Yusuff Ali M.A., the owner of India’s largest mall, also helped after the Latur and Bhuj earthquakes, the 2004 tsunami and 2013 Uttarakhand floods.
Born in Kerala, Yusuff Ali is the chairman and managing director of LuLu Group, an Abu Dhabi-headquartered hypermarket chain with an annual turnover of more than Rs 50,000 crore.
In the past three decades, Ali has extended financial aid after every major natural calamity such as earthquakes in Maharashtra’s Latur (1993) and Gujarat’s Bhuj (2001), the 2004 tsunami and the 2013 Uttarakhand floods.
Love for homeland
The 62-year-old, who employs over 40,000 people from 37 different nations, reportedly sacked one of his employees after the latter posted “insensitive comments” about Kerala flood victims on social media.
Ali also played a key role in developing the international airport in Kochi, which has reportedly suffered a loss of Rs 220 crore in the floods. Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) is also the world’s first completely solar-powered airport, which has been awarded ‘Champion of Earth Prize 2018’ by the United Nations.
Currently a director of the CIAL, Ali has close associations with the authorities in the Gulf through which he has brought in foreign investments to India, more specifically to Kerala, for various infrastructure projects.
For instance, he has been mediating with governments for Kochi Smart City venture, which aims to build the ‘most desirable address’ for IT companies in India.
“It was at a crucial juncture when the project would have almost been dropped by the TECOM Company from Dubai that Yusuff Ali was requested to be a mediator by the Kerala government. His diplomacy won once again and the Smart City Project is now being made into a reality,” reads the profile of the business tycoon on his company website.
In 2005, Ali won the “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman”, given to NRIs for their contribution to different fields.
Ali’s LuLu Group opened its first mall in India in 2013, at Edapally junction, in Kochi. With 25 lakh sq ft area, this is considered the largest mall in India.
A well-networked business leader, he reportedly met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 during the latter’s visit to the UAE and informed him about the challenges faced by NRIs seeking to invest in India.
Earlier this year, he met Modi again during the World Government Summit in the UAE and announced an investment of Rs 3,000 crore for setting up a shopping mall in Lucknow. A model of the LuLu Mall was unveiled in the presence of PM Modi at the inaugural function of UP Investors’ Summit held in February this year.
Why is Kerala important for UAE?
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan Tuesday announced that the UAE has extended Rs 700-crore financial assistance to rebuild the flood-ravaged state, where nearly 220 people have lost their lives since 8 August.
The UAE was also one of the first countries to express solidarity with the people of Kerala.
“The people of Kerala have always been and are still part of our success story in the UAE,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, had tweeted.
Kerala is the only state in India from where people have been migrating consistently to the Gulf for the past five decades. By now, Malayalees have established networks in countries such as the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain
Around 10 per cent of Kerala’s 3.4 crore population living in the Gulf send home about Rs 1 lakh crore every year. In other words, their remittances form almost a third of Kerala’s net state domestic product — Rs 3 trillion.
As per the data from the ministry of external affairs, 7,81,000 people emigrated from India to Gulf countries in 2015 for work.
“My group employs over 42,000 people across the globe, of which around 28,000 are Keralites. By 2020, I hope to have at least 30,000 Malayalees in our workforce,” Ali, the only Malayalee in Forbes’ billionaire list, told Manorama in April this year.