\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.
\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.