2013's most powerful Indian expats in retail
Arabian Business presents the most influential movers and shakers in the region's Indian expat community
Yusuffali MA, managing director, EMKE Group --- Four years of the Indian Power List and four years at the very top for Yussffali – and who could argue? 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.\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 retail market share with 104 stores spread across the GCC, Yemen and Egypt. Yusuffali also became the first expat to be elected as a board member of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI) in 2005. Feroz Allana, founder, IFFCO Group --- Feroz Allana is of the biggest names in the food business not just in the GCC but anywhere in the world. His son Irfan Allana is the chairman of the Allana Group, but Feroz is credited with its staggering success. His vision and business acumen not only drives his business, but also ensures that his expertise is liberally employed by the federal government and various state governments of India, in the development of long-term plans for exports from India in general and agro-based products in particular.\nEstablished in 1975, IFFCO is a UAE- based business house, which manufactures and markets a well-integrated range of consumer products. IFFCO operates under the following business segments: fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), commodities, oils, frozen foods, and institutional services. IFFCO also manufactures related derivatives and intermediates associated with these business segments. IFFCO brands include London Dairy, Tiffany, Noor, Rahma, Igloo and Al Baker. Tony Jashanmal, executive director, Jashanmal Group --- The rapid economic recovery in the region has been great for Jashanmal and his retail outfit which continues to break its own very impressive sales records. There is no shortage of retailers on this list, but few are as accomplished as Tony Jashanmal. The 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. Jashanmal overseas the retail and wholesale trading of high-end luxury and consumer goods and services. The 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. Joy Alukkas, owner, Joyalukkas Group --- He is one of the most respected businessmen in the region. Alukkas, who set up the $1bn global conglomerate almost a quarter of a century ago, has become a key player in the Middle East jewellery market, with as many as 80 stores 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. LT Pagarani, Chairman, Choithrams --- Indians love food and they certainly love shopping at this man’s retail chain. The Choithrams supermarket brand was originally set up in West Africa in 1944 by Thakurdas Choithram Pagarani. The elder Pagarani opened the first grocery in Sierra Leone and over the last seven decades Choithrams has developed into an international company spanning Europe, North America, Africa as well as the Gulf. Today, the firm is led by LT Pagarani, who continues \nto expand the brand across the region. Vishal Tikku, ME managing director, Mondelez International --- Another mega man from the corporate world to make the 2013 list. As regional boss of Mondelez International (known as Kraft Foods until last year, Mondelez International has sold brands in the GCC for close to 100 years and operations based here since 2000. The company employs around 680 people in the region, including 182 people employed as part of its Pakistan operations, which is led from the company’s regional head office in Dubai, where the company oversees sales, distribution and operations in the GCC and other markets including Libya, Iraq, Algeria, and Yemen. The company also operates manufacturing facilities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Its largest-selling products in the region include Kraft and Philadelphia Cheese, Tang, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Flake and Oreo. Born in Lucknow, Tikku graduated in marketing and first worked at advertising agency Ogilvy India. Tikku previously worked for Unilever Arabia, as head of marketing, before moving to Kraft Foods to become managing director for the American giant’s Saudi business. Mondelez International posted revenues worth a colossal $35bn in 2012. Mushtaq Shaikh, managing director, Lobo Tailors --- It’s quite likely that just about everyone else on this list has bought a suit from Mushtaq – he certainly makes the best in town (in our view). Lobo Tailors was established in 1978 as a small shop in Dubai by Mushtaq Shaikh, a dynamic and astute business entrepreneur. Designed fora and catering to both ladies and gentlemen, the business offers bespoke tailoring and customised uniforms from its store in Bur Dubai. Shaikh’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. Sanjeev Mehta, chairman, Unilever — North Africa and Middle East --- Mehta 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. Mehta told Arabian Business last year 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.” “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.” Before working his magic in this region, Mehta headed up Unilever’s operations in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and was also the group commercial manager of Unilever Arabia between 1992 and 1998. He kicked off his career with a stint at Union Carbide India. Unilever’s worldwide revenues rose by 10.5 percent last year, breaking through the $70bn mark. Paras Shahdadpuri, chairman, Nikai Group --- A 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. Ram Buxani, director, ITL Cosmos Group --- When 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. More 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. Spearheading 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. Maghanmal Pancholia, chairman, Arabian Trading Agency --- Maghanmal 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. It 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. This 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. Nilesh Ved, f ounder, Apparel Group --- He knows success, success, and more success. Ved 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. Ved 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 masterminded the launch of the Tim Hortons chain in the Gulf. Deepak Babani, CEO, Eros Group --- Around 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. When 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. Lachmandas Pagarani, chairman, Al Maya Group --- Lachmandas 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. Nilesh Khalkho, CEO, Sharaf DG --- Nilesh Khalkho is one of the driving forces behind one of the UAE’s biggest consumer electronics store chains, Sharaf DG. Since its inception in 2005, Sharaf DG has come a long way and achieved many milestones to become one of the leading powerhouse retailers in the region. The UAE’s first ever Big-Box concept started its journey as a 15,000 sq ft electronics store in Dubai. The brand’s perseverance and hard work has paid off with 19 stores in UAE and Bahrain today and more in the offing. He holds qualifications from the Birla Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. Khurshid Vakil, founder, Marina Homes Interiors --- A 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. “We have gone from being a furniture retailer to a leader in home and lifestyle fashion,” he said recently. Ayesha Depala, fashion designer --- When Bollywood actress Kajol needed a dress to wear for her red-carpet appearance at last 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. “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. The 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. Earlier last year, 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 all over the Gulf. She played a prominent part in the Fashion Forward event, which took place in April. Abdullah Ajmal, general manager, Ajmal Perfumes --- Founded 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.