Atlas Group opened its first jewelry showroom in Kuwait in 1981 and over the years, its Founder and Chairman MM Ramachandran earned much goodwill in Kerala and abroad.
Years later in 2015, Ramachandran was entangled in a huge controversy over financial fraud, at the end of which, he was sent to jail.
He was arrested for financial fraud in August and two months later, he found himself sentenced to 3 years in prison by a Dubai court.
Amongst Malayalis, 78-year-old Ramachandran is fondly known as Atlas Ramachandran. A who appears in the jewellery's advertisements, vouching for the empire he had built.
"Atlas Jewellery. Janakodikalude vishwastha sthapanam," (Atlas Jewellery. The company crores of people trust")- Ramachandran would look straight into the camera and aptly deliver his lines at the end of the commercial.
Nearly two years after Ramachandran was sent to prison, his wife Indira now lives in Dubai, trying in vain to get her husband released.
In an interview to Anjana Sankar of Khaleej Times recently, Indira opened up about how her once prosperous life turned around unexpectedly. The group had taken loans upto Dh 550 million (approximately Rs 1000 crores) and the jail sentence came in a case in which two cheques (for Dh 4 million and Dh 30 million) were not honoured by the company.
Read about the case here: Atlas Ramachandran sentenced to three years in jail by Dubai court
The publication carried a photograph of Indira, which is in stark contrast to how the world has come to know of her before.
68-year-old Indira narrated her ordeal about having to struggle to pay the rent and running from pillar to post to get her husband released.
"I am living in constant fear of getting jailed as some banks have initiated civil proceedings against me, too. I don't even have a steady income to pay my rents. But I have to keep fighting to make sure my husband will soon walk out a free man," Indira said.
Indira had stood by Ramachandran as he built up his empire and also when he had to rebuild it after he lost everything in the 1990 Kuwait War.
With at least 50 showrooms across the United Arab Emirates including Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and India, Atlas Group had a turn over of Dh 3.5 Billion at one point of time.
"Our employees were clamoring for money. One day, dozens of them walked into my apartment and refused to leave till their dues were paid. And obviously, without Ramachandran around, many played foul. Diamonds worth Dh5 million in our showrooms were sold for just Dh 1.5 million and all the pending dues - including incentives of 200 salesmen and other staff - were settled," said Indira.
According to the report, the crisis had forced all the 19 showrooms in UAE to be shut and put the other showrooms in extreme financial crisis.
Indira told KT that 19 of the 22 banks that sued Ramachandran have signed a standstill agreement by which all legal proceedings have been put on hold against Ramachandran and a new repayment deal negotiated.
M.M. Ramachandran with H.H. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai
Ramachandran can be released with immediate effect, if the three banks that aren't budging agree to sign the standstill agreement.
"He is an honest man and had enjoyed immense goodwill in the market for the last three decades. But being held in prison, he is unable to talk to the prospective buyers to liquidate the assets and pay back debts," she said.