By Syed Ali Mujtaba
An Indian Muslim’s UAE-based retail major Lulu group has announced to make big investments in India. The company is headed by Yusuff Ali M.A who is the chairman and managing director of LuLu Group International that owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide and LuLu International Shopping Mall. It has a global workforce of over 57,000 employees out of which 25,000 are Indians, majority Hindus.
Recently on January 6, 2022, the Lulu Group has signed an MoU with the Jammu and Kashmir government that pledged an investment of Rs 200 crore in to set up a food processing and logistic hub in Srinagar.
In December 2021, the Lulu group announced an investment of Rs 2,000 crore to set up a modern shopping mall near Ahmedabad. It also announced an investment of Rs 500 crore to set up a food processing plant in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The company has also announced to set up 100% export-oriented food and agri-produce processing park in Greater Noida.
In India, the Lulu group already has four operational shopping malls at Kochi, Thrissur, Trivandrum, and Bengaluru. The Lulu group currently has 220 hypermarkets and shopping malls in the Middle East, Egypt, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
According to Forbes Middle East, Lulu Group Chairman Yusuff Ali is ranked No. 1 in the Top 100 Indian business owners in the Arab World.
Who is Yusuff Ali
Yusuff Ali Musaliam Veettil Abdul Kader is popularly known as Yusuff Ali M.A. He is the chairman and managing director of LuLu Group International that owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide and LuLu International Shopping Mall.
Yusuff Ali was born in a Muslim family in Thrissur district Kerala on 15 November 1955. He completed his schooling at Nattika where he did his diploma in Business Management and Administration. After his studies, in 1973, he left for Abu Dhabi, where his paternal uncle, M K Abdullah, the chairman and the founder of the LuLu Group of companies, was doing business.
Yusuff Ali’s business in Gulf
After joining the family business, Yusuff Ali diversified the business to include the import and distribution of frozen products from Europe and the United States. The business was soon expanded to include both food and non-food categories. The group also started cold storage, meat, and food processing plants, large-scale import and distribution to hotel groups, catering companies, and shipping services. By the 1980s, the group had a sizable share of the wholesale and retail food market in the UAE.
He developed the import and wholesale distribution of the group and ventured into the supermarket business by launching Lulu Hypermarket. He started his first Lulu Hypermarket in the 1990s, a time when the UAE’s retail sector witnessed a major change, with the traditional groceries and supermarkets yielding place to large neighborhood stores and hypermarkets.
The group’s flagship retail chain of LuLu Hypermarkets and Supermarkets is currently rated as one of the major players in the Middle East retail sector with more than 100 stores in Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Apart from the hypermarkets, supermarkets, and department stores, the group also owns several shopping malls, namely, Khalidiyah Mall, Al Raha Mall, Al Wahda Mall, Mushriff Mall, Madinat Zayed Mall, Mazyad Mall, Ramli Mall, RAK Mall, Al Foah Mall, Al Khor Mall, Riyadh Avenue Mall in Saudi Arabia and Oman. His Avenues Mall is spread across the GCC states.
Yusuff Ali’s business has a global reach
Lulu Group’s business portfolio ranges from hypermarket operations to shopping mall development, manufacturing and trading of goods, food processing plants, wholesale distribution, hospitality assets, real estate development, etc. His business has a global reach.
The group has grown into an international group with operations spread over three continents. In 2016, Yusuff Ali purchased the Scotland Yard Building in London. He has bought a 10% stake in the UK-based trading firm, East India Company, and a 40% stake in its fine foods subsidiary for around $85 million in total.
Retail business is the mainstay of the Group with operations in major Middle Eastern and African countries like UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Kenya, having Retail Sourcing and manufacturing bases located in the Far East, India, Africa and Guangzhou in China.
LuLu Group International has an annual turnover of US$7.4 billion. The group employs the largest number of Indians outside India. The Group has a vast organizational structure of over 57,000 employees, representing 37 different nationalities, out of which more than 25,000 are Indians.
Yusuff Ali’s Business in India
Yusuff Ali in 2006 started his large business ventures in India, by starting a convention center cum hotel at his native place Thrissur, Kerala namely Lulu Convention Centre.
In 2013, Yusuff Ali acquired 4.99% of the Thrissur-based Catholic Syrian Bank (CSB) and acquired 4.99% shares of Thrissur-based Dhanalaxmi bank. Also in 2013, he increased his stake in the Aluva-based Federal Bank to 4.47%. In 2014 Yusuff Ali acquired a 2% stake in South Indian Bank -another Thrissur-based bank. As of 2013, he held a 9.37% share in Cochin International Airport.
The Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre on Bolghatty Island in Ernakulum, Kerala, is one of the largest convention centers in South Asia. In 2019, Yusuff Ali started his second shopping mall at Triprayar, Trissur, Kerala, namely Y Mall. In October 2021, he started his third shopping Mall, Global Mall, at Rajaji Nagar in Bengaluru. In December 2021, the Lulu group opened their fourth mall at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Indian operations mainly include Food Processing, Export of Food & Nonfood products, and convention center with bases in Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Lucknow, and Thrissur.
Yusuff Ali a Philanthropist
Yusuff Ali is closely involved in many social, charitable, and humanitarian activities both in India as well as in the Arab states of the Gulf. He has done various philanthropic activities across the globe. As part of its Global Corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, the LuLu Group joined hands with Dubai Cares and adopted schools in Gaza and Nepal.
Yusuff Ali contributed and took initiative to open a multi-faith funeral center for the Indian community in Sharjah that spread across 8.3 acres. He also took the initiative to sell and promote organic products grown by the special needs community in UAE through Lulu Hypermarkets.
Yusuff Ali donated generously towards the Gujarat earthquake, Tsunami Relief Fund in Asia, and Typhoon and flood relief in other parts of the world. He also donated Rs 9.5 crores for the relief and rehabilitation of Kerala flood victims in August 2018 and donated Rs 50 million (Dh2.5 million) for the flood-hit victim of Kerala in 2019.
Yusuff Ali is also actively involved in ensuring the social, economic, and religious welfare of expatriate Indians in the Persian Gulf region. He played a major role in finding land for the Christian community in the region to build churches and secure cremation grounds for the Hindu populace in the Gulf region.
Yusuff Ali also extended help to Indians during the amnesty period in the Persian Gulf when hundreds of Indians lost their livelihood. He helped rehabilitate people who lost their livelihood in the Calicut market fire as well.
Yusuff Ali’s Personal life
Yusuff Ali is married, with three children, and lives in Abu Dhabi. His son Ashraf Ali M.A, is Executive Director of LuLu Group. His elder daughter Sabeena is married to billionaire businessman Shamsheer Vayalil. His second daughter Shafeena is married to Adeeb Ahamed who runs Lulu International Exchange and Twenty14 Holdings, the group’s hospitality investments division.
Yusuff Ali M.A lives a life of piety. He believes; “Everything on earth belongs to the Almighty Allah. To Him, we belong and to Him, we would return. (Surah Zukhruf Verse 84-85, Holy Quran)
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com