Thrissur native and founder of LuLu group, MA Yusuff Ali, is now the richest Malayali in the world, according to the Forbes Billionaires list for 2019. With an estimated personal wealth of 4.8 billion dollars, Yusuff Ali, also known as the 'Retail King of the Middle East' ranks 394 in the list of the world's richest. He was the 26th wealthiest Indian in the world in 2018.
At age 16 and with barely any money on him, Yusuff Ali migrated to Abu Dhabi in 1973 to help his uncle in his small-time distribution business. By the 1990s, Ali expanded the import and wholesale distribution arms of the company and ventured into the supermarket business, starting the LuLu hypermarket. Ali opened the chain at the height of the Gulf War and yet made it a hugely successful venture. Soon enough he opened up LuLu stores in other regions of the Middle East.
Today, the LuLu Group International runs a chain of businesses with an annual turnover of over 8.1 billion dollars. Ali's son-in-law Shamseer Vayalil runs LuLu's healthcare businesses. Forbes notes that Yusuff Ali has also been investing in a big way back home in Kerala. He has a sizeable stake in the Cochin International Airport Ltd. which runs and operates the Kochi airport. In 2013, he built the LuLu International Shopping Mall in Kochi, Kerala. In 2016, he purchased the Scotland Yard Police Station building in Whitehall, London for 170 million dollars. The building is now a luxury hotel.
Today, with over 48,000 employees spread out across 150 plus stores in the Middle East and in Kerala, the LuLu group is the largest employer of Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
During the Kerala floods, Ali donated 2.6 million dollars for relief and rehabilitation. He is also rumoured to have brokered talks with the UAE royal family to donate 7 million dollars as aid to Kerala, which later fell through after the Centre declined the help and the UAE government subsequently denied having extended any aid.
Apart from Yusuff Ali, other Malayalis in the group featured are Sunny Varkey, the Dubai-based education entrepreneur and education philanthropist with a net worth of 2.4 billion dollars. Varkey is number 962 in the Forbes list of Richest Indians. Kris Gopalakrishnan, former vice chairman of Infosys and founder of Axilor Ventures which funds start-ups was number 1057 in the list, with a net worth of 2.2 billion dollars. SD Shibulal, former CEO and Managing Director of Infosys ranks 1605 on the list with a net worth of 1.40 billion dollars. Shamseer Vayalil, son-in-law of Yusuff Ali, TS Kalyanaraman of Kaylan Jewellers and PNC Menon of the Sobha group are the other billionaires who made it to the list.
The top position was claimed by Amazon Founder Jezz Bezos with a net worth of 131 billion dollars. Among Indians, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Ltd. topped the list of Indians with a net worth of 50 billion dollars.