Indian expats who made a fortune in the Gulf

Keeping India connect alive through business & philanthropy


January 3, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Indian expats who made a fortune in the Gulf

These Indians have attained the zenith of economies in the Gulf countries

Decades of a booming economy in the Persian Gulf has made it the ideal haven for migrants from all over the world, especially India. Many of them have made it big, but almost always from a humble beginning.

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Apart from the Philippines, India sends the largest number of expatriates to the Gulf Cooperation Countries which significantly contributes to their economies through the billions of dollars remitted back to their homes by the migrants. A report by UNDESA notes how Indian workers constitute the largest group among migrants in the Gulf and for a number of years, the World Bank has put India at top of the list of countries that receive remittances, with India averaging between USD 60-70 billion a year.

Of the nearly 10 million Indians living in the GCC nations, a few have gone on to attain the zenith of the economies in these nations, propelled largely by the nascent opportunities that the GCC countries presented and aided by their entrepreneurial spirit. Indian names can be found at the top of many sectors of the economy, ranging from infrastructure, construction and real estate sector to appliances. Here are some who have become household names in not only the Gulf, but also in India.

MA Yusuff Ali

Yusuff Ali stands tall due to his contributions in revolutionising the retail sector in the Gulf. A native of Kerala, he is the chairman and managing director of LuLu Group International that has grown from a family business venture to an international retailer spread over three continents.

After landing in the UAE in 1973, Yusuff Ali joined his uncle’s business, the LuLu group of companies, and ventured into supermarket business by launching LuLu Hypermarket. This marked a transformation of the retail business in Abu Dhabi. Diversifying the business, the group began importing frozen food from Europe and the US and distributed them in the Emirates. Non-food items were also soon included.

Along with LuLu Hypermarkets, import of food products has been his successful venture, with a few centres located in India as well. Ali also owns the highly successful LuLu Mall in Kochi. Moreover, the billionaire businessman owns several malls across the GCC; particularly, in Saudi Arabia.

His net worth stands at USD 4.5 billion today. Ali has also contributed generously towards philanthropic activities in  India especially during the Gujarat earthquake and the 2019 Kerala floods and for the welfare of the expats in the Middle East. He is a recipient of Padma Shri.

Micky Jagtiani

Owner of Dubai-based retail group, Landmark, Micky Jagtiani, started out as a cab driver and a housekeeper in hotels in London, before moving to Bahrain in 1973. He moved to Dubai at the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990 and founded the Landmark Group. His strategic choice of location for his business has helped him build his empire as a retail magnate. He began his career in business by selling baby foods and today, is one of the largest importers of non-food items in the Middle East. Today, his group operates restaurants, hotels, retail stores and fitness centres across the Middle East.

The Indian billionaire is also well known for his philanthropy. His NGO, LIFE (Landmark International Foundation for Empowerment), works to support underprivileged children, slum-dwellers and old-age homes in India through education and healthcare programmes.

In December 2020, Forbes reported his wealth to be around USD 2.8 billion. His wife, Renuka Jagtiani, runs the Landmark Group as the chairwoman and CEO.

Nicole Rodriguez

Named in Forbes’ Top 100 Indian Leaders in the UAE this year, she is hailed due to her success in revolutionising the modelling industry in the region. Born and raised in Mumbai, she started her career in modelling at age 16. In 1995, she moved to Bahrain to work for the Gulf Air, a state-owned airline. In 2003, she established Diva group of companies after her initial success in the modelling world in the UAE as the territory was largely untraversed during her days as a budding model.

Later, she ventured into real estate and launched Diva Holdings. Subsidiaries like Diva Laundry and Diva Salon were launched after the success of her ventures. Diva Group further expanded into the financial and consultancy sector with NM Investments. In her interviews, she has mentioned how minimum taxation in the Emirates has helped her flourish her business like many others.

Her mettle as a CEO is well-established in the Arab world where she was awarded as the CEO of the year in 2014, among other entrepreneurship awards. Today, she is recognised as the woman behind the one-stop-shop that has ‘transformed the professional promotional industry across the Middle East.’

Joy Alukkas

After moving to the Middle East to expand his father’s business, Joy Alukkas rose to prominence with the first branded jewellery store at Abu Dhabi in the UAE in 1987. In 2001, the company bifurcated from its parent company, Alukkas Jewellery, and the brand Joyalukkas was born. The business boomed and he soon expanded to not only other parts of Dubai but also across the Gulf.

After securing his fortunes in the Gulf, thanks also due to high standards of gold purity, Alukkas shifted back to homeland when gold prices in India were nearly three times that in the Gulf. Steadily, he raised his business from the ground in his native country.

With headquarters in Dubai and Thrissur in Kerala, Joyalukkas is spread across 11 countries. After the success of his jewellery business in India, Alukkas also ventured into real estate, fashion and retail stores. He honed his skills and reputation in the cluttered jewellery space through his marketing strategies. Besides numerous recognitions and awards, Forbes ranked among Top Indian Leaders in the Middle East in 2018. His net worth stands at USD 2 billion today.

B Ravi Pillai

The billionaire businessman is the founder and CEO of the RP group of companies which deals in construction, hospitality, steel, cement and oil and gas industries as its flagship businesses.

After his construction business in Kerala was shut down due to a labour strike, he moved to Saudi Arabia in 1978 and started a trading business. Two years later, he established Nasser S Al Hajri Corporation (NSH), a construction business, which later evolved to form the RP Group. Through his earnings in the Gulf, he has invested in the Indian firms and owns major stakes in hotels like Leela Kovalam and Hotel Raviz, in Kerala.

In the Gulf, his remarkable role for solidifying India-Middle East relationships is well-recognised. His charitable RP Foundation works to rehabilitate, educate and uplift people out of poverty under the motto ‘Serving the poor equals serving God.’

Today his net worth is around USD 1.3 billion. He has been ranked as the fourth most powerful Indian in the Middle East by Arabian Business magazine in 2015. He is also a recipient of Padma Shri.



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