mirza was also the first Indian player of either sex to win a WTA tour event, when she triumphed over Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko at the AP Tourism Hyderabad Open in 2005.
\nIn the same year, she was named WTA Newcomer of the Year. In 2009, while partnering with Mahesh Bhupathi in the mixed doubles, she won a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open — in another first for an Indian female player.
\nMirza now bases herself in Dubai, with her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. They live on the Palm Jumeirah.
\nDr Hitesh Bodani is both a registered MD and a self-driven ambitious entrepreneur. He is regarded as being particularly astute and has proven his capability to transfer business vision into corporate reality.
\nAs founder, general partner and chairman of the board at Bond Investment Group Holdings, his reach has stretched across a number of sectors, including hotel and resort developments, private equity, shopping malls, real estate, medical technology, mining and oil and gas. The firm also operates the Buddha Bar chain internationally. In the past, Bodani served as a board member at the Fortune Group, a Dubai-based property development company with a series of luxury projects in Jumeirah Lake Towers and Business Bay.
\nMaghanmal Pancholia is one of Dubai’s most respected businessmen. Residing in Dubai for more than six decades, he has achieved an admirable number of accolades and senior appointments.
\nIt began for Pancholia in 1957, when he recognised the need for electricity in the emirate and decided to set up a firm to buy a generator and supply electricity to the markets around Dubai Creek.
\nThis made him the first man to bring electricity to the emirate, and he was later appointed the director of Dubai Electricity by the late Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. He has also had roles with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Al Maktoum Hospital.
\nBorn in Sind in 1940, Mohan Valrani came from a family of entrepreneurs and from an early age those close to him observed that he has a unique ability for making money.
\nIn 1966, Valrani set up a partnership with influential Emirati businessman Abdulla Al Shirawi and the two have remained partners ever since.
\nUnder his leadership, the Al Shirawi Group was set up in 1971 and from a modest beginning of trading in steel and cement has grown into a multi – dimensional company with interest spanning 29 firms and with around 6,000 employees. Last year, to celebrate his 71st birthday, Valrani donated AED71,000 to the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre in Dubai.
\nFounded by the late Haji Ajmal Ali in the early 1950s in India, Ajmal Perfumes has grown from a modest trading house into a multi-million-dollar corporate entity. Today this family-owned business, operating out of Dubai, is steered by the passion of the second- and third-generation Ajmals, each playing a key role in the brand’s development. Ajmal has a vast portfolio of over 300 fragrances. It has established a strong retail presence with over 140 exclusive retail outlets across the GCC including one flagship outlet in Kuala Lumpur and four stand-alone locations across Malaysia. Ajmal has a major presence on the international front, currently exporting their exquisite range of products to 30 countries across the world and exclusive presence through select duty-free locations and airlines.
\nAbdullah Ajmal holds the distinction of being the first of the third generation of Ajmals to join the family business. His core responsibilities include managing the company and the strategic planning for expansion of the business in terms of both retail and distribution.
\nDr Azad Moopen, founder and chairman of DM Healthcare, is a renowned physician-turned-entrepreneur based in the UAE. Five years after passing his MD exams in 1987, Moopen came to Dubai and set up his own clinic.
\nOver the next 20 years, he established a chain of healthcare facilities across Asia and the Gulf, under DM Healthcare (Dr Moopen Healthcare), which today employs about 2,000 people in the Gulf, and serves more than 3 million patients a year.
\nLast year, DM Healthcare announced an investment of $461m to provide 3,100 hospital beds in Kerala via eight different projects. One of the project is Aster Medcity, a hi-tech healthcare destination being developed in over 40 acres of land that integrates nature with healing, in Kochi. The first phase of Aster Medcity is on track for commissioning during the second half of 2013.
\nYuvraj Narayan has served as chief financial officer at DP World since 2005. The Dubai based firm is the third-largest ports company in the world, and continues to expand aggressively into emerging markets.
\nAmong his many achievements at DP World include delivering both the Middle East’s first long-dated, rated conventional 30-year $1.75bn bond issue and the firm’s $21bn IPO, the largest in the Middle East. More recently, he also handled DP World’s listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which took place last year. In addition to his duties at DP World, he also serves as non-executive director of Istithmar World. He is a Chartered Accountant and has a wealth of experience in the ports and banking sectors.
\nFrom a long line of successful entrepreneurs, Nilesh Ved’s family has run the largest gold bullion trading firm in Dubai since 1904. He became intrigued by the American retail environment after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree at Boston University.
\nVed now heads up the UAE’s Apparel Group, which has over 620 stores and more than 50 international brands under its umbrella and is aiming to achieve its goal to open its 1,000th store by the end of this year.
\nVed was instrumental in 1999 in bringing the US clothing brand Ninewest from America, and launched the first stores in Lamcy Plaza in Dubai. He has also recently opened the first Tim Hortons restaurant in the Gulf.
\nMangalore-born Thumbay Moideen was plucked from the timber and construction industry to set up the Gulf Medical University in Ajman in the mid-1990s.
\nThe result was a seat of learning that allowed local students wanting to study medicine and health sciences to stay at home instead of spending vast sums of money abroad. Located in the Al Jurf area of Ajman, the university features colleges devoted to medicine, pharmaceuticals and dentistry. Altogether, the group employs more than 1,500 staff, and is hoping to hire more than 7,000 in the next five years.
\nHis vision is that one day we will no longer have to rely on foreign trained medical experts — they will be grown right here, in the UAE.
\nThe Choithrams supermarket brand was originally set up in West Africa in 1944 by Thakurdas Choithram Pagarani.
\nThe elder Pagarani opened the first grocery in Sierra Leone and over the last seven decades Choithram & Sons has developed into an international company spanning Europe, North America, Africa as well as the Gulf. Three decades ago Choithrams established its first UAE store and now has a total of 25 across the emirates as well as the GCC.
\nToday, the firm is led by LT Pagarani, who continues to expand the brand across the region. In 2010, Pagarani confirmed that Choithrams planned to almost double the number of shops across the UAE and open smaller convenience stores.
\nChoithrams found wider recognition by the retail industry in 2005, when it was awarded the first ever ‘Grocer of the Year’ prize by Retail ME.
\nVijay Malhotra began his career in the UK with Peat Marwick, which later became KPMG. He first came to the region via a placement with the accounting giant’s Iranian operation, in 1976. After a brief stint in London, he again returned to the Middle East in 1979, where he has stayed ever since.
\nHe has held numerous positions with KPMG, including as chairman of its Middle East and South Asia region, and also founded the firm’s Indian arm. He is now CEO of KPMG Lower Gulf, and looks after the firm’s UAE and Omani operations.
\nMalhotra qualified as a chartered accountant in May 1974 from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and became a Fellow of the Institute in 1984. He is an alumnus of the Cathedral & John Connon High School and Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai.
\nAround 45 years in the field and counting, the Dubai-based Eros Group is one of the longest-serving companies in the UAE. Over the course of the last few decades, it has built up a wide-ranging product portfolio that is the envy of the many competitors that have sprung up in more recent years. And that, in a nutshell, is the tale of how an Indian professional by the name of Deepak Babani — supported by the group’s parent, the Badri Group — managed to transform the distributor and retailer of consumer electronics products into what it is today.
\nWhen Babani first joined, the company had around a dozen employees and only one office. Today, it has offices and branches in two continents and employs over 1,300 people. Last — but by no means least — the group had a turnover of just under $544m in 2010. The company is very well placed within the UAE as it holds branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Al Ain and RAK.
\nR Seetharaman has nearly three decades of experience in banking, information technology and consultancy. He also has a distinguished academic background — he is a chartered accountant and holds certificates in IT Systems and Corporate Management, whilst earning a gold medal in his graduation from the University of Madras with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce in 1979. Seetharaman also has extensive experience in integrating people, process, technology and re-engineering. He has excelled in handling multi-dimensional functions within the banking sector and has been responsible for two successful mergers. Prior to joining Doha Bank in 2002, he held executive management positions in three banks at Oman. He started his professional career at Price Waterhouse before moving to the banking sector.
\nSeetharaman is currently spearheading Doha Bank’s local and international expansion plans. In July, it reported a 5.4 percent rise in first-half net profit to QR740m ($203.24m). The bank is looking to raise as much as $1.59bn as it seeks to boost lending.
\nDr Shamsheer Vayalil Parambath graduated in medicine from Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore in 2000 and received his MD in radiology from Sri Ramachadra Medical College, Chennai, in 2003. He then trained and practiced at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, and at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi. Lifeline is present in the UAE, Oman, India and Qatar.
\nSanthosh Joseph is the chief executive and a shareholder of the $3.8bn Dubai Pearl project, which is currently under construction at the entrance to the Palm Jumeirah. Joseph took over the management of the 1.85 million sq m development project and has planned and successfully executed a revival plan, including redesigning and rebuilding. The three-phase development is due to start delivering units in 2013 and will comprise four 73-storey towers. Designed by Schweger Associated Architects, the development will comprise a unique mix of residential, retail, hotel, office and cultural space, including a purpose-built complex with an 1,800 seat auditorium.
\nRanjeev Menon has been the CEO of Gulf Warehousing Company for the past three years. The company is based in Doha and has become one of the region’s most important logistics companies. And Menon is widely seen as one of the most influential figures in the industry. He has over 25 years of experience behind him, not to mention a Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Management.
\nLachmandas Pagarani took ownership of a standalone grocery store in Ajman in 1982. That store marked the beginning of the Al Maya Group’s operations. Today, the firm has over 30 outlets in the UAE and another four in Muscat, Oman, all of which are reported to account for up to 70 percent of the group’s overall business. The rest is covered by wholesale operations and franchises like the UK retailer Bhs and Borders bookstore.
\nAs chairman, Pagarani has less of a role in the company’s day-to-day running, but that doesn’t mean he has any less influence.
\nThe Khimji family is the driving force behind the Omani business conglomerate Khimji Ramdas, which operates across a wide range of sectors including consumer, infrastructure and industrial sectors. Currently there are six main partner-directors who run the company. These are: Kanaksi Gokaldas Khimji, the most senior director; Anil Mathradas Khimji, responsible for global brands; Ajay Mathradas Khimji, who handles the Nutro biscuit brand, for a sister firm of KR, based in the UAE; Pankaj Kanaksi Khimji; Nailesh Kanaksi Khimji, responsible for Roto Packaging and SFIC, both sister firms in the UAE; and Hritik Ajay Khimji.
\nMohan Nambiar began his advertising career in the UAE at Matco, one of the oldest advertising agencies in the country. Today, he heads up MEC MENA, a subsidiary of Menacom, the holding company in which global giant WPP holds a 60 percent share, whose operations stretch from Morocco to Afghanistan. In his role as CEO, Nambiar has been responsible for launching MEC and its specialist divisions in the MENA region.
\nMalini Gulrajani founded the Dubai-based 1x1 Art Gallery five years ago and has since gone on to establish the gallery as a hub of Indian contemporary art in the region. The gallery has a consistently steady calendar of cutting-edge exhibitions and has showcased some of the foremost names in India’s art scene, with the likes of Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, NN Rimzon, Vivek Vilasini and painter Chittrovanu Mazumdar, all showing there.
\nVineet Bhatia trained at Mumbai’s prestigious Oberoi Hotel before immigrating to England where he became the first chief of Indian cuisine to be awarded a Michelin star at Zaika. Bhatia, who is renowned for subtle use of spices, won his second Michelin star at Geneva’s Rasoi by Vineet and opened acclaimed restaurants from Leeds’ Bird by Vineet to Moscow and Mauritius.
\nA former diplomat who quit his job with India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and started his own business in 1988, Shahdadpuri is no stranger to taking risks. Currently chairing the twelve companies of the Nikai Group, he has built up a formidable brand that competes with major Japanese and Korean rivals. Nikai now has a range of around 400 products with over 15 million consumers in about 60 countries. It has become a household name and it has earned Shahdadpuri the nickname ‘Mr Reliable’. Shahdadpuri is also president of the Indian Business & Professional Council, a role he relishes by promoting Indian companies and investment abroad.
\nHe was awarded the prestigious Bharat Shiromani award in 2005 in recognition of his many achievements.
\nFounder and head of Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) Dubai Internet City office, Jayshree Gupta joined DLA Piper after twelve years at DWS as partner. She is recognized as one of the rising stars of the region. In September 2008 she was appointed to the Regulatory Appeals Committee (RAC) of the Dubai Financial Services Authority and has been reappointed in 2011 to serve on it for another three-year term.
\nFrom a simple childhood in Mumbai to living a privileged life in the upper echelons of Arab society, Sarah Belhasa’s journey has always been full of adventure. These days, Belhasa is one of Dubai’s most fashionable faces. She has been instrumental in the launch of Dubai Fashion Week. Besides serving as an adviser to a number of local fashion bodies, her Studio 8 store, which opened two years ago, has introduced some of the most high-profile Asian and Arab designers to the UAE. Last year, Belhasa picked up the Businesswoman of the Year prize at the Arabian Business Indian CEO awards.
\nGulshan Kavarana is one of the most popular women in Dubai’s Indian community. Heading the Special Families Support (SFS) Group, founded in 1999, it is her job to help families cope with special needs children and the challenges of family life by acting as an inspiration, coach and motivator to those parents. SFS is now regarded as the biggest NGO in the country. A mother of two based in Dubai, she has also gone to great lengths to assist the children themselves who have special needs, after her own daughter was diagnosed with autism. More than 100 families across the UAE now benefit from her help.
\nAs CEO of Al Naboodah Automobiles, Rajaram is surrounded by Porsches, Volkswagens and Audis every day.
\nThe company, established in 1976, is the dealer in Dubai and the Northern Emirates for all three luxury car brands — and is now the world’s biggest Porsche dealership. In November, Rajaram plans to launch the planet’s largest Audi showroom. Last year, Audi saw sales in Dubai increase by 39 percent. Meanwhile, Volkswagen sales rose by 35 percent in the first half of this year alone.
\nRajaram has been a major player in the UAE’s automotive trade, having resided here for the past fifteen years. He oversees five showrooms in Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah.
\nAs the managing director of the DRA Group of companies, Arora’s industry experience has helped his firms land a series of lucrative contracts during an otherwise quiet period for the regional construction industry.
\nArora’s companies include City Diamond Contracting, MEPTech, Giant Star Trading, DRA Product Design, DRA Group, DRA Logistics and DRA International. With offices on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, the company was established in 1983, and taken over in 1999 by the present management. Since then, the company has expanded from residential complexes to construction of offices, warehouses, logistics and industrial buildings in steel and concrete structures.
\nAs the chairman of the Transworld Group of Companies (TGC), Ramesh Ramakrishnan has become a well-respected businessman in the logistics industry thanks to his success in creating one of the region’s biggest shipping empires.
\nAs a commerce graduate from the University of Mumbai, he relocated to Dubai to take the helm of the company. Established in 1976 by R Sivaswamy, TGC started off as a shipping agency in Bombay.
\nThe group has now diversified into a multi-faceted shipping and logistics company. The activities of the group include: ship owning (container and bulk carriers), feedering, NVOCC, logistics, freight forwarding and supply chain management, CFSs, ship management, shipping agencies and retail. Headquartered in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, Transworld has offices in the US, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, alongside offices in 28 Indian cities.
\nRajeev Kakar has more than two decades of experience in the banking industry and has a number of positions at Citibank across the world. Today, Kakar heads up Dubai-based Dunia Finance and is the head of consumer banking and regional CEO for Central Europe, MEA region for Fullerton Financial Holdings, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.
\nLobo Tailors was established in 1978 as a small shop in Dubai by Mushtaq Shaikh, a dynamic and astute business entrepreneur.
\nDesigned for and catering to both ladies and gentlemen, the business offers bespoke tailoring and customised uniforms from its store in Bur Dubai.
\nShaikh’s high-profile clients include former cricket stars Ian Botham, Vivian Richards, Imran Khan and Andrew Flintoff, as well as Emirates Airline and Al Tayer Motors.
\nKamal Puri, the president of Skyline University College in the UAE’s cultural capital, Sharjah, actually began his journey to contribute to the region’s education sector with the launch of the Skyline Institute in Kuwait.
\nWith Puri’s leadership and more than 20 years of operation, the Skyline University College in Sharjah is now one of the finest colleges in the Northern Emirates.
\nEstablished in 1990, SUC was established under the patronage of HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, the member of the UAE Supreme Council and the Ruler of Sharjah.
\nCourses available include aviation, hospitality, travel and tourism.
\nPoonam Bhojani is an Economics Honours graduate with an MBA from India’s premier business school, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Prior to envisioning and co-founding Dubai International Academy, Poonam has had over sixteeen years of experience working on leading edge technology solutions with a range of organisations across India, Hong Kong, the US, Belgium and the UAE.
\nOwner of well-known and award-winning jewellery firm Joyalukkas Group, Joy Alukkas has certainly earned himself a solid reputation as a successful entrepreneur.
\nAlukkas, who set up the $1bn global conglomerate almost a quarter of a century ago, has grown the business to become a key player in the Middle East jewellery market, with as many as 80 stores across the region, and 5,000 staff. Founded in 1987, the company has over 10 million customers and Joyalukkas has the distinction of being awarded the Dubai Quality Awards Certification by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai. Significantly, the jewellery retail chain is the only jeweller to have been awarded the Superbrand status in the UAE for three consecutive years, from 2010 to 2012.
\nFrom building homes to helping flood victims, blood donations or helping expats with financial assistance to return home, the group also believes in being there when needed the most.
\nWhen Ram Buxani came to Dubai at eighteen after taking a five-day boat trip, there was no water, no airport, no electricity, no roads, no telephone, and no oil.
\nMore than 45 years later, the city is booming, and he is the head of one of the biggest and oldest businesses in the country. His company, which deals in textiles, electronics and home appliances, information technology and hospitality sectors, is known for representing a wide number global brands including Sharp, Rhythm and Fujitsu Siemens, among others, and for having over 500 dealers in the UAE and Oman.
\nSpearheading its growth, Buxani is well-respected in the industry. In addition, he is also a director/board member for several other firms around the globe. Buxani is reported to have an estimated net worth of more than AED300m ($81m). Described as a humble family man, his hobbies include collecting coins, watches and pens.
\nA founder of the Marina Home Interiors brand, Khurshid Vakil admits to being “a perfectionist by nature”.
\nConceptualised in the UAE in 1998 following extensive research, Marina Home Interiors fills a niche within the market. Sourced from over 20 countries in four continents, Vakil says the success of the brand is his understanding of the trends, likes and dislikes of his customers.
\n“We have gone from being a furniture retailer to a leader in home and lifestyle fashion,” he told Retail and Leisure International magazine.
\n“The company has not changed in recent years, but has remained in sync with the changing environment,” Vakil added.
\nMahendra Patel runs an empire that has been operating in the UAE for over three decades. The group has a very successful track record of operating not only in the UAE but also in several European and Middle Eastern countries. The flagship company of the group is GEAP International (UAE) LLC, which was founded in 1974.
\nOne of Patel’s highest-profile projects is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
\nAs director and chief executive officer of Qatar-based Spanco GKS, Tejinder Bhatia joined the company in February 2003. Coming from a business background, Bhatia brings to the IT sector a postgraduate in Commerce and Economics from Delhi University, and also a Master’s Degree in Business Management. Prior to joining Spanco, he has worked with companies such as Godrej Upstream Ltd and Trident Group.
\nAn operator of yoga centres across the UAE, Thakur has ambitious plans to have his centres in five cities within the next decade.
\nAccording to his website, his client list includes Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, cricketer Shane Warne, former tennis champion Boris Becker, Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor and Indian business mogul Ratan Tata. His corporate stress management classes have also been used by businesses like Infosys, Wipro, Acer and HSBC, and he has featured in Time magazine, India Today, Star TV and NDTV. “Yoga is not my business. It’s my passion. I live for it,” he told Gulf News.
\nThakur graduated from the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education in Gwalior.
\nWhen Bollywood actress Kajol needed a dress to wear for her red-carpet appearance at this year’s Vogue Beauty Awards in Mumbai in August, the notoriously choosey starlet picked Dubai-based designer Ayesha Depala to create a dress for her.
\n“I am so excited to be dressing Kajol for the Vogue Awards. She is an Indian cinema icon, and one of the most brilliant actresses of our time,” Depala said in a statement.
\nThe 35-year-old designer launched her collection in 2002 and has also designed creations for the likes of Naomi Watts, Yasmin Le Bon and Sonam Kapoor.
\nEarlier in 2012, she announced plans to expand her range and also focus on shoes and bags. She brought her designs to a whole new audience this year when she exhibited at Muscat Fashion Week. Depala is also in talks with buyers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon.