Lulu Group makes major investments in India

Syed Ali Mujtaba

UAE-based major retail group Lulu, owned by an Indian Muslim, has announced plans to make major investments in India. The company is led by Yusuff Ali MA, Chairman and CEO of LuLu Group International, which owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide and the LuLu International Shopping Mall. It has a global workforce of over 57,000 employees, of whom 25,000 are Indian, the majority Hindu.

Recently, on January 6, 2022, Lulu Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir pledging an investment of Rs 200 crore to set up a food processing and logistics center in Srinagar.

In December 2021, Lulu Group announced an investment of Rs 2,000 crore to construct a modern mall near Ahmedabad. It also announced an investment of Rs 500 crore to build a food processing plant in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The company has also announced plans to set up a 100% export-oriented food and agricultural processing park in the Noida area.

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In India, the Lulu Group already has four operational malls in Kochi, Thrissur, Trivandrum and Bengaluru. The Lulu Group currently has 220 hypermarkets and shopping centers in the Middle East, Egypt, India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to Forbes Middle East, Lulu Group Chairman Yusuff Ali is ranked #1 among 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 MA. He is the Chairman and CEO of LuLu Group International, which owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide and the LuLu International Shopping Mall.

Yusuff Ali was born on November 15, 1955 to a Muslim family in Thrissur District, Kerala. He completed his schooling in Nattika, where he earned his degree in business administration and administration. After his studies he went to Abu Dhabi in 1973 where his paternal uncle MK Abdullah, the chairman and founder of the LuLu group of companies, did business.

Yusuff Ali’s business in the Gulf

After joining the family business, Yusuff Ali diversified the business to include importing and distributing frozen products from Europe and the United States. The business soon expanded into grocery 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 significant share of the wholesale and retail grocery market in the UAE.

He developed the group’s import and wholesale distribution and ventured into the supermarket business with the founding of Lulu Hypermarket. He opened his first Lulu Hypermarket in the 1990s, a time when the UAE’s retail sector was undergoing a major transformation as traditional groceries and supermarkets gave way to large convenience stores and hypermarkets.

The Group’s flagship retail chain, LuLu Hypermarkets and Supermarkets, is currently recognized as one of the major players in the Middle East’s retail sector, with more than 100 stores in the Arabian Gulf States.

Besides 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. Its Avenues Mall is spread across the GCC countries.

Yusuff Ali’s business has a global reach

The Lulu Group’s business portfolio ranges from consumer markets to shopping center development, commodity manufacturing and trading, food processing operations, wholesale distribution, hospitality facilities, real estate development, etc. Its business has a global reach.

The group has grown into an international corporation with branches on three continents. In 2016, Yusuff Ali acquired the Scotland Yard Building in London. He has acquired a 10 percent stake in UK-based trading firm East India Company and a 40 percent stake in its delicatessen subsidiary for a total of approximately $85 million.

The retail business is the mainstay of the group, with offices in key countries in the Middle East and Africa such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Kenya. India, Africa and Guangzhou in China.

LuLu Group International has annual sales of $7.4 billion. The group employs the largest number of Indians outside of India. The group has a huge organizational structure of over 57,000 employees representing 37 different nationalities, of which more than 25,000 are Indian.

Yusuff Ali’s shop in India

Yusuff Ali started his big business ventures in India in 2006 by opening a convention center and hotel, Lulu Convention Center, in his hometown of Thrissur, Kerala.

In 2013, Yusuff Ali acquired 4.99% of Thrissur-based Catholic Syrian Bank (CSB) and acquired 4.99% stake in Thrissur-based Dhanalaxmi Bank. Also in 2013, he increased his stake in Aluva-based Federal Bank to 4.47%. In 2014, Yusuff Ali acquired a 2% stake in South Indian Bank – another bank based in Thrissur. As of 2013, he held a 9.37% stake in Cochin International Airport.

The Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Center on Bolghatty Island in Ernakulum, Kerala is one of the largest convention centers in South Asia. In 2019, Yusuff Ali opened his second mall in Triprayar, Trissur, Kerala which is Y Mall. In October 2021, he opened his third mall, Global Mall, in Rajaji Nagar, Bengaluru. In December 2021, Lulu Group opened its fourth mall in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Its Indian operations mainly include food processing, food and non-food exports and a convention center with bases in Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Lucknow and Thrissur.

Yusuff Ali a philanthropist

Yusuff Ali is involved in many social, charitable and humanitarian activities both in India and in the Arab Gulf States. He has carried out various philanthropic activities around the world. As part of its Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, the LuLu Group has partnered with Dubai Cares and adopted schools in Gaza and Nepal.

Yusuff Ali contributed and took the initiative to open an 8.3 acre multi-religious funeral center for the Indian community in Sharjah. He also took the initiative to sell and promote organic products grown by the special needs community in the United Arab Emirates through Lulu Hypermarkets.

Yusuff Ali donated generously to the Gujarat earthquake, the Asia tsunami relief fund, and typhoon and flood relief efforts in other parts of the world. Also, he donated Rs 9.5 crores to aid and rehabilitation of Kerala flood victims in August 2018 and donated Rs 50 million (Dh2.5 million) to Kerala flood victims in 2019.

Yusuff Ali is also actively involved in ensuring the social, economic and religious well-being of expatriate Indians in the Persian Gulf region. He played an important role in finding land for the Christian community in the area to build churches and secure cremation sites for the Hindu population in the Gulf region.

Yusuff Ali also provided aid to the Indians during the Persian Gulf amnesty period when hundreds of Indians lost their livelihoods. He also helped rehabilitate people who had lost their livelihoods in the Calicut market fire.

Yusuff Ali’s personal life

Yusuff Ali is married with three children and lives in Abu Dhabi. His son Ashraf Ali MA is Executive Director of LuLu Group. His older 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 hotel investment division.

Yusuff Ali MA lives a life of piety. He believes; “Everything on earth belongs to 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 protected]

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