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3. Yusuffali MA
\nFood and clothes have made Yusuffali one of the richest Indians on the planet with a fortune of $2.6bn. Not bad for a virtually penniless man who made his way to the UAE in 1973 on a small boat to work in his uncle’s tiny distribution company.
\nMake no mistake: 40 years on, Yusuffali has definitely hit the big time. The numbers are impressive: 104 stores in the Middle East, 500,000 shoppers a day, and a whopping 32 percent share of the grocery retail sector. The company also has interests in manufacturing and food processing, food imports and exports, cold stores and warehousing as well as logistics and trade. LuLu International Exchange is one of the biggest exchanges in the world, carrying out roughly 6 percent of all global remittances.
\nThrough Line Investment & Properties LLC it has also moved into shopping malls and real estate projects, opening up 12 malls in five years with plans for seven more, as well as mixed-use projects in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India. EMKE opened India’s biggest shopping mall, in Kochi, in March last year. With $400m of investment planned for the sub-continent — “a huge market” — it includes a five-star Marriott Hotel, adjacent to the Lulu Shopping Mall, as well as India’s biggest convention centre and a five-star Hyatt hotel in Bolghati, Kochi, and another convention centre in Calicut.
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6. LT Pagarani
\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.
\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 region. In 2010, Pagarani confirmed that Choithrams planned to almost double the number of shops across the UAE and open smaller convenience stores.
\nAside from retail, the company also has interests in food services, hospitality, garments and household appliances, and logistics and distribution.
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7. Tony Jashanmal
\nFrom humble beginnings with just one store in Iraq in 1919, the Jashanmal Group has grown into one of the most successful retail conglomerates in the region. Headed by Tony Jashanmal, the firm oversees the retail and wholesale trading of high-end luxury and consumer goods and services.
\nIn the last year, the group has rolled out new franchise deals, including with British clothier LKBennett and Kate Spade, a jewellery and accessories brand from New York.
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15. Paras Shahdadpuri
\n quarter of a century since setting up shop in the UAE, Paras Shahdadpuri is still going strong. 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 12 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.
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19. Amit Dhamani
\nhere are no shortage of jewellery tycoons in this list, and one of the biggest is Amit Dhamani. The family business has long been one of the most successful in the industry, and famed for its “Loose Stones” range. The company also controls the sourcing and polishing of all its jewels, and has successfully expanded into a Men’s Collection. This includes a range of watches featuring white diamonds, and a huge range of bold rings and accessories for men. Dhamani’s passion is clear; his innovative work has earned him a BAREEQ Award for following Good Jewellery and Trade Practices by the Government of Dubai. In addition, Dhamani is also the youngest person to sit on the board of governors for the GIA, is the president of The Harvard OPM 39 Alumni, on the board of directors of the GIA Alumni chapter in the Gulf and a member of the board of directors of the NCDIA; he also served on the board of directors of Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group from 2006 till 2010.
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20. Dhananjay Datar
\nAl Adil Trading
\nrom struggling to put food on the table to feed his family to driving a custom-made Rolls-Royce, Dhananjay Datar, managing director of the import-export firm the Al Adil Group, is the protagonist in a major business success story. Datar is responsible for turning Al Adil Trading, a small grocery store established by his father in 1984, into a major spice company that enjoys a presence across the GCC and beyond. Products are largely sourced from his Mumbai-based firm, Masala King Exports. He received the Best Enterprise Award from the Europe Business Assembly at the Oxford Summit of Leaders this year and has prestigious customers such as Dubai Duty Free and five-star hotels.
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23. Vasu Shroff
\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.
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26. Nilesh Ved
\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.
\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 is also the man behind the launch of the Tim Hortons restaurant chain, which has taken the Gulf by storm over the last couple of years.
\nSo what’s next? Quite a lot, apparently. In November, Ved signed a deal with a division of LuLu International to open up 40 new stores in Abu Dhabi malls.
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27. Joy Alukkas
\nThe owner of the 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 four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013.
\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.
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32. Khurshid Vakil
\nMarina Exotic Home Interiors
\nNot content with taking the Gulf by storm, Khurshid Vakil has set his sites on his native India. The founder of the Marina Exotic Home Interiors brand said last month that he would be investing just shy of $100m on opening 50 stores in some of the biggest cities on the subcontinent.
\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,” Vakil said recently. “The company has not changed in recent years, but has remained in sync with the changing environment.”
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37. Maghanmal Pancholia
\nArabian Trading Agency
\nMost of our entries have been present in the Gulf for a long time, but few have built up the respect from all parts of the community enjoyed by Maghanmal Pancholia.
\nHaving resided in Dubai for more than seven 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. 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.
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38. Lachmandas Pagarani
\nAl Maya Group
\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 33 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. As 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.
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40. Jayant Ganwani
\nAnother retail tycoon, Jayant Ganwani has helped redefine shopping in the UAE. He took over responsibility of The Lal’s Group of Companies from his father, Lal Ganwani, in 1986, and has pushed into every Gulf market. Aside from retail, the firm also has interests in mall management, health and leisure, and distribution, as well as a series of joint ventures. Lal’s Group owns and operates Lamcy Plaza, one of the UAE’s most popular shopping destinations.