REVEALED: 50 Richest Indians in the GCC 2016
Our exclusive ranking of the Gulf’s wealthiest Indian expatriates.
\nChairman, Stallion Group
\nSunil Vaswani dared to kick off his entrepreneurial career in Africa but station his growing Stallion Group overseas in Dubai — moves that have paid off to the tune of billions. Today the conglomerate continues to evolve and grow, creating a legacy that generates jobs and produces positive impacts within communities.
\nIn its last full year, Stallion Group raked in $3.72bn in revenues, but that’s small fry compared to what’s next. Vaswani says he is hoping to create investment opportunities to the tune of $9bn by partnering with big international firms to help develop the continent.
\n“The next two decades may see Africa emerge as a very strong world economy,” Vaswani told Arabian Business recently. “The change will be driven by a growing captive demand, a surging middle class, increasing the willpower of governments to make the region self-sufficient, an improved investment climate that will aid foreign investment and take advantage of natural resources. Africa could potentially see massive capital inflows as the perception of risk gradually diminishes in the coming years.”
\nChairman, Landmark Group
\nCan anyone stop Micky Jagtiani? Judging by the performance of his Landmark Group, it seems unlikely. For the former London taxicab driver, the decision to launch a single store in Bahrain back in 1973 has proved pivotal.
\nFast forward to 2016 and Jagtiani is making headlines all over the world. In September last year, he was reported to be the mastermind behind a shareholder revolt at one of the UK’s top department stores, Debenhams.
\nJagtiani’s wealth stems from his interest in the privately-held Landmark Group, now one of the largest retail conglomerates in the region. It has interests spanning fashion, footwear, cosmetics and sportswear, and has also expanded into confectionary, homeware and home 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 an estimated $5bn a year. It has a presence in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with 2,000 outlets, 50,000 employees and commands a staggering 24 million square feet of retail of space.
3.Dr Ravi Pillai
\nChairman, RP Group
\nThe last 12 months have seen a major strategic shift from Ravi Pillai’s colossal RP Group, which is now making headlines around the Gulf and back home in India.
\nIn May last year, the company said its RP Global real estate arm is building two new projects in Downtown Dubai for a combined cost of a cool $1.5bn. During 2015, the mother company — RP Group — won large industrial construction contracts in the Gulf in the oil and gas sector worth over $2bn.
\nOn the hospitality side, Pillai owns six hotels — four in India and two in Dubai, with the seventh hotel — a new Crowne Plaza in Dubai Marina — set to open soon. This includes the Leela Raviz Kovalam, the most awarded five-star beachfront luxury hotel in Kerala.
\nHis wealth has been built on the back of the Saudi Arabia-based RP Group, which has interests in industrial construction, real estate, travel and tourism, healthcare, retail and education. The most prominent part of the firm is its oil and gas construction business making it the largest industrial contractor in the Middle East. Not content with the firm’s role in Saudi Arabia, Pillai is also taking RP Group’s industrial expertise further afield, winning work in Kuwait, Qatar and Abu Dhabi as well as in locations as far flung as Australia.
\nWith nearly 100,000 employees today, his company is a multi-billion-dollar operation. Not bad for the boy from Kerala who at the age of 14 started running his first business just so he could pay for school books.
\n“To me it’s just been one step at a time, it’s never been about the money, just trying to work hard and do things the right way,” he told us recently.
\nPillai has an MBA from Cochin University and an honorary doctorate from Excelsior State University in the United States. Pillai was bestowed with the coveted Padma Shri Award as well as the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Government of India for his commendable services to Non-Resident Indians and exemplary track record in entrepreneurship.
\nChairman, Lulu Group International
\nYusuffali MA’s LuLu International has garnered its fair share of headlines over the course of the past year. Whether it’s hobnobbing with Barack Obama and Narendra Modi, buying up prime real estate in London or expanding LuLu International into new emerging markets, the Kerala-born businessman clearly has no intention of resting on his laurels.
\nLast month, Deloitte ranked LuLu as 165th biggest retailer in the world, with revenues of $5.6bn in 2014. It was also ranked as 25th fastest growing retailer based on revenues between 2009-2014.
\nBut Yusuffali also has considerable investments elsewhere, including stakes in several of India’s largest banks. He owns India’s largest mall, in Kochi, and is in the process of building what he sees as his most ambitious project yet — the Bolghatty International Convention Centre, which will be the largest facility of its type in Asia.
\nThis year, for the first time, Yusuffali has provided Arabian Business with an exclusive breakdown of his wealth. The investment in his business is valued at a shade under $2.5bn, with the current value of his real estate portfolio amounting to just under $1.6bn. The rest of the valuation is made up from holdings in stocks and bonds ($310m); plus cars, other vehicles and his private jet ($75m); jewellery, precious metals and watches ($24m); cash in hand and others.
5.The Allana family
\nFounders, IFFCO Group
\nThe Allana family are riding high in this year’s Rich List thanks to the roaring success of IFFCO Group and the Allana Group. Following the death of the founder of the Allana Group, Abdul Razak Allana, his three sons — Feroz (above), Irfan and Shiraz — have taken centre stage and are driving the group’s business.
\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.
\nFounder and CEO, NMC Health
\nMergers and acquisitions specialist BR Shetty has been hard at work last year. Fresh from the $1bn takeover of exchange giant Travelex, Shetty has also just signed off the purchase of a 51 percent fertility firm Fakih IVF via his healthcare firm, NMC Health. But Shetty is pretty much an institution in his own right having created one of the UAE’s best-known medical outfits. He is considering opening hospitals in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with further expansion across the MENA region once political stability returns. Shetty arrived in Abu Dhabi in 1973, establishing New Medical Centre (NMC) two years later. He also quickly set up UAE Exchange, which accounts for 12 percent of all remittances to India. Shetty was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2007, and the Padma Shri in 2009 for his services to trade and industry.
\nFounder, GEMS Education
\nSunny Varkey may have left much of the management of GEMS Education to sons Dino and Jay, but his imprint still runs through the world’s biggest education provider. 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 across nearly every continent of the world. He also 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. In 2014, private equity investors Fajr Capital, Blackstone and Bahrain sovereign fund Mumtalakat acquired a “significant minority stake” in GEMS Education’s emerging markets business.
\nChairman, Kataria Holdings
\nWith investments in the UK, the US, Denmark, Germany, the UAE, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong, Kataria Holdings has a global reach. Its chairman, Raghuvinder Kataria, is one of the best-known businessmen in the region with a spectacular track record of success. In the last year, he has made two large acquisitions in Scotland; the Scottish Widows headquarters and Standard Life House for a combined $504m. The deals follow the 2009 purchase of two buildings in Dubai’s Emaar Square for $205m. But he is best known for his work in telecoms. Early in his career, he led the formation of JT Telecom — a joint venture between Telia and Jasmine Telecom. That JV later merged with Bharti Enterprises to provide coverage across India. Bharti Airtel is now the top telco in India and the third-largest in-country mobile operator globally. Kataria remains a founding shareholder in that company.
\nChairman, Aster DM Healthcare
\nDr Azad Moopen’s astonishing track record makes him one of the most successful Indians in the Gulf’s healthcare sector. From a small office with just one doctor, Aster DM Healthcare now has 275 establishments across the GCC and India, with 13000 employees which includes 1,500 doctors and 3500 para medical staff.
\nHis portfolio includes the Aster Medcity in Kochi, a hospital in Bangalore, two hospitals in Andhra Pradesh and a further two in Maharashtra, and that’s not to mention the facilities in the Gulf, where the Moopen story began. The company is looking at listing in India later on this year, Moopen told Indian media last week. “So you have to keep expanding if you have to have exponential growth” Moopen told us last year. “We believe very strongly that growth is the fuel for any good company and there has to be a pipeline projects.”
\nFounder, VPS Healthcare
\nAs boss of fast-growing medical firm VPS Healthcare, Dr Shamsheer Vayalil has had another stellar year. He operates 16 hospitals and medical centres under a range of brands, including Burjeel, Lifeline, LLH, Lifecare and Medeor 24x7. It has a 7,500-strong workforce, and last year said it was looking to hire another 5,000 staff to serve what is one of the Gulf’s most in-demand industries. Last year, VPS Healthcare also expressed an interest to acquire Al Noor Hospitals Group, although the latter was eventually bought by South Africa’s Mediclinic for $2.2bn. “Current profits for the group are exceeding $70m per year. Based on an equivalent price to earnings ratio of 22.3 for the sector in Q3 of last year, this values the group at approximately $1.5bn,” VPS Healthcare wrote in a submission to Arabian Business. The statement also confirmed that Dr Shamsheer is the 100 percent owner of the firm’s shares.
\nChairman, Sobha Group
\nPNC Menon is currently working on perhaps his biggest project yet — the Mohammed Bin Rashid City development in Dubai — and he’s also looking at one of the city’s most important needs: affordable housing. Three decades after his entrepreneurial journey began, the founder of the Sobha Group of companies said it is “the most exciting thing to have happened in my life”. “It’s a dream project for me,” he said recently in the surroundings of his Dubai home in Emirates Hills. Menon started his entrepreneurial journey from very small beginnings. He set up an interior decoration firm in Oman in 1976. Today his organisation, the Sobha Group, is a multinational, multiproduct group with significant interests and investments in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Brunei, Tanzania and India.
12.Shaji Ul Mulk
\nFounder and Chairman, Mulk Holdings
\nShaji Ul Mulk is the founder and chairman of Mulk Holdings, a multinational group with diversified business interests in manufacturing of metal composites, healthcare, real estate, trading and commodities, aluminium coil coatings, solar energy and energy generation.
\nWith its headquarters in Hamriya Freezone in Sharjah, the company is spread across Europe, USA, Russia, India, Pakistan and the Middle East. Mulk Holdings’ flagship brand, Alubond Metal Composites, has grown into the world’s largest metal composite brand with operations in 11 countries and market reach of 90 countries. However, the brand’s reputation took a hit at the start of the year when a fire tore through The Address Downtown Dubai hotel, which had been built using Alubond aluminium panels.
\nIn his spare time, Ul Mulk is also an ardent cricket promoter and provides employment to professional cricketers at his champion Alubond Tigers Cricket team. He is also involved in strategic administrative levels of Emirates Cricket Board.
\nPhilanthropy plays an important role in Ul Mulk’s life and his company’s CSR division has set up many charity schools, clinics, libraries and orphan marriage programmes.
\nIt has become a household name in the UAE, and no wonder. The Choithrams supermarket brand was originally set up in West Africa in 1944 by Thakurdas Choithram Pagarani, although it is the company’s current chairman who is credited with much of its success.
\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 and the Gulf.
\nThree 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 Middle East.
\nAside from retail, the company also has interests in food services, hospitality, garments and household appliances, and logistics and distribution.
\nExecutive Director, Jashanmal Group
\nIf it is retail you’re after, then Tony Jashanmal is your man. His Jashanmal Group 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. Currently it has over 150 stores in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, while its distribution network extends to more than 1,000 outlets. It has brand tie-ups with the likes of Clarks, Bally, Kate Spade, TM Lewin, Electrolux and Hoover.
\nJashanmal 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.
15.The Chhabria family
\nShareholders, Jumbo Group
\nFounded in 1974, the flagship of Jumbo Group, Jumbo Electronics, is a partner for some of the world’s top brands. The company’s founder, Manohar R Chhabria, established the first Jumbo Electronics retail outlet in Dubai’s bustling commercial district Bur Dubai. The company secured exclusive distribution rights for Sony in 1975, initiating its rise to become one of the largest distributors of the Japanese brand anywhere on the planet. Vidya Chhabria took over the reins of the Jumbo Group after her husband’s death in 2002, and the UAE-based family has gone from strength to strength in recent years. In the last financial year, the group is estimated to have raked in $1.5bn in revenues. The late Manohar Chhabria’s aggressive acquisitions of brands including Shaw Wallace and Mather & Platt earned him the nickname ‘takeover tycoon’.
\nChairman, Rosy Blue Group
\nHarshad Mehta is the chairman of Rosy Blue Group, one of the world’s biggest diamond merchants. Born in 1947, his understanding of the diamond industry has allowed him to build a huge network of companies in 15 countries employing more than 15,000 people. Mehta is also the former vice-chairman of Dubai Diamond Exchange, chairman of the Governing Council of LIFE, an organisation comprising Saurashtra Medical and Charitable Trust and the Indian Medical Scientific Research Foundation.
\nCEO, SKAI Holdings
\nIt’s a big year for Kabir Mulchandani. The SKAI Holdings boss is on track to open his largest ever project, the Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah. Valued at well over $1bn, the hotel is set to usher in a new level of luxury in a city that is already festooned with high-end properties.
\nMulchandani told us last year that although the hotel was scheduled to open by the end of 2016, he was hoping to get it all signed off slightly quicker.
\n“We are very confident that we will definitely finish early. Completion is when the authorities certify that it is ready for occupation, then we go through the opening process of the hotel.”
\nIn March last year, SKAI said it would upgrade its Jumeirah Village Circle project to a five-star luxury property and rebrand it Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village following the signing of Viceroy Hotel Group as its hotel operator. And there are other concepts in the pipeline.
\nGiven his success at financing these projects — many of which have involved some of China’s largest banks — don’t bet against Mulchandani making some more big-name announcements in the coming months.
\nChairman, Dodsal Group
\nOtherwise known as the ‘Pipeline King’, Rajen Kilachand made his fortune through the Dodsal Group, which has a long history of winning key infrastructure contracts in the UAE and beyond. The group was founded in Mumbai in 1948 by the Nandlal Kilachand family as a trading company in partnership with a British trading company.
\nToday, it has transformed from a family trading enterprise into a multi-billion-dollar organisation based in Dubai. The firm’s services span a wide range of sectors including energy, industry and infrastructure. It has successfully completed projects in over 22 countries across the Middle East, Europe, Africa, India and South East Asia. At the company’s helm is its chairman and president, Rajen Kilachand. Under Kilachand’s leadership the firm continues to grow with plans to take “Dodsal from a $200m multi-retail interest company to a world-class multi-billion dollar organisation,” as he says on his website. Kilachand also sits on the board of directors of Pathfinder International.
20.Asgar Shakoor Patel
\nChairman, House of Patels
\nIt is the end of an era for one of Dubai’s most extraordinary success stories, with Asgar Shakoor Patel planning to hand over the reins of Patel Integrated Logistics to his son Areef.
\nHaving made his money setting up one of India’s biggest transport and logistics conglomerates, Patel travelled to Dubai with the cash needed to kick-start his own ventures, ironically benefitting from the earnings of his fellow Asian expats who typically worked as low-paid labourers. Wall St Exchange Centre became the UAE’s largest and oldest foreign exchange and money transfer company and was a lifeline for many who came to rely on Dubai to support their families back home.
\nPatel said he could sniff the money-making opportunities in the Middle East from 2,000km away. “I established the exchange centre to help the increasing number of Indians remitting money from Dubai to India,” he told us last year. “Dubai was just building up so labourers had to send the money back to India. Being in the roadways business I didn’t see any difference to transporting money. One thing went by wire and one thing went by truck.”
\nPatel spread the firm to the UK and Hong Kong, as well as other UAE emirates and used the profits to branch out into real estate, creating property advisory group House of Patels.
\nIn 2012 he sold his remaining 40 percent stake in Wall Street Exchange Centre to Emirates Post.
\nOwner, Joyalukkas Group
\nWhen a business refuses to compromise on quality, word typically spreads. This is one of the significant contributing factors to the enormous growth of Joyalukkas Jewellery, founded by Joy Alukkas in the UAE in 1987.
\nOver the past 28 years, Joyalukkas has expanded to four of the UAE emirates, as well as into Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Singapore and his home country of India, where the brand also has made a name for itself in one of the most revered jewellery markets in the world.
\nThe company now boasts more than 10 million customers, more than 100 stores and the world’s largest jewellery showroom, in Chennai. At 70,000 square feet, over four storeys, it includes 1 million designs.
\nThe Joyalukkas Group is now a conglomerate spanning money exchange, luxury air charter (Joy Jets), fashion, silks and the Mall of Joy, located in Alukkas’ home city of Thrissur, Kerala. Total revenues are reportedly about $1.7bn annually.
\nAmid all the growth, the jewellery firm has consistently been recognised for its quality, including receiving the Dubai Quality Awards Certification from Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. All of this has earned Kerala-born Alukkas a strong reputation among retailers in the UAE.
\nChairman, Danube Group
\nAs the millionaire founder and chairman of Danube, Rizwan Sajan has supplied building materials to just about every development since the Dubai property boom began.
\nThe company is now the undisputed market leader in building materials in the emirate, with 38 offices across the Gulf, India and China and 1,800 employees. Sajan told Arabian Business in December the company was on track to record about $760 million in revenue for 2015.
\nSajan has also jumped to the other side of the fence, launching his own real estate company, Danube Properties. The developer’s first project, Dreamz by Danube, sold out in hours in 2014, and it now has five projects on the go, worth more than $400 m in total.
\nThe most recent is an $82m affordable homes project in Al Furjan, while three ‘Glitz’ towers are being built in Studio City.
\nSajan’s success began in the 1990s, when he was forced to flee Kuwait, where he had been working for his uncle, amid the Saddam Hussein invasion. The pair moved to Dubai and resumed their work, but Sajan later branched out to establish his own brokerage business buying and selling building materials.
\nSajan told Arabian Business in December that he remained “bullish” about the Dubai property market despite concerns it had reached saturation point.
\nCEO, KEF Holdings
\nIndian US-educated engineer Faizal Kottikollon arrived in the UAE in 1995 when he established his first business venture, Al Ahamadi General Trading, a scrap metal trading and recycling business based in Ajman. Emirates Techno Casting (ETC) foundry, his next venture, cast its first mould at the foundry in Ajman in 1997 and now has manufacturing locations in the UAE, Middle East and India.
\nKEF Holdings, the parent company for Kottikollon’s various businesses, set up a new state-of-the-art facility at Sharjah Hamriyah Free Zone, the first integrated manufacturer of industrial valves in the Middle East. The 50,000sq m facility produces a specialised range of industrial valves for the oil and gas industry, expanding rapidly before being sold for $400m in 2012.
\nKottikollon now focuses his attention on an off-site construction business that aims to halve building costs for schools and hospitals in India. KEF Holdings will strengthen its offsite manufacturing operations in the GCC region with a new $100m manufacturing facility opening in Jebel Ali later this year. Through this facility, KEF Holdings would provide world-class expertise in design, engineering, manufacturing, assembly, and project management for the GCC region, Kottikollon said last month.
24.The Khimji family
\nFounders, Khimji Ramdas Group
\nThe Khimji family’s presence in Oman spans three centuries, starting as traders importing grain, tea and spices from India and exporting dates, dry limes and frankincense from Oman during the 19th century. But it was the arrival in 1870 of Ramdas Thackersey and his son Khimji Ramdas that really kick-started the family’s prosperity in the sultanate. Together they founded a business that would grow to become one of the country’s largest business groups, covering the consumer, infrastructure and industrial sectors.
\nSuch is the family’s prominence in Oman, when Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said took over as ruler in 1970 he granted the Khimjis citizenship — a rare offering in the Gulf — and bestowed the title Sheikh upon Kanaksi Khimji, Thackersey’s great-grandson and the present head of the family and the Khimji Ramdas Group, making him what is believed to be the only Hindu Sheikh in the world.
\nToday, the group reportedly turns over more than $1bn annually and has partnerships with more than 400 global brands.
\nKanaksi Khimji has also helped established 19 Indian schools in Oman, educating 35,000 Indian students. The company is a corporate member of the World Economic Forum.
\nCompany director Nailesh Khimji (above), also plays a vital role in the growth of the Khimji Ramdas Group.
\nFounder, Apparel Group
\nOn the verge of achieving a long-time goal to open its 1,500th store, there is no question Apparel Group has a strong footing in the GCC retail industry.
\nStarting in 1999 with the UAE’s first Nine West shoe store, Nilesh Ved’s vision to bring American brands to the Middle East has certainly paid off. He now has rights to 55 international brands under his belt, including multiple other shoe brands such as Aldo and Sketchers, clothing brands such as Calvin Klein and Beverly Hills Polo Club, and food and beverage outlets such as Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery.
\nOperations are now spread across the GCC, as well as in India, Russia, Poland, Thailand and Malaysia.
\nWith many of his ancestors also successful entrepreneurs — his family has run the largest gold bullion trading in Dubai since 1904 — Ved graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Boston University and quickly embarked on his own business voyage.
\nVed has often said that the staff are the company’s greatest strength and last year Apparel Group won an ‘employer of the year’ award and was listed among the best companies to work for.
\nThe Dubai Department of Economic Development also announced in December that it had rated the company in the ‘VIP Category’ for its compliance with business regulations and for successfully implementing the ‘self-inspector’ initiative. These accolades show Apparel Group is not only about quantity but also quality.
26.Surender Singh Kandhari
\nChairman, Al Dobowi Group
\nWhen Surender Singh Kandhari launched his first tyre shop in Deira, Dubai, in 1976, he was about the only supplier in the country and quickly managed to corner the market.
\nThe Al Dobowi Group has since morphed into one of the largest tyre distribution companies in the world, with operations in 65 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. The 20-subsidiary conglomerate still focuses on its core business of tyres and re-treading but also sells batteries, lubricants, conveyor belt systems, and technical rubber products.
\nThe group today boasts 23 world leading brand partners such as CEAT, GoodYear, Pirelli, Caltex, Hankook, Exide and Bandag, and has even launched its own tyre brand, Infinity.
\nBased in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, Al Dobowi Group remains privately owned, with Kandhari as its chairman.
\nA philanthropist, Kandhari also contributed nearly $20m to build the first ‘legal’ gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, in the UAE. The 100,000 sq ft temple was built on land donated by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and opened in 2012. It has seen as many as 40,000 visitors in a day.
\nKandhari is also a founding member of the Emirates Golf Club.
\nFounder, Petrochem ME
\nIt has been a stunning rise for Yogesh Mehta. Arriving in the UAE 20 years ago with little to his name but holding a dream, he courageously launched the petrochemicals business Petrochem. Established as a partnership with Petrochem UK, the company has grown exponentially and is now arguably the largest chemicals distributor in the Middle East and the 14th in the world.
\nPetrochem’s terminal in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone handles more than 180 variants of chemicals, exporting more than 700,000 metric tons of products all over the globe, while its state-of-the-art storage terminal for bulk and drum chemicals is one of the world’s largest.
\nWhile Mehta’s personal wealth has fallen in recent years, he made headlines in November after paying a reported $20m for the three-day wedding of his son Rohan. The extravagant event was held in Florence and reportedly featured a succession of musical and dance acts, a lavish party at an historic venue and a ceremony in All Saints Square.
\nMehta’s public profile also shot up after being selected as a judge on ‘The Entrepreneur’ talent show in 2012.
\nFounder, Palmon Group
\nManohar Lahori described his relationship with Dubai as an “experiment”, during an interview with Arabian Business in October. His company Palmon Group was the first to set up in the Jebel Ali Free Zone in 1985, he was the first expat to buy property in Dubai Marina’s Al Murjan Tower in 1999 and he bought two villas on the Palm Jumeirah the day it opened to buyers.
\nRisks they may be, but each of his ‘experiments’ has paid off.
\nPalmon Group was established in Mumbai in 1974 as a clothing manufacturer but a chance meeting with Dubai Ports (DP) World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem in the 1980s saw him and the business relocate to Jebel Ali.
\nHe has expanded the company to now encompass 20 businesses in fashion, interior design, real estate, logistics, facilities management and food but says he remains dedicated to Dubai, where he has 90 percent of his business.
\nLahori’s main focus today is on expanding Palmon’s industrial real estate division, which plans to build 1 million sq ft of warehousing and logistics space by 2020. Real estate, fashion and F&B are expected to contribute the biggest growth in the company over the next few years.
\nFounder, Jacky’s Group
\nJacky Panjabi did not enter the UAE market quietly. His electronics showroom, launched in Deira in 1988, was at the time the only multi-brand retail outlet that offered wholesale, distribution and everything in between. It was the start of the Jacky’s Electronics empire that is perhaps the most well-known subsidiary of the Jacky’s Group of Companies, of which Panjabi is founder and managing director.
\nIn recent years, Panjabi has opened multiple Samsung branded stores across the UAE, under the subsidiary Jacky’s Retail. The Mall of the Emirates branch is one of the most successful globally according to sales per square foot.
\nHe was still a teenager — aged 16 or 17 — when he was first thrown into business, sent by his brother Ishwardas to Hong Kong to establish a mail order business in the trading hub, under the name Jacky’s International. Panjabi later used the contacts he established there to launch operations in Africa in 1994. The firm now has exclusive distribution rights in several countries for brands including Sony, Canon, Sharp and Black & Decker. Jacky’s also imports well-known food brands from the UK, the US, and Europe, such as Heinz, Kellogg’s and Kraft, supplying local supermarkets.
\nAbout half the company’s revenue is derived from the UAE, while about $200m is made in the Far East and $100m in Africa.
\nPanjabi told Arabian Business last year that he would now take stock of the business, rather than expand into unknown areas.
\nCEO, Dhamani Jewels
\nAs yet another jewellery retailer on our list, Amit Dhamani has made his name — and his money — trading semi-precious stones and diamonds, as well as creating exclusive designs.
\nFounded by Amit Dhamani’s grandfather in 1969, the family business is now headquartered in Dubai and has operations across the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Thailand, Lebanon, Switzerland and India.
\nIn 2005, Dhamani created an exclusive diamond named after Dubai, the Dubai Cut. Its 99 facets represent each of the holy names of Allah and have helped make the rare stone become one of the most valuable and renowned in the diamond industry.
\nThe company has also successfully launched a men’s collection that takes advantage of the demand for luxury watches in the Gulf. Dhamani’s watch collection often features white diamonds, while there is also a range of bold rings and accessories for men.
\nDhamani has also established a reputation as a trusted supplier of loose cut stones to jewellers across the world, thanks to its policy of controlling the ethical sourcing and polishing of all jewels to ensure accountability.
\nAs Dubai’s dominance in the global diamond trade continues to rise, Dhamani is sure to continue its success at a similar pace.
\nChairman, Regal Group
\nThe legendary Vasu Shroff first established Regal Traders on the banks of the Dubai Creek in 1952, initially to deal in wholesaling and indenting of fine fabrics from Japan and India. A pioneer in the region, the company grew under his astute leadership to become the flagship company of the Regal Group, setting up its first retail chain outlet in Dubai.
\nBest known as one of the UAE’s largest fabric retail chains, Regal offers an extensive range of fashionable fabrics from around the world and is the preferred source of quality fabrics to many of the UAE’s leading couture houses.
\nThe group has also diversified with subsidiaries including Regal Technologies, which is the direct-to-home distributor of channels such as OSN, Pehla and Al Jazeera. A Y T International provides a one-stop shop for equipment, testing and diagnostic systems.
\nPresident, Thumbay Group
\nA third-generation entrepreneur, Thumbay Moideen was raised in a traditional Indian family with a business background. Thrust into business at an early age, Moideen handled the mantle of the conglomerate established by his father Ahamed Hajee Mohiudeen and grandfather Yenepoya Moideen Kunhi, expanding the firm even further.
\nFollowing numerous business trips from India to the UAE over five years, he decided to establish the Thumbay Group UAE in 1998.
\nThe group has since ventured into health education, healthcare, medical research, diagnostics, retail pharmacy, health communications, information technology, retail opticals, wellness, hospitality, distribution and real estate.
\nAs well as Thumbay Hospital in Dubai, Moideen established Gulf Medical College in Ajman, educating students from over 67 countries, which saw the launch of the associated GMC Hospitals, with locations in Ajman, Fujairah and Sharjah.
\nThe latest addition to Thumbay Group’s growing number of healthcare services is the Thumbay Clinics, with locations in Dubai, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and RAK.
\nCEO, LuLu International Exchange
\nAdeeb Ahamed is proud of his many achievements, playing a key role in three of Lulu Group’s key portfolios. Firstly, in only five years, he transformed LuLu International Exchange from a humble one-branch operation to a network of 100 outlets spread across six countries, starting at a time when the global financial crisis was at its height.
\nFollowing this success, Ahamed was appointed managing director of LuLu Group International’s hospitality division, Twenty14 Holdings, which opened its first five-star hotel in Dubai’s Business Bay, operated by Germany’s Steigenberger Hotels. Twenty14 Holdings also acquired the Great Scotland Yard, the original home of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, last year for $170m, with plans to transform it into a hotel. Late last year, the subsidiary acquired its first property in India, the 54-room Abad Airport Hotel in Kochi.
\nAhamed is also director of Tablez Food Company, the food and beverage entity of LuLu Group International. As well as developing two home-grown brands that include Bloomsbury’s Indian themed restaurant, Peppermill, Tablez has franchise rights for London Dairy, Galito’s, Genghis Grill, Famous Dave’s and Sugar Factory.
\nAhamed has come a long way since starting out as a sales and marketing executive at Grosvenor House in London, after which he joined the Baglioni Hotel as its sales manager for the Middle East and London.
\nFounder and Chairman, Pure Gold Group
\nDespite owning a gold retail conglomerate that happens to be one of the biggest names in the industry, Firoz Merchant has never forgotten his roots. In a classic rags-to-riches story, what really sets Merchant apart from the rest is his phenomenal and very personal philanthropic ventures. Starting in 2011, he has helped repatriate about 4,000 insolvent prisoners from Dubai jails, forking out about $1m to pay off their debts. “I believe we have forgotten about this area. Nobody looks at this area,” he told Arabian Business last year. “My philosophy is simple: when I came from my country to the host country, I didn’t just come for the money. How can I pay back the country? Saying thanks is not enough. How good a human are you? You have to prove it.”
\nArriving in Dubai from Mumbai, Merchant started in 1989 with no capital, buying and selling gold bars for just AED5 ($1.36) profit at the start. Within three years, he had saved enough money to establish Pure Gold Group, which is now a $1bn retail phenomenon that comprises Pure Gold Jewellers, La Moda Sunglasses, Arianna and Pure Gold Properties. Two decades later, it has 125 outlets in 13 countries, including the GCC, Sri Lanka, Jordan, France, Singapore and India, a staff pool of over 3,500 and factories in China and India. Far from slowing down, Merchant plans to invest $130m to increase his network of stores to 250 by 2020.
\nFounder, Marina Home Interiors
\nKhurshid Vakil, the co-founder of the Marina Home Interiors brand, admits to being “a perfectionist by nature”.
\nOne of the country’s most high-profile furniture stores, Marina Home Interiors, has increased turnover by 20 percent year-on-year for almost two decades, according to Vakil.
\nCreated in the UAE in 1998 following extensive research, the company is a niche retailer in the market.
\nWith products sourced from over 20 countries on four continents, Vakil says the success of the brand is his understanding of his customers’ trends, likes and dislikes.
\nAfter conquering the UAE, and following on the success of opening an outlet in Delhi in 2012, Vakil has set his sights on significant expansion in the region in the coming year.
\nWith stores in Bahrain and Oman, Marina Home Interiors, has plans to open flagship stores this yea`r in Qatar, as well as Portugal. There are also plans to open in Saudi Arabia in the near future.
\nCEO, Lal’s Group
\nOne of the most diversi-fied business conglomerates in the UAE, the Lal’s Group of companies has multiple interests in retail, trading and hospitality. It also owns and operates Lamcy Plaza, one of the UAE’s most popular shopping destinations.
\nGanwani also oversees the Sharjah Shopping Mall and the Arabian Centre Mall. Altogether, he owns and runs more than 50 retail franchises, including Homes R Us, Mr Price, Bossini, G2000 and Daiso, with well over 130 stores across the region, spanning from Saudi Arabia to Oman.
\nGanwani, along with his friend Raju Shroff from the Regal Group, has diversified in recent years into real estate development, with two significant projects underway. Expected to be completed this summer, 118 in Downtown Dubai is a 14-storey development containing 27 expansive apartments. With a single apartment per floor (plus two duplexes that are 1,200 sq m in size), each will be sold for no less than $5.5m.
\nThe second development is a 45-storey tower in JLT, which will hosue a 207-key Vivanta by Taj hotel — one of the most well-known Indian brands — as well as 80 luxury residences.
39.Dr Dhananjay Datar
\nManaging Director, Al Adil Trading
\nFrom a small grocery store established by his father in Bur Dubai in 1984, Dhananjay Datar has transformed Al Adil Trading into a major spice company with a presence right across the GCC region and beyond.
\nAl Adil Trading now has a chain of 30 retail outlets, two flour mills and two spice factories in the Middle East.
\nAnd the success story continues on. Products are largely sourced from his Mumbai-based firm, Masala King Exports, and late last year Datar announced that the company would further expand on its regional growth by establishing Masala King Export Trading in the UAE to manufacture a broad range of Indian food and grocery items.
\nIn 2015, Al Adil opened strategic outlets in Oman, Bahrain, Dubai and Sharjah, which has helped the company exceed its sales targets for the year.
\nWith 375 employees already, Datar has said he plans to open at least 20 more supermarkets that would cater to the UAE’s predominantly Indian expatriate community. The import and export side of the business also has been flourishing, with strong trading lines established in the US, Canada, Tanzania, Kenya, Switzerland, Italy and Eritrea, as well as in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE. He has also branched into Ayurvedic medicine and beauty care.
\nChairman, GRP Industries
\nA successful busin-essman with great vision, Sudesh Aggarwal’s sense for the UAE’s growth prospects led him to establish Giant Reinforced Plastic (GRP) Industries in 1989.
\nBorn into a middle class family, Aggarwal completed his MBA at HP University, Shimla, India in 1973 and arrived in the UAE in November 1975 to work for the Dubai office of Talal Abu Ghazaleh & Co, an associate of Price Waterhouse (now PwC). In 1979 he decided to go it alone.
\nWhile his first effort was not a success, he persisted and set up GRP Industries Ltd, a manufacturer specialising in the production of glass reinforced polyester enclosures and kiosks for application in the electrical industry.
\nThe company manufactures polyester products for application in the local water and electricity infrastructure, and says it has seen growth of 20 percent each year since 2003, with DEWA (Dubai Electricity & Water Authority) and Emaar among its many esteemed clients.
\nChairman, Ramee Group of Hotels
\nVardaraj (better known as Raj) Shetty runs the Ramee Group of Hotels & Resorts, one of the region’s largest home-grown hotel chains with 40 properties across the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and India. The group also operates a shopping mall in Chennai, India.
\nShetty left the small town of Kalavara in India aged 18 and travelled to Saudi Arabia, where he worked in several hospitality roles before being given the chance to run his first hotel in Dubai aged just 25.
\nSince then, he has built up the Ramee Group with a Gulf-wide portfolio tipped for expansion — last year the group announced plans to open two five-star hotels in the UAE over the next three years, following the opening of its first five-star hotel in the GCC, the Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa in Bahrain.
\nShetty is involved in numerous charitable activities, including offering special meals to the less fortunate during Eid and Diwali.
43.Dr Birbal Singh Dana
\nChairman and Managing Director, Dana Group
\nDr Birbal Singh dana is a qualified general surgeon who served in the University of Libya for 15 years before moving to Dubai in 1991 to set up the Dana Group of Companies.
\nThe group’s operations span steel processing, cable management systems, hospitals, supermarkets, heaters and water coolers. Its corporate office and showrooms are based in Dubai, but it also has trading companies in India and associate offices in Libya, Iraq, West Africa and South Africa, as well as manufacturing units in the UAE and Libya.
\nDr Singh has previously said he was “very naïve” when he first left the medical profession and moved to Dubai: “I am a general surgeon by qualification and my patients never lied to me as they wanted me to understand their illness. However, in business it’s completely different — everybody you come across is incredibly smart and has a hidden agenda”.
\nNonetheless, he has successfully built the Dana brand across core industries such as steel, retail and healthcare. The company says it prides itself on practicing the ‘Japanese style of management’ (hourensou), based on frequent discussion and collaboration with all levels of staff.
\nFounder and Group Chairman, Eurostar Group
\nRaju Jethrani is founder of Eurostar, which sells consumer electronics and smart devices. It began operations in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, fast becoming a market leader in digital satellite receiving systems. Now headquartered in Dubai, Jethwani has built the group into a diversified conglomerate with businesses in tablets, smart phones, TV and entertainment products, real estate and fast moving consumer goods. It has an online shopping site, Goeurostar.com, through which customers can purchase its range of tablets and electronics, as well as British brand Fly by Eurostar products and other smart devices, such as LED TVs and wearable devices. The group is currently implementing ambitious growth plans that include reaching $1bn in revenues by 2020.
45.Ashok Goel & Sudhir Goyel
\nBoard of directors, Gulf Petrochem Group
\nAshok Goel founded Gulf Petrochem Group in 1998 and serves as its chairman, while his younger brother Sudhir is its managing director, overseeing finances. The duo started out in various ventures in petrochemicals manufacturing and distribution in Delhi and Gujarat in 1993 before moving to Dubai and starting Gulf Petrochem. Today, the group has operations in oil trading, bunkering, manufacturing and refining, shipping and logistics and storage terminals. It exports petroleum products all over the world and has trading offices in Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi and Singapore. The group has reportedly recently restructured its finances, making arrangements with banks to help it fulfil its expansion plans.
\nFounder and Chairman, Advet Bhambhani Ventures
\nOnly in his mid-thirties, Advet Bhambhani is founder and chairman of Advet Bhambhani Ventures, which has investments and businesses in healthcare, hospitality, real estate and entertainment across the UAE and India.
\nUnder his leadership, ABV claims to have grown revenues from $8m in 2002 to more than $300m in 2014, with now more than 500 employees. It has five holding companies: Lifeline Healthcare, Nucleus Hospitals, Constellation Communications & Events, Delish Hospitality and Conjure Realty, with around 22 operating companies underneath.
\nBhambhani is investing in pioneering healthcare concepts — last March he announced plans to open five luxury hospitals in India by 2020. They would resemble hotels, offer personalised care and transport patients in Rolls-Royce cars. The first is scheduled to open in Mumbai in 2017. A graduate of Purdue University, Bhambhani has been based in the UAE for more than a decade.
\nManaging Director, DRA Group of companies
\nAs managing director of the DRA Group of companies, Deepak Arora has managed to keep his business buoyant even during turbulent times for the regional construction industry. The group’s companies include City Diamond Contracting, MEPTech, Giant Star Trading, DRA Product Design, DRA Group, DRA Logistics and DRA International.
\nIts first project in Dubai was a design-and-build concept in Jebel Ali in 1985 when the free zone had just been launched. He has since designed and built projects for multinational clients including Swarovski, Nissan, Black & Decker, Volvo, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Compaq, Makita, BASF and Kanoo.
\nHis projects range from villas and office complexes to manufacturing facilities, warehouses and power stations. More recently, the group has secured lucrative contracts for Emirates Airline’s huge call centre, the Emirates Aviation College for Aerospace and Academic Studies and the overflow centre for dnata’s cargo business at Dubai Airport Free Zone. The group now focuses mainly on steel and concrete structures.
\nFounder, Pacific Controls
\nA mechanical engineer by background, Dilip Rahulan founded Pacific Controls in Australia in 1984 and worked on several infrastructure projects in Africa before expanding the company to Dubai in the late 1990s.
\nRahulan has become known for his expertise in smart, energy-efficient building techniques. His company claims to have pioneered and deployed ‘smart city’ solutions that have reduced fire incidents in Dubai by 42 percent. Its ‘Galaxy’ software system aims to connect buildings and city infrastructure to ICT networks enabling real-time data collection to better manage energy consumption and services.
\nThe company also has pledged to reduce the carbon footprint of its own buildings by 20 percent; its UAE headquarters was awarded the accolade of the Middle East’s first platinum-rated green building by the US Green Building Council and Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED). In July 2012, the firm signed an agreement with Saudi telco Mobily to jointly offer energy management solutions for companies in Saudi Arabia.