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Yousaf Ali gets Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award and only recipient
from the Middle East

MUSCAT, Jan 05, 2004

Yousaf Ali M.A., prominent NRI businessman and managing director of Emke Group, has been selected for Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in recognition of his meritorious service and contribution to India, its people and the NRIs

Yousaf Ali managing director of Emke Group

The award was announced on behalf of the government of India by Jagdish Tytler, minister for overseas Indian affairs.

Yousaf Ali is the first UAE resident to receive this coveted award, the highest from the Indian government, and this year he is the only recipient from the Middle East. The president of India is the patron for this award and a jury consisting of India’s cabinet ministers and senior government officials headed by the vice-president of India considered him for this award. By selecting him for this award, the government of India has recognised Yousaf Ali as a distinguished NRI and his philanthropic efforts and devotion to the cause of humanity have been honoured.

The award, equivalent to the highest civilian award of the Indian government, will be presented on Non-Resident Indian Day tomorrow and Yousaf Ali will receive the award from Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, president of India. The award which carries a citation and a gold medal is instituted to recognise and reward the meritorious contribution in political, economic/social/ academic and cultural fields.

Emke Group, of which Yousaf Ali is the managing director, is best known in the Gulf through a chain of popular hypermarkets, supermarkets and department stores, which serve the widest segments of multi-ethnic residents in the region. Foremost among them is the Lulu chain of outlets followed by Al Falah Plaza and Emirates General Market.

Yousaf Ali took charge as Managing Director and immediately set about implementing his pet habit of risk taking, he took one such at the peak of the Gulf War when he decided to go ahead and launch the concept of supermarket. To this he says "Everyone was hesitant to invest those days, and it was a big risk to build on a new concept, and a message lies herein, his life's message - You have to take risks at some point of your life. Without risks there is no success. It is like driving a car. If you think of all those big trailers, the speeding vehicles, and that old man trying to cross the street, you will never be able to drive." He approached his task with a blend of risk taking and firm determination to go ahead with the same, grasping fully the intricacies of business, he judged correctly that the source of his firm’s strength were the middle-class, Asians and Arabs, and was shrewd enough to provide the best value and price to the customers. He let go the practice of having middlemen, bulk buying and opening their own manufacturing units. And instead adopted a system of direct approach to customers, he takes a lot of pride in his accessibility and says that any staff member or customer can come to me without an appointment and our group has a team of loyal staff who have been with us since inception.

Yousuf Ali is a member of Central Wakf Council of the government of India and the chairman of MES Medical College. Besides being one of the directors of Cochin International Airport Limited and the vice-chairman of Roots-NRK Development Initiative, he is also the chairman of Lakeshore Hospital & Research Centre, a super specialty hospital in Kochi, Kerala.

Today the man sits on the top of a pile, which has made inroads into many new areas and made a success in each and every area ventured into. No wonder he is referred to as a man with he Midas touch. He says he simply does business and business he does but what a kind of business, simply fantastic, he takes his chances and converts them into golden opportunities, which ultimately turns into gold itself. Just take a look at his range of businesses ->> the Emirates General Market (where the fortunes of the group started), EMKE Stores, Al Mushref Co-operative Society, Lulu Center, Lulu Supermarket, Al Falah Plaza, Asif Jewellery, Childhood 0-12, and City Center. His reach goes from the UAE's capital city of Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Al Ain, Sharjah, Oman and Qatar. The wholesale divisions that complement the operations of the retail outlets are even more impressive: Al Tayeb Cold Stores for frozen foods, Al Tayeb Meat Establishment for exports and chilled meat, EMKE Stores for consumer goods, and EMKE General Trading for foodstuffs. This is not the end, still more to come, they are Gulf Star Garments Est. for garment manufacture, System Computer Est and Syscoms Computer Information Technology for computer education, and Huda Shipping International for shipping.

Mind it all of these, and then you have the international divisions: Fair Exports (India) with offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Cochin, EMKE Establishments Bangalore, EMKE Garments Kenya Ltd, EMKE Commodities Kenya Ltd, Y Tex Fashions in Barcelona, Spain, P T E K Prima Ekspor in Indonesia, EK Prima Exports in Thailand, EMKE Tanzania Ltd, and EMKE Prima Exports Hong Kong Ltd. Reads like a yellow pages directory…simply fantastic. And even more fantastic is the man’s utter simplicity and humility, which makes one wonder, is he the same person who owns this vast cartel of wealth.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Yousuf is now spearheading the business of the millennium - the Lulu Hypermarket in Dubai, built at a cost of Dhs 120 million - and extending the concept to all the GCC countries. He says with a perfect clarity of thought - The business of the future will be centered on large shopping complexes. Small outlets will wind up operations unless they conglomerate to form larger entities-. He further reveals his group’s philosophy, it took off with supermarkets and departmental stores and now moved onto a larger but integrated concept termed as hypermarket and this concept is a logical step into the future. He also recognizes the importance and significance of information technology, his group started Syscoms. It is today one of the leading consultants for computer solutions, with an array of activities ranging from education, vocational training, overseas software projects, and Internet and Intranet solutions, among others. His group has also ventured into the textiles, garments and foodstuffs and you have the establishment of a food-processing unit in the UAE.

He has also given something back to his native land, is an ex-director on the Board of Air India and Indian Airlines Ltd, is the man who spearheaded the Cochin International Airport Limited in Nedumbassery, the first airport built by a public limited company (with 51 per cent share held by the Government of Kerala), the Dhs 325 million project seemed to be a non-starter from day one. He took the plunge when the then Chief Minister Mr K Karunakaran asked him to lend his support and this he did. He went on to become the chairman of the fund-raising committee for the UAE and managed to garner enough funds to built a truly world class airport. Awards have dime a dozen for this man, a recipient of the India International Award from the Government of India for outstanding contribution as an NRI exporter plus he has won exporter awards from the governments of Kenya and Spain as well. He was selected International Businessman of the year 1996 by Deepika, the first Malayalam daily. More recently, Yousaf Ali bagged the millennium award for the best NRI businessman from Kerala, and the Indian Silk Export Promotion Council Award for meritorious performance. He is a founder member of the Indian Business/Professional Group, Abu Dhabi, and member of the Indian Business Council, Yousaf Ali is an active participant at business meetings and has numerous social responsibilities too such as Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Abu Dhabi Indian School, he is also on the board of the Al Noor Indian School in Abu Dhabi.

He is described as a perfect family man, married to Shabira and has three daughters, Shabeena, Shafeena and Shifa., an intensely private individual, a devout Muslim who undertakes Haj since a decade without fail. He floors one with his simplicity. His corporate office in Abu Dhabi does not have the elaborate markings of a success story written on its walls. Furnished with the bare necessities, it is a beehive of activity when Yousaf Ali is around. Many visitors come for help, and others for advice. His mail will essentially have a plethora of letters seeking help - for jobs or financial aid. And then there are the recommendation letters from ministers to ex-MLAs. "In the UAE alone, the EMKE Group has over 7,000 employees, and worldwide, the figure is 10,600. At the end of the day, the feeling that you are helping these many families is encouraging, motivating and keeps you moving," smiles Yousaf Ali. And attributes his group's success to hard work and the Almighty's blessings.

Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award is instituted by the government of India to recognise and reward the meritorious contributions made by NRIs in the furtherance of national interest and causes. Yousuf Ali has deserved the award with his selfless efforts towards promoting secularism and communal harmony, assistance rendered to the needy during calamities, contribution towards progress in the educational, cultural and healthcare activities.