Yusuf Ali, people's billionaire, receives Abu Dhabi’s highest civilian award

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Yusuf Ali receiving the Abu Dhabi Award from Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@Yusuffali_MA)

The UAE-based Indian-origin businessman Yusuf Ali Musaliam Veettil Abdul Kader, popularly known as Yusuf Ali MA had a providential escape today, as the helicopter he, his wife and three others were travelling by, crash-landed in Kochi today. The incident happened at Panangad around 9 a.m. With no injuries reported, all of them are under observation.

In what can be described as a strange coincidence, Ali was in headlines this week but for a very different reason! For it was yet another proud moment for him, as he received the Abu Dhabi Award.

After the Abu Dhabi medal was pinned on his coat, the top civilian award was bestowed by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 

The awards ceremony, the 10th edition, was held at the open-air venue of the historical landmark of Qasr Al Hosn. The awards celebrated the compassionate individuals who had selflessly devoted their time and effort with the objective of spreading goodness and serving the community. Ali was one of the 12 these individuals, chosen for his outstanding contribution to Abu Dhabi's business, industry and support to various philanthropic initiatives.

The venue, Qasr Al Hosn gave a sense of history to the occasion, being the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, designed by Mohmmed Al Bastak and built in 1761.

Born on November 15, 1955, Ali 65, this billionaire is the Chairman and Managing Director of Abu Dhabi-based LuLu Group International that owns the popular Lulu Hypermarket chain globally and the Lulu International Shopping Mall, located in Kerala’s Edappally Kochi.

Yusuf Ali with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@Yusuffali_MA)

Childhood and youth

Born in Thrissur district, Ali studied in Nattika where he earned his diploma in Business Management and Administration. Following this he left the Indian shores in 1973, heading to Abu Dhabi, to assist his paternal uncle M.K. Abdullah, the chairman and the founder of the LuLu Group of companies.

Learning the ropes fast, Ali developed the group’s import and wholesale distribution and graduated to supermarket business by launching Lulu Hypermarket. In the 1990s, Ali launched the first Lulu Hypermarket. It was a crucial time when UAE’s retail segment was undergoing an important change as traditional groceries and supermarkets started yielding place to large neighbourhood stores and hypermarkets.

Diversification is the key

Being an astute businessman, Ali knew the value of diversification. Thus the LuLu Group International moved on to include in its business import and distribution of frozen products from the US and Europe. Interestingly, these products were not available in Abu Dhabi but also in other Emirates.

Yusuf Ali with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Pic: Courtesy yusuffali.com)

Latching on to expansion mode, Ali went on to include both food and non-food categories. The Lulu Group started cold storages, meat, and food processing plants, large-scale import and distribution to hotel groups, catering companies, and shipping services. Today the group is spread over three continents being a major player in the West Asia retail sector with more than 100 stores in the region.

Humanitarian to the core

But it is not just the business which makes him immensely known in the world. His concern is best summed in what is mentioned on his Twitter: “Business is not just about money, products or services, its all about people.”

Even though he stays and works abroad, he has always been in the forefront of helping his countrymen at the time of distress.  Just last year, heeding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to support Kashmiri apple farmers, he imported 400 tonnes. "I have always considered that it is the prime responsibility of all Indians to accept and act upon the policies of government. Naturally when PM Modi during his UAE visit in 2019 put forth the idea of investing and supporting the state of Kashmir, I was the first one to give my commitment and we have imported more than 400 tonnes of Kashmiri apples during the last year and it is continuing,” he observed.

Yusuf Ali receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2005 from President APJ Abdul Kalam

He has donated liberally to help the victims of the Gujarat earthquake and tsunami and typhoon in Asia. He donated Rs 9.5 crores for relief and rehabilitation of Kerala flood victims in August 2018. Likewise in 2019 he pledged Rs.50 million for the State’s flood victims.

Secular initiatives

Ali plays a vital role in helping expatriate Indian in the Gulf region irrespective of their faith to ensure their social, economic and religious wellbeing. He helped the Christian community build churches while supporting the Hindus to secure cremation grounds. His initiative saw a multi-faith funeral centre for the Indian community coming up in Sharajh.

His Lulu Group in collaboration with Dubai Cares has adopted schools in Nepal and Gaza.

Lending a helping hand to the specially abled community, his Lulu Hypermarkets sells and promotes the organic products that they grow.

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