Chairman and Managing Director I Lulu Group International
A legend in his own right, Yusuff Ali M.A. is one of the worlds most prominent retail industrialists and innovators. With an awe-inspiring business empire that spans 22 countries, the Lulu Group’s ascendance has been steered by Yusuff Ali MA’s masterly vision and uncommon grit. A journey has forever changed the retail landscape of the Gulf and the world. A bold businessman and a tenacious leader on the pinnacle of a $8 billion empire and more than 60,000 loyal employees, his business began with the launch of the largest supermarket in Abu Dhabi. Today, the group offers an expansive portfolio of commercial retail experience services and solutions.
The Road to Greatness
Like many of his contemporaries, Yusuff Ali, then an aspiring young man from the city of Thrissur, in the state of Kerala, India, migrated to the Gulf in search of oppor tunities. Unlike his peers, though, Yusuff Ali’s journey transformed him from an expatriate into a business mogul in just three decades.
Disembarking at Port Rashid at the age of 18, Yusuff Ali immersed himself into the fast evolving FMCG industry and speedily expanded his repertoire of expertise. Travelling various ports between Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore, the enterprising youth learnt the ways and functions of different marketplaces, consumers, supply chains and hypermarkets as he began visualising his future enterprise.
A decade later, Yusuff Ali unveiled Lulu Supermarket, Abu Dhabi’s largest retail market. Launched soon after the Gulf War, when many expatriates left the Gulf countries, Lulu Supermarket won the trust and admiration of residents and the royal family alike. From a brave entrepreneur to a globally revered retail giant, Yusuff Ali’s blazing journey is one replete with lessons.
Building a Business Behemoth
Its distinct management style and steadfast intent to build networks supporting evolving consumer lifestyles set the behemoth Lulu Group apart from any other enterprise. Retail experiences and destinations anchored in trust and a deep-rooted understanding of customer needs have expanded the Lulu Group’s reach across the Middle East, Asia, the US and Europe.
As a result, 245 hypermarkets and shopping malls operate profitably across global destinations, manned by a loyal force of over 60,000 employees. And this is only the start, says Yusuff Ali, who is currently strategising on new trading setups in North Africa, Australia and the Western US. Every challenge has only been a catalyst of growth for Yusuff Ali.
He confidently diversified across borders, categories, and experiences to include hospitality, real estate, trading and shopping malls, and even manufacturing. Today the conglomerate is one of the most prominent contributors to the GCC economy, w ith an influx of over $8 billion annually. It is a feat only a brave visionary like Yusuff Ali could achieve.
Expanding a Network of Excellence
The Lulu Group’s sprawling empire grows every day. Building strategic networks and webs of services across sectors, the group continually works on delivering excellence in product and experience.
Diversifying and building strengths across sectors has led the group to create a strong foothold in the banking sector including a majority stake in East India Company, a 4.5 per cent stake in Federal Bank and Catholic Syrian Bank, South Indian Bank, Dhanlaxmi Bank and ESAF Small Finance Bank, and a holding stake in Cochin International Airport and Kannur International Airport.
Yusuff Ali also has the world’s hospitality market vying for his attention. He has made some of the most prominent acquisitions in the global hospitality sector. Today the Lulu Group owns the iconic Great Scotland Yard and Caledonian Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh among others. The group also owns 5 hotels under the banner of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Marriott Hotel. It is only a matter of time before we see how this genius transforms these relics into experiential havens for the world to explore and enjoy.
Investing in the Future, Today
A penchant for technology and an insistence on an innovation-first approach have paved this unique path for the Lulu Group. Placing customer convenience at the top of the pyramid led the group to seek out and implement technologies ahead of its time.
Be it implementing SAP business intelligence accelerators or deploying wireless technologies across its retail operations, the Lulu Group has steadfastly focused on delivering a customer-focused experience across touchpoints.
The Genteel Giving Giant
It’s easy to think of Yusuff Ali as a man with the Midas touch, but what really stands out is his heart of gold that has continually given back, be it to India, his country of birth, or to the UAE, the country that set the stage for his mercurial growth. In 2020 alone, as the UAE with the world battled Covid-19, the Lulu Group donated over Dh1 million to the 10 Million Meals campaign.
It contributed roughly Rs65 crores to the fight against the pandemic alongside the Indian government on Covid-focused treatment centres in Kerala, providing much-needed relief, and has been the silent force behind the recovery of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Orissa, after natural disasters wreaked havoc on these three Indian states.
The Group has also funded an old age home for mothers in the Kollam district of his home state, called Gandhibhavan. The Lulu Group is also keenly invested in long-term green init iatives to help prepare for an energy and cost-efficient future. With an eye on preparing for future markets and an altered world fighting climate crisis, the group marches on shouldering its responsibility towards society.
Awarded the highest civilian award for his charitable and consistent contribution to the community, Yusuff Ali’s place in the hearts of the governance and royal family in the Middle East is irreplaceable. The only non-Arab elected as a Director on the board of the illustrious Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce (ADCCI), Yusuff Ali has been the recipient of many a prestigious laurel from the Middle East governance.
He broke barriers further by becoming the only Indian appointed by President His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as Vice Chairman of the ADCCI. The first to receive the UAE permanent residency gold card, and the first to be awarded Saudi Arabia’s premium residency, Yusuff Ali is a man who has won many hearts.
In India, Yusuff Ali has earned the respect of the highest offices. Conferred one of the highest orders of the Indian republic, the coveted Padmashree in 2008, Yusuff Ali is the first non-resident Indian from the Gulf to be awarded this recognition. He is also a recipient of the highest civilian award conferred by Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Award (ADA).
His unmatched contributions, keen acumen, and credibility as a bold and futuristic businessman have seen him rally as a key advisor on many distinguished boards. His most recent position was as a mediator and influencer in the Kochi Smart City Project, wherein both the Kerala government and Dubai based TECOM group relied heavily on Yusuff Ali’s intervention.
An Unmatched Endeavour – Lulu Mall Trivandrum: A Green Project
Lulu Mall, Trivandrum stands apart in Yusuff Ali’s exemplary portfolio as a testament to his trademark grit and tenacity. The project went live despite the onslaught of a global pandemic and the ensuing economic slump.
With an investment of over Rs2,000 crores riding on the project, it was truly a feat worth celebrating when Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated this landmark property on December 16, 2021.
Boasting one of the largest indoor entertainment zones in the country, Trivandrum’s Lulu Mall spans over a mammoth built-up space of 2 million square feet. What’s more, Yusuff Ali’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices stood strong as the mall was awarded the Indian Green Building Council’s Gold certificate at the inauguration.
The year 2021 also brought acclaim to Yusuff Ali’s flagship retail enterprise, Lulu Hypermarket, which won the prestigious MRM Business Award and the MRM Customer Excellence Award for 2021 in recognition of Lulu’s continued initiatives in providing excellent products, services and shopping experience to customers through the challenges of the time.