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Raghuvinder Kataria, chairman, Kataria Holdings --- Raghuvinder Kataria is one of the best known wheeler dealers in the region with a spectacular track record of success. In 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.In 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. The value of that AED750m investment has increased by over 40 percent in the past three years. Raised 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. Kataria remains a founding shareholder in that company — which now serves nearly 250 million subscribers.
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PNC Menon, chairman, Sobha Developers --- A big few years lie ahead for PNC Menon as his company takes a lead role on the massive MBR City project in Dubai. Kerala-born PNC Menon migrated to Oman in 1976, and started an interior decorating business with a partner. After spotting an opportunity in real estate in India, he established Sobha Developers in 1995, named after his wife. Today, the firm is one of the largest and only backward integrated real estate players in India. With more than 35 years of experience in the field of construction and real estate development, Menon has remained the firm’s chairman, while his wife sits on the board and his son, Ravi, an engineer from Purdue University, is vice chairman.
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Kabir Mulchandani, CEO, SKAI Holdings --- What an incredible year it’s been for Kabir Mulchandani, who is knocking hard on the door of the top ten. In May, his Dubai-based property investment firm SKAI Holdings announced mammoth plans to build a $1bn hotel and furnished residences project on the Palm Jumeirah. \nConstruction on the property, which will be operated by Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, has already begun and the hotel is scheduled to open its doors in the last quarter of 2016. Viceroy Palm Jumeirah will have 481 rooms and suites, plus 221 ‘signature Viceroy Residences’. The beachside property will host ten restaurants, as well as a gourmet market and bakery. In addition, the hotel will also have a spa, indoor fitness facilities and three outdoor swimming pools. The move marks Viceroy Hotels and Resorts’ first foray into the Dubai market. The operator already runs the Yas Viceroy in Abu Dhabi.
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Rizwan Sajan, chairman, Danube Group --- You want something built? There are few better people to call than Rizwan Sajan. When he 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 is 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.
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Hitesh Bodani, chairman, Bond Investment Group --- He is a wheeler dealer with a hand in many pies, including the hugely popular Mahiki Club in Dubai. As 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.
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JR Gangaramani, president, Al Faraa --- Mumbai-born Dr JR Gangaramani moved to the UAE in 1974 to work as a construction manager on what was then the GCC’s tallest building, Dubai’s World Trade Centre. Six years later he established his own contracting company, which eventually led to the creation of the conglomerate, Al Fara’a Construction & Industrial Group. The firm is renowned for its vast range of services, comprising construction, ready mix, electro mechanical services and interiors. Its project portfolio has come to include hospitals, bridges, towers, malls and villas, and has 18,000 employees in the UAE and India.
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Deepak Arora CEO, City Diamond Contracting --- As 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. Arora’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.