They dared to dream though the stars in their eyes veiled their modest beginnings. Today, due to their burning passion and indomitable spirit, these self-made entrepreneurs attract global recognition.
A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit has found that self-made entrepreneurs represent the largest concentration of wealth in the world. According to the Hurun Immigrant Billionaires List 2017, across the Gulf, the self-made billionaire population has 27 individuals, with combined fortunes hitting $84 billion.
Meet 10 of the region’s self-made entrepreneurs whose success stories make news every day!
- Micky Jagtiani (Forbes Billionaires 2017 List: #367)
Starting out in London as a taxi-driver, India-born Micky Jagtiani is the man behind the retail behemoth Dubai-based Landmark Group, whose personal wealth stands at around $4 billion. The tragic loss of his family in his early twenties led to his move to Bahrain where he opened a single store in 1973 with $6,000. Today, with an estimated annual revenue of $6 billion, Landmark has more than 2,200 stores spread across the Middle East, Africa and India.
- A. Yusuff Ali (Forbes Billionaires 2017 List: #367)
With a real time net worth of around $4.6 billion, M.A. Yusuff Ali is the Managing Director of Abu Dhabi-based Emke (Lulu) Group, with an annual turnover of around $5 billion. Ali moved to Abu Dhabi at the age of 18 to work in a manufacturing unit. Saving pennies and recognizing opportunities, this Indian launched his first retail shop in 1990. Today he has 133 stores and over 40,000 employees from 37 different countries. His latest acquisition is the Great Scotland Yard building which will be remade into a luxury hotel.
- Suhail Salim Bahwan (Forbes Middle East – The World’s Richest Arabs 2016: #7)
Omani construction and oil magnate Suhail Salim Bahwan’s net worth was around $3.4 billion last year despite the dip in oil prices. Along with his brother, Bahwan began as a small trader in Muscat. Over time they diversified into automotive, construction and oil and gas services, eventually forming the giant conglomerate Suhail Saud Bahwan (SSB). Today Bahwan is the chairman of Suhail Bahwan Holding Group and serves as an honorary consul general of Sweden.
- Ronaldo Mouchawar – Co-founder, Souq.com
Amazon’s take-over of Souq.com made big regional news recently. Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder of Middle East’s biggest home-grown website, was one of the chief players. Mouchawar started off with an auction site and went on to make it the region’s largest e-commerce site, a marketplace that already has some 8.4 million products and works with thousands of merchants online.
- Paul Kenny, Founder and CEO of Cobone.com
One of the pioneers of digital marketing in the Middle East, Paul Kenny launched his first venture Cobone, an e-commerce site at the age of 25, and a further four companies before 30. Cobone has become one of the region’s top e-commerce sites and was successfully sold recently to Middle East Digital Group. Kenny has now turned his attention to investing in, mentoring and advising companies around the world.
- Ravi Pillai (Forbes Billionaires 2017 List: #544)
An Indian farmer’s son, Ravi Pillai, chairman and MD of RP Group of companies, has a real time net worth of $3.5 billion today. Pillai headed for the Gulf shores after his small construction business in Kerala went bust. With local help, he started over in 1979 and eventually built his RP Group of Companies into a construction giant and is among the biggest employers of Indians in the Middle East.
- Azad Moopen (Forbes Billionaires 2017 List: #1940)
Founder of the Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare, Dr Azad Moopen was a professor at a government medical college in south India before he headed to Dubai in 1987. Starting out with a one-room clinic, today his net worth stands at $1.1billion. His healthcare empire of 307 healthcare institutions, spread across nine countries, treats more than 8 million patients annually.
- Sally Corander, Owner, Interact Events
With years of professional experience, Corander had to start her venture in 2014 using her own savings and credit cards. Among her earliest successes was a series of Sport Industry Forums. Her biggest success so far has been the Dubai Dash, the UAE’s first annual corporate relay running race in December last year, where 45 companies participated in teams of 10.
- Khalid Al-Khudair, Founder and CEO, Glowork
Saudi national, Khalid Al-Khudair gave up a lucrative career and fought both tradition and laws to create Glowork, a women’s empowerment organization that focuses on solving female unemployment in Saudi. Glowork has now helped over 26,000 women find direct jobs, while others have benefited from advice and career fairs. Glowork has gone from three employees to 63 and Khalid says his firm could soon be worth over a billion dollars.
- Geet Bhalla and Digvijay Pratap, Owners, HolidayMe
Disappointed with Middle East travel websites, Geet Bhalla and Digvijay Pratap launched an online booking engine for travelers in 2014. Working out of one room in Dubai, they had to use their savings to pay for licenses and set-up costs. Today, from three employees, they are now a team of more than 120 professionals and have secured nearly $11 million in funding. Their website, HolidayMe, has served more than 50,000 customers since its launch.