Sunday, October 13, 2013

A relationship worth $175bn
When it comes to the trading ties between the Gulf and India, the numbers are colossal. Earlier this year, India’s minister for commerce and industry, Anand Sharma, said that bilateral trade between the Asian economic power and the GCC states would cross $175bn this year. To put that figure into perspective, that sum is roughly the value of Qatar’s nominal GDP in 2012. Around $75bn came from trade with just the UAE, a phenomenal sum given the relatively small size of the Gulf state’s economy. Not far off $1.5bn worth of goods are being traded every week between the two nations.

Impressive as those sums are, they are only set to grow further. India’s economy may well be currently facing some short-term pressures, but the country is going to require around $1 trillion worth of foreign direct investment to help build a modern infrastructure to serve its growing middle class. The UAE is already playing a big part in this investment, of course.  Dubai’s DP World is operating or planning six ports in the country. Etihad is in the process of finalising a $600m stake in Jet Airways — the first by any foreign company in an Indian airline. Emirates is already operating 185 flights a week to 10 destinations on the subcontinent.

But it’s not just Emirati-owned companies that are making the move into India. More and more NRIs are using the entrepreneurial experience and wealth they have gained in the Gulf to make a difference back home. And you’ll find many of them in this week’s issue of Arabian Business, where we profile the most influential men and women of Indian origin plying their trade in the GCC today.

Take Yussuffali MA, who has taken up a residency in the number-one spot over the last three years. The billionaire is launching a series of projects in his home state of Kerala, including the LuLu Mall and Marriott Hotel in Kochi, as well as the LuLu Convention Centre in Thrissur.

Ravi Pillai, the founder and managing director of contracting services giant Nasser Al Hajri Corporation, recently said he is trying to arrange a total of $5bn worth of investment in India. Pillai has also just invested $100m in a plan to build a Trump Towers project together with a World Trade Centre in Pune, and has already opened a hospital in Kollam that provides free healthcare to the poor. Azad Moopen is hoping to build hospitals in Kannur and Palakkad, as well as a medical college in Wayanad.

Another interesting point to note in this year’s list has been the rise of younger executives taking more prominent roles in big Indian firms. This year, for the first time, Micky Jagtiani — a frequent fixture in the top five of our list for the past two years, has been replaced by Vipen Sethi, CEO of the Landmark Group, the retail giant founded by Jagtiani. 

Similarly, GEMS Education founder Sunny Varkey is also absent from this year’s list. He has been replaced by Dino Varkey, who is effectively running the world’s biggest private education provider.

But the big-name Indian entrepreneurs only form part of the story of this year’s Indian Power List. We have 11 women ranked this year — more than ever before — and a whole host of fascinating stories. There’s the doctor who became personal physician to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, the accountant who took on the might of the EU and won, and the guy who took a risky loan to buy a truck and start a firm that turned into a highly diversified global business.

Ed Attwood is the Editor of Arabian Business.