\nRagu Kataria is still making money, and is still proud to be the most influential non-resident Indian that you probably won’t have heard of. The billionaire businessman keeps a low profile, working out of his home in Emirates Hills. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing big deals. Back in June 2009, he 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). The value of that AED750m investment has increased by at least 70 percent in the past four years.
\nEarly 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. Today, 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 in India.
\nPNC Menon didn’t mince his words when he told us about his involvement in Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid City project last year. Almost three decades after his entrepreneurial journey began, and at the age of 65, the founder of the Sobha Group of companies says it is “the most exciting thing to have happened in my life”. Menon says in terms of land size, the 4.2 million sq m District One, which is being built in a joint venture with Dubai developer Meydan as the first phase of the overall city, was the biggest single project the company had ever embarked on.
\n“It’s a dream project for me,” he says. “Both of us, we are so committed to this project and we are making sure this is one of the best projects on earth.”
\nFor Menon to be as enthusiastic today about the company’s projects says much about the man whose rags-to-riches tale is the stuff of business legend.
17. JR Gangaramani \nPresident \nAl Fara’a Group \nConstruction \n$710m ($700m)
\nAs co-founder of the privately-held Al Fara’a Group in 1980, Dr JR Gangaramani has been involved in numerous projects across the UAE and beyond. Under his building arm — Al Fara’a General Contracting — he is currently associated with government and private projects worth more than AED1bn ($272m). His appetite for being at the forefront of development in the UAE and further afield remains undiminished. Gangaramani’s love affair with the UAE began when he arrived from India in 1974, after completing an engineering degree at Mumbai University three years earlier. He started his industry career as a project engineer on the Dubai World Trade Centre, at the time the tallest “hi-tech” building in the Middle East and a signal of things to come.
\nThe 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. In 2009, he founded the Al Fara’a Foundation, which aims to harness the collective capacity of the Al Fara’a Group of Companies in a focused manner and efficiently meet stakeholder needs with a deliberate and value seeking approach. The approach is based on an integrated model comprising the five pillars of care, empowerment, growth, challenge and nurture.
\nIndian business tycoon Kabir Mulchandani is the ultimate Dubai comeback kid. Arrested in 2009 on accusations of real estate fraud, he was eventually cleared of all charges by a Dubai court in December 2010 and despite the Dubai property market being on its knees, he set up a new property venture, SKA1. He claimed he was going to come back bigger and better and strike some major multibillion-dollar deals.
\nLast year, Mulchandani’s claims turned into reality via the launch of his new $1bn Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah project, which will have 481 hotel rooms and suites, 221 apartments, ten top-notch restaurants and a prime location as plot number one on the iconic man-made island.\n“It has been tough. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but if you believe in what you are doing and do good things, people will see it,” Mulchandani told us last year. “At the end of the day, I have always been completely transparent. I open the books and show people all the legal documents and people like that approach.”
\nFrom languishing in a Dubai jail to launching a new property company in the midst of the real estate downturn, Mulchandani is now one of a host of private developers back riding the latest Dubai property wave, which has seen more than a dozen megaprojects announced in the space of a couple of months. His new project arguably makes him the hottest ticket in town.
45. Deepak Arora \nManaging Director \nDRA Group \nConstruction \n$300m ($295m)
\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.
50. AshokUttamchandani \nFounder \nRocky Real Estate \nProperty \n$210m (New)
\nRocky Real Estate is a family business founded and run by the Uttamchandani family. It started out as a team of just three but now has close to 300 staff. Ashok Uttamchandani originally worked in the banking and textile sectors, followed by a tailoring shop, a restaurant and a recruitment firm. But it was the move to real estate that sowed the seeds of his considerable fortune, allowing him to make his first-ever appearance in our rich list.