Arun Agarwal

SPEARHEADING THE NEXTT ERA

A Business tycoon, a humanitarian and a scholar, Mr. Arun Agarwal’s personality has all the elements that make him an exceptional leader. Embarked on the way to a rising success chart, this CEO of Nextt, the largest bedding company in North America is marking touchstones in the Indian Home Textiles Industry in the United States

Success is a multidimensional achievement. One cannot define it in terms of one or two parameters; rather it is a part of a bigger framework which comprises of million little threads that weave into an exceptionally beautiful phase of accomplishments. Taking little sturdy steps and enriching his life with valuable experiences, the Chief Executive Officer of Dallabased Nextt, Mr. Arun Agarwal is also intertwining his extraordinary abilities with innovative ideas to arrive on a prolific destination. From his teenager days, Mr. Arun Agarwal aspired to become a magnate and lead his firm towards the pinnacle of success. That was the reason he entered the textiles market with his innovative ideas and excellent leadership skills.

THE ENCOURAGING ASPIRATIONS

“No dream is too big. Keep a good head on your shoulders and pursue it. There is fine line between self-confidence and arrogance, make sure to define that line.” Keeping true to his words, Arun Agarwal decided to give life to his dreams by establishing Alok International eight years ago. A U.S. subsidiary of India-based Alok Industry Ltd., the firm has more than 20 brands which occupy a renowned position in the home textile market.

Today, as the Chief Executive Officer of Nextt, the front-end marketing arm for Alok Industries, Mr. Arun Agarwal is guiding the Indian home textiles sector on an international platform. Mr. Arun Agarwal has more than Fifteen years of experience in the industry which helped him in understanding the ways of business world. These valuable times that he has spent in the textiles field proves to be one of the most significant parts of his eminent personality.

Possessing an impressive educational background, Mr. Arun Agarwal acquired prestigious degrees to enhance and refine his abilities. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Maharajas College in Jaipur, he went on for his further studies from the Institute of Management Technology where he got an MBA degree. At that time, Mr. Arun got a job as the youngest regional manager of JVC Onida for eastern region. Under the leadership of Mr. Sonu Mirchandani, he created a history in color television industry of India. However, his desire of acquiring more knowledge took him to the University of New Hampshire for the study of computer information systems and he achieved another Master’s degree as well International Business from Harvard University in Boston. The years that he spent in his colleges has a very special place in his heart for they evolved him into a dignified scholar who had a keen zest to bring a tremendous change in the field of entrepreneurship. From being a Secretary of Maharajas College student union to the President of Graduate Student Association of New Hampshire College, Mr. Arun’s personality always had the glimpses of a great leader.

A DETERMINED PURSUIT

It was under his leadership that Nextt has been able to achieve whooping revenue of more than $500 million. The company is a leading manufacturer of products such as home textiles, garments, apparel fabrics and polyester yarns. The firm also unveiled a 17,000 square feet flagship showroom on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Today, his company creates masterpieces of comfort and luxury in its headquarters at Dallas for some of the internationally renowned retailers such as Dillard’s, JC Penney, Target, Kohl’s, and Wal-Mart, and brands that include Trina Turk, Iman, Kathy Ireland, Jessica McClintock, and Ellen Tracy.

Mr. Arun Agarwal believes that uniqueness is like a stepping stone if one wants to excel in his pursuit. He wants to do things that stand aloof among the prevailing industry ideas. That is why he formed a team of young and enthusiastic minds who can adapt with the ever-changing scenario of the business world. He does not think that in order to do business one should follow any rulebook. Rather, they should follow a simple ideology of delivering excellence to the customers. He remarks, “Selling is as simple as being honest and winning credibility that you will do what you say”.

In a short time span, Mr. Arun Agarwal helped the firm in securing a “dominant proportion of private label”. It was due to his efforts that the company established various collaborations with the international brands. “In such a short time our reputation as a company is incredible in the retail

world,” confirms Mr. Arun Agarwal with a gleam of happiness in his eyes. “With the ecosystems we’ve created, we feel we are far ahead of the competition. But we need to keep evolving” he added.

For Mr. Arun Agarwal, the quality of services and products matters the most. It is never about prices but the durability that enhances the customers’ trust in any establishment or brand. During his early schooling in Jaipur, he did door to door market research for IMRB, which gave him some deep customer insights which still helps him in shaping his company’s future. According to Mr. Arun Agarwal he is not just “selling a sheet, but selling a solution”. He thinks that towels and sheet is basic commodity. “It’s more about the functionality. If you can combine fashion with function, it’s a winning combination.” he stated in an interview. Accentuating innovation in the company’s products, a technology of wrinkle-free sheet was introduced that created a benchmark in the industry. This sustainable technology has the ability to produce sheets that has cotton on the inside and polyester on its top which can fit the mattress of every size.

INITIATING A NEW PHASE

Mr. Arun Agarwal is the first Indian American to be appointed to Product Development and Small Business Incubator (PDSBI) Board in Texas. The board provides financial aid “for the development, production and commercialization of new or improved products and to foster the growth of small businesses” in the state. This achievement gave him a new perception towards the propensities of innovative ideas.

Impressed with the youth of India, Mr. Arun Agarwal feels that the pace at which the new generation of the country is moving ahead with their groundbreaking ideas, they can become one of the world’s best leaders that has the potential to set a new trend in the industry. He has a belief that if one gets a little help from the state then there is no doubt that his/her “ideas can turn into a big commercial success”.

Having a belief in the “Make In India” initiative taken by the Government of India to forge business growth in the country, Mr. Arun Agarwal thinks that this strategy can fuel the economic growth of the country to a great extent as it will give firm reasons to the international companies to invest in Indian establishments.

Mr. Arun Agarwal has a firm belief in business relationship. According to him, an honest approach and sincere commitments can make these associations fruitful for both the parties. Talking about his future vision for Nextt, Mr. Arun Agarwal hopes to utilize their exceptional infrastructure to subsidize the developing business models and trends. He also wishes to use his “knowledge of India to promote some products which are core to Indian economy” as well.

Even though Mr. Arun Agarwal is living away from India, his love and respect for the country is clearly visible in his constant efforts. As a proud Indian, he speaks to his daughter Anya about how lucky he feels, “We are the most fortunate people in the world. Connected to two of the best countries on earth– India and USA.”

THE COMPASSIONATE PERSPECTIVE

Apart from being a successful tycoon, Mr. Arun Agarwal is also an altruistic person. He engages himself in various CSR activities not only on a local level but on global platform too. Among these activities and initiatives, DIFFA and Chetna are radical steps taken by him through his company. The former initiative works towards the awareness and treatment of AIDS while Chetna helps the victims of domestic violence. For making a contribution towards the empowerment of women, Mr. Arun Agarwal also supports Living Dreams Foundation situated in Delhi. He also helped in the establishment of the largest Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Dallas and also helped the Bhutanese refugee kids in DFW area.

This Founding father of Nextt is also an active participates in diverse organizations. For instance, he is one of the board members of various organizations such as Gift for Life, US-India Chamber of Commerce DFW, Indian American Friendship Council, and Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, Mr. Arun Agarwal also received NRI Entrepreneur of the Year award. Apart from that he also won awards such as “Outstanding Entrepreneur Award”, “Minority Business Leader Award” and “Entrepreneur of the Year Award”. Due to his perseverance and creativity, Mr. Arun Agarwal is laying the groundwork for his future success and also inspires the people around him to achieve big in their lives. His confidence in his self flashes through his words, “A good idea, with proper support and execution always succeeds”. This NRI entrepreneur is making headway with the help of the plans that he has designed for being one of the front-runners of the industry.

Evelyn Mungai

Before Evelyn Mungai opened the first school of design in Nairobi, there was no such industry as fashion design in East Africa, and so of course there were no fashion designers. She took it upon herself to train thousands of young people across the continent. Under her expert guidance, some went on to start their own businesses in this lucrative field, while others were employed in the related textile and graphic and interior design sectors.

GLOBAL APPEAL

Her graduates span the globe, grateful for the foundation they received at the college. Because of her hard work and dedication, the name Evelyn College of Design has come to be associated with quality. In 1981, she was invited to join the prestigious Africa Business Round-Table (ABR), the high-profile continent-wide private sector body of the African Development Bank. She was its first woman member.

She has also been closely associated with the establishment and promotion of the Corporate Council for Africa and the Global Coalition for Africa, two influential US-based bodies that bring the American and African private sectors closer together. She later served as a board member of the Africa Project Development Facility of IFC, the private sector development arm of the World Bank.

VARIED INTERESTS

For many years, she published Presence Magazine, which provided a platform for strengthening and promoting women. She also published Kenya Women Reflections, a book about Kenyan women active in the struggle for independence.

She has several other business interests, including in property development, and at one time was Founder Chairman of Faida Biashara, a private-sector-driven micro-finance company that empowered small-scale business people.

She is also the member of the International Advisory Panel of the World Islamic Economic Forum representing Africa in this prestigious and influential global body that promotes business between Islamic countries and between them and the rest of the world.

She is a past Chairman of the Kenya chapter of Transparency International, and serves as a Trustee of the President’s Award Scheme. She was a founder board member of the Nairobi Central Business District Association, and also of the Kenya chapter of Safety on the Roads International.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND AWARDS

As the first woman member of the Rotary Club of Nairobi, she launched initiatives in the fields of education, agriculture, health, infrastructure and income generation, and provided for a home for 50 AIDS orphans.

Above all Evelyn Mungai has been a leading champion of women economic empowerment, in Kenya and all around Africa. Her mission as the Founder President of the All African Businesswomen’s Association (AABA), is to facilitate networking and personal development among senior women in the private sector.

Finally, she lives and promotes the best of traditional African values, in terms of respect for the family, awareness of cultural heritage, and integrity.
In 1993, she was awarded the Lincoln University President’s Award for excellence in business and finance. President Kibaki honoured her with the national award of the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW).

Deepak Parekh

Born in 1944 and a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW), Mr. Deepak Parekh is at the financial helm of India Inc. In 1978 Mr. Parekh joined India’s premier housing finance company HDFC Ltd. as Deputy General Manager and then went on to become its Chairman in 1993.

ACCELERATING GROWTH

HDFC’s growth in stature and strength since its inception (1977), has been achieved by a steadfast focus on sound values such as integrity, transparency and professionalism, and underpinned by a basic belief of trust by the Indian middleclass.

Mr. Deepak Parekh, has not only preserved the ethos of the company, but has also strengthened it with time. His astute business acumen and farsightedness has not only made HDFC the leader in Mortgages, but also transformed it into a financial conglomerate with presence in Banking, Asset Management, Life Insurance, General Insurance, Real Estate Venture Fund and Education finance.

In 1970, Mr. Parekh began his career with Ernst & Ernst Management Consultancy Services in New York. Thereafter he worked with Grindlays Bank and Chase Manhattan Bank for about three years each prior to joining HDFC in 1978.

LEADING FROM THE FRONT

Besides HDFC Group Companies, Mr. Parekh is on the board of several leading corporations across diverse sectors. He is the Nonexecutive Chairman in India of BAE Systems India (Services) Pvt Ltd, Glaxo Smithkline Pharmaceuticals and Siemens. He is also on the boards of Fairfax India Holdings Corporation, Indian Hotels Company Ltd, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Network18 Media and Investments ltd and international boards of DP World – UAE and Vedanta Resources Plc.. He is also on the Advisory Board of several Indian corporate and MNC’s. In addition to being known for his vociferous views seeking standardization and transparency in the real estate sector, Mr. Parekh is dubbed as the unofficial crisis consultant of the Government.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Taking care of such important positions in life, he never forgets to ensure that neither he nor the people he meets ever forget the importance of clean business. And values or culture are not developed overnight. It’s a painstaking process and Parekh ensures that neither he nor the people he is associated with ever forget the importance of correctness. It is one of the prime reasons that he has the habit of gifting miniature yellow signboards to colleagues and business associates. The little yellow signboard has compliance written on it, with a sketch of a slippery slope below it. Parekh has made clean business not only a cornerstone of how the HDFC group is run, but also embodies that spirit in his dealings with others in the world of business and politics.

It’s perhaps for this that young professionals often turn to him for advice when they have a doubt. Every week, he devotes time for young guns that often pick his brains on a variety of subjects. His ability to rise above narrow interests and passion for doing the right thing has drawn even the government and policy makers to his doorstep. Over the years, he has emerged as the crisis manager for the government, even on subjects that have nothing to do with finance.

Rizwan Sajan

Rizwan Sajan arrived in Dubai in 1991 with nothing in his pockets but a dream in his eyes. The only positive thing he could cling to was his first-hand experience in the building materials industry. He didn’t have money, but had a heart of gold!

He was 28 years old then, and had been working for more than a decade with his uncle in Kuwait. He had lost his father at the age of 16 and had made his way up from the streets. He had started feeling settled in the business with his uncle, when suddenly the Gulf War started and things got so bad that he had to leave Kuwait and his job.

The decision to leave Kuwait and go to Dubai wasn’t easy; however, he had to survive and take care of his family. When he arrived in Dubai, he looked up to the sky and promised to himself that he would work, work and work until he builds a future for himself and his family in this land of dreams and opportunities.

… and the journey started.

LAND OF DESTRUCTION VS. LAND OF OPPORTUNITIES

In the year 1991, when most people were glued to their TVs watching Scud missiles devastating Kuwait during the infamous Gulf War, the citizens and traders of Kuwait were actually living the horror of being in the midst of the destruction. Two names relevant here are Jacob Moses and Rizwan Sajan.

Before 1990, they didn’t even know who Saddam Hussein was, but in 1991 Rizwan Sajan had to leave his home, family and job in Kuwait because of him. For many that would have been a dead end. But Sajan was determined to do good in life, and came to Dubai. In Dubai, he worked for a hardware store initially where he earned AED 1,500 per month. Gradually, the situation in Kuwait started getting back to normal and as the word got out that he was in Dubai, his former business associates started calling him to place orders for building materials.

He recalls all good things about his uncle Moses and how he taught him to do business and survive, “My business ethics are largely due to the influence of my uncle Jacob Moses who taught me that 2+2=5.”

After about 10 months in Dubai, he thought of using his savings and his know-how of the building materials industry and went about starting his own company, Danube. He started as a small shop in Deira and his first employee was Mrs. Sameera Sajan, his wife. Today, Danube is present in over 50 locations in 9 countries with employee strength of over 2,500.
25 years after he came to Dubai in 1991, he is considered as one of the persons who literally helped in building Dubai. The growth was mutual and he has already created a close to 3 billion dollar company.

THE FORCE CALLED RIZWAN SAJAN

Creating relationships and bonds is not easy, especially if it is not your own country. However, like everything else, he has created a strong network and his ability to sell building material is unparalleled.

He has established the UAE’s largest building materials company – Danube Building Materials FZCO. Currently, he is the Founder & Chairman of Danube Group that comprises Danube Building Materials, Danube Home, Danube Properties, Milano, DanubeDirect.com, Danube Systems, Alucopanel, Cha Cha Chai, Xti and Tudors. He has grown his empire brick-by-brick from one office to more than 50 branches with a global reach into the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, India, China and Africa.

It is said that it is very easy in Dubai for people to become super-rich. However, people see only the wealth and fail to see the blood and sweat that goes in the making of the wealth. Sajan kept on taking different risks and turns when others believed in going steady to grow.

He has established different businesses at different times – brokerage business, timber, Buildmart (now called Danube Home), etc. and has created astounding success in all of them.

Being a highly self-assured personality, he states, “I feel proud when I share that all my business units are doing well, in spite of tough market conditions. My team is confident to close the year on a high; however, I have a few words of advice for them: stay cautious in your approach and make informed decisions and don’t act in haste.”

He is excited about the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai. “The biggest opportunity will be supplying building materials to major projects in the region; especially, Expo 2020, which is less than 4 years away and we are expecting almost 25 million people visiting Dubai within a span of 6 months.”

DANUBE IN THE DESERTS OF THE UAE

Hailing from the State of Gujarat in India, Sajan’s choice of the name Danube may seem strange to others; however when he started, a lot of his materials used to come through Europe via the river Danube. The river itself is believed to be the life blood of Europe and a source of nourishment. “That’s what I wanted my brand to be: a source of pride, growth and nourishment for me and every single person who invested in me.” So, Danube arrived in the deserts of the UAE, and the nourishment proved to be mutual.

He feels that he has been successful in creating an excellent journey for himself by the grace of God, and because the rulers of Dubai, over the years, have sustained a conducive work environment. The fact remains that any business would thrive here, if only passion and hard work are the main ingredients in it.

He remarks, “The leadership of the UAE have always believed and delivered on their promises to people since 1970s. The ‘never-heard-before’, innovative and best ideas see the day of light in this great nation, time and again. I have been a witness to the futuristic leadership for long now and these great leaders have made sure that no matter what, people, businesses and economy must thrive. Happiness, brotherhood and integrity have always been on the forefront to support the UAE’s march to become the most advanced country. The world history beckons the leaders of the UAE.”

THE MAN AND HIS FAMILY

On asking who is Rizwan Sajan as a person, he was straightforward, “I am a loving husband, a loving father, an astute businessman, a billionaire and I appreciate all my roles because I happen to be Rizwan Sajan of Danube under destiny’s hands. It was the support of almighty, family, friends, business associates, Government of Dubai and my roots – which can be traced back to India.”

He describes his typical day as, “My passion is work which I don’t take for granted, so a typical day would start with a half-an-hour swimming session followed by breakfast with family, and by 10:00 AM I am in office. My day-to-day activities would include discussing the innovative ideas with various teams, though once finalised, the ground work and other decisions would be passed on to the respective team leads.”

His family is his world and his small world comprises his wife Sameera and son Adel. He is nowhere near the retirement age; however, has helped Adel grow into a responsible gentleman and a smart businessman already.

When he thinks or talks of his wife, Sameera, his eyes shine and show great admiration for her. “Sameera played and continues to play an important part in my business. She has supported me through the bad times and applauded through the good ones. She has always given me the freedom to give 100% of my focus to the business. She has tackled all domestic issues with utmost ease throughout our married life.”

He lovingly talks about Adel, “I have been a businessman for most part of my life. Now I see the second generation of Sajan family playing a bigger role in managing the business and taking Danube to greater heights. As far as my role is concerned, I will still be at the helm of the affairs, guiding the young generation.

“Adel started quite young and I remember, during his early days, I would put him in various tasks and departments at Danube during his summer breaks. His first assignment was working in the warehouse with the blue-collar workers and from there on he worked in almost every department until he turned 19. That was the time he was given a real responsibility – starting the chandelier division in the Danube Buildmart (now Danube Home), which had just begun operations. By the time he graduated, he had good knowledge and experience in marketing, logistics, buying and all things retail. Our retail division was kicking off and that’s when Adel took the reins of our retail divisions.”

Adel Sajan is no stranger to success; he has grown up as the scion of the Danube Group, the region’s largest building materials company. He continues, “With his maiden venture, Danube Home, already going from strength to strength, Adel is poised to take over from me and I have no doubts even as a businessman about his capabilities.

BRAND LEGACY OF DANUBE

He chose Sunil Gavaskar, Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Shetty as the brand ambassadors of Danube, because like Danube they too are regarded as greats in their respective fields, given their brand legacy and trust which are also Danube’s traits.

Obviously, it works both ways. “The brand ambassadors we have would have never come on board with us, had they not been convinced of our dedication and quality. It goes without saying that these associations invariably result in visibility, bonding and reach-out of the highest level.”

WELCOME HOME

Danube had successfully floated the idea of home-ownership two years ago. The idea grew and matured as a record number of customers joined the sustainable and affordable housing bandwagon. “Danube is known for quality, and once again there would be no exceptions as quality reigns supreme on all accounts in our latest launch: Glamz.”

The unwavering customer trust in the brand for over two decades has established Danube’s projects as the preferred choice across geographies, which is why each project stands 100% sold-out because of its immense popularity, which prompts sales to close within weeks of their respective launches.

Now, Danube’s first project – Dreamz – is well on schedule for delivery, whereas other projects – Glitz 1, Glitz 2, Glitz 3 and Starz are all 4–5 months ahead of schedule. So he adds, “We are hopeful that Glamz would be no different.”

Danube has established itself as an innovative organization, be it venturing into varied sectors, bringing in new products or reaching out to customers – directly/indirectly. Hence, the brand promise is innovation. As a matter of fact he says, “It doesn’t matter what is the size or scale of the project, if the right intent is there, then Danube will adapt it to serve its customers better.”

THE HUMAN FACTOR

He had a humble beginning and now he is counted among the richest in the UAE and the world. He puts it simply, “I believe my background helps me stay grounded.”
He is also successful because people who join him stick with him. He shares, “Relationships are for life, that’s what I have always believed in. And while you are at it, make sure all you do is work, work and work, as there are no shortcuts to success. I find the right people and invest in them followed by trust – and their empowerment – to do the job perfectly.”

He also believes in training his employees well. “The objective is to formally create the opportunity of continuous learning for team members, thus leading to improved organizational and individual effectiveness which proves beneficial for the team members as well as the organization in the long run.”

Now that he has almost unlimited wealth, he doesn’t flaunt it. He has a humble disposition. He believes in living to the fullest rather than living for profit.

He has won numerous awards including the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Award and the Dubai Quality Award. Recently, he was on the cover of Forbes Middle East magazine’s May edition and retained the number twelve ranking in the “Top 100 Indian Leaders in the UAE” List.

He is also involved in philanthropic activities helping people who are currently in need of a support. He feels that it is the duty of every human being to help people and give back to the society in his/her own capacity.

Since the time Danube was established, he has been promoting community initiatives. In 2012, the company designed its own social initiative called the Danube Welfare Centre (DWC) to address the challenges faced by the blue-collared individuals in the UAE. The Welfare Centre aims to provide formal training and assistance to the trainees and helps them meet the demands of the labour market. The Welfare Centre offers a 3-day training program to a batch of 15–20 participants from diverse nationalities free of cost. He explains further, “We train them on communication skills, personality development, interview skills, building self-confidence and developing positive attitude.”

One of Danube’s most popular initiatives involves holding a lucky draw amongst blue-collared workers, whereby the company sends two employees on “Hajj” and other four for “Umrah” each year.

Additionally, to lift up the spirits of the labourers working in the region, Danube serves Iftaar to more than 60,000 labourers every year during the month of Ramadan.

Sajjan Jindal

All dreams are made of a magical concoction whose ingredients comprise passion, grit and an insurmountable determination to work hard and win against all odds. Sajjan Jindal inherited this magical concoction and chiseling his dreams, developed one of India’s leading business houses, with a workforce of over 40,000. Diversifying his Group gradually to master other verticals, he forayed into cement, infrastructure, energy and so on, with a dream to help build a new nation.

Leading India’s largest private steel producer, Sajjan Jindal has displayed mettle of steel as he has guided JSW Steel through the strategic tie-up with the world’s sixthlargest and Japan’s second-largest steel producer JFE Steel.

Son of the Indian businessman and parliamentarian, Om Prakash Jindal and India’s richest woman, Savitri Jindal, Sajjan Jindal belongs to the highly revered Jindal family and the JSW Group, whose net worth is USD 13 billion.

He and his brothers, Prithviraj, Ratan and Naveen, each run their own businesses that were primarily inherited from their father. Married to Sangita Jindal, who is the Chairperson of JSW Foundation, they have two daughters, Tarini and Tanvi, and a son, Parth.

He holds B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore being affiliated from Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum, Karnataka. Joining the family business right after his graduation, he moved to Mumbai to look after the western region operations of O.P. Jindal Group in 1983. He promoted Jindal Iron and Steel Company Ltd. (JISCO), for manufacturing of Cold Rolled and Galvanized Sheet Products in 1989, promoted Jindal Vijaynagar Steel Ltd. (JVSL), JSW Energy Ltd. (JSWEL), Jindal Praxiar Oxygen Ltd. (JPOCL) and Vijaynagar Minerals Private Ltd. (VMPL) to ensure complete integration of the manufacturing progress in 1995. In 2005, he merged JISCO and JVSL to form JSW Steel; their holdings group has the same name, JSW.

Helping India Grow

Commanding one of India’s fastest growing conglomerates, JSW Group which is a USD 13 billion company and an integral part of the O. P. Jindal Group, Sajjan Jindal has developed some of the major projects in India and has played a key role in nation building.

He asserts, “We pursue growth zealously. In the face of all challenges, the most effective way to overcome them was to grow. Faster than the market, bigger than the competition.”

Guiding JSW to become one of India’s top business houses, his innovative and sustainable ideas have helped all verticals of the Group: Steel, Energy, Cement and Infrastructure. Believing in creating values of the highest order, he has invariably focused on creating superior strength of products & services, a differentiated product mix, state-of-the-art technology, and then excellence in execution and focus on sustainability for assured success and growth.

Like all great leaders, he too initiated with small steps and a humble beginning in the steel sector of India; however, with consistent efforts guided his Group to expand its presence across India, South America, South Africa and Europe.

He reminisces, “Big rewards never came without the big risks. But not reckless ones! We had the remarkable ability to take measured but worthwhile risks, to go down uncharted territory knowing very well what could go wrong – and being prepared for it!”

Under his charismatic leadership, JSW has always been the strategic first mover to venture away from status quo, have the conviction to make fundamental changes and drive operational excellence on its quest to become better every day.

He shares, “Bettering ourselves helps us make ‘better’ happen for everyone else. We help ‘better’ happen for all the lives we touch – that means our employees, our business associates, our customers and the communities around the plants and facilities and the industry fraternity at large.” Learning immensely from his parents, as he is a secondgeneration entrepreneur, and having already proved himself as an accomplished business leader, Sajjan Jindal has been instrumental in building national infrastructure in sync with national philosophy of growth.

Firmly believing in the Make in India philosophy, he has taken care that JSW should not be recognized as a mere billion-dollar conglomerate, but should develop as a mark of trust and quality that millions of customers around the world depend on, and all stakeholders and the citizens of India must understand that it is a responsible partner in India’s progress.

Deserving Recognitions & Responsibilities

He has received the Willy Korf/Ken Iverson Steel Vision Award for his contribution to the steel industry, the Outstanding Business Leader of the year 2018 award, CEO of the Year award, JRD Tata Award for Excellence in Corporate Leadership in Metallurgical industry, National Metallurgist Award in Industry category instituted by the Ministry of Steel, Government of India, Best CEO award, and several other prestigious national and international awards.

An ex-President of the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), he is a renowned and respected practitioner of sustainable business practices, and holds several other prestigious positions such as Member of the Executive Committee of the World Steel Association (WSA), President of Indian Steel Association (ISA), Council Member of the Indian
Institute of Metals, as well as the former President of the Institute of Steel Development & Growth (INSDAG).

Offering Back to the Society

Taking an active interest in CSR projects, Sajjan Jindal has ensured to participate in and initiate activities that assist in improving those areas of India that lack resources. Together with his better half, Sangita Jindal, he has committedly given back to the society in his bid to improve as many lives as possible through the JSW Foundation, focusing on providing the means to empower individuals to bridge the socio-economic divide and contribute to the creation of a more equitable and sustainable community. The Foundation is proud to have touched the lives of over 1 million people by providing them with opportunities for a bright and sustainable future.

Bringing positive transformation to every life his Group or his Foundation touches, he is building, then transforming and then earnestly giving back. Following his personal philosophy, his Group’s every activity is centered on building something new or bettering something that already exists.

Always eager to act beyond just business responsibilities, or fulfilling customer obligations, his professional and personal actions unfailingly positively impact the lives of his business associates, his customers, his employees, and, of course, the communities that he serves through his Group and the Foundation, and then the nations in which he operates.

These are extraordinary achievements when seen in the light of his efforts which are remarkably targeted towards prosperity of the society by building world-class infrastructure, creating inventive solutions, deploying world-class capabilities, and empowering people.

Gautam Adani

Born to Shantilal and Shantaben Adani – who had migrated from the town of Tharad in the northern part of Gujarat – Gautam Adani has seven siblings. His father was a textile merchant.

Gautam Adani was keen on starting his own business, so after studying at Sheth Chimanlal Nagindas Vidyalaya in Ahmedabad he took admission for a BCom degree in Gujarat University, but dropped out after the second year, and instead of joining his father’s textile business, travelled to Mumbai in 1978 to work as a diamond sorter for Mahendra Brothers.

Learning the craft and the secrets of the trade, he wasted no time and after 2 to 3 years established his own diamond brokerage firm at Zaveri Bazaar, Mumbai. However, holding a white heat of desire in his heart to grow, succeed and do something even bigger, he joined his elder brother Mansukhbhai Adani in 1981 to manage the operations of a plastics unit in Ahmedabad, recently bought by Mansukhbhai. This venture turned out to be Gautam Adani’s gateway to global trading through polyvinyl chloride (PVC) imports. Growing rapidly, by 1985 Gautam Adani started importing primary polymers for small-scale industries. Success came naturally because of his consistent and ingenious efforts, and in 1988, he established Adani Exports Limited, which is currently known as Adani Enterprises Limited and which is the holding company of the Adani Group. Adani Exports started with exports of agricultural and power commodities, and as due to the economic liberalization in 1991 trading and exporting became favorable for his company, he diversified and expanded his businesses into trading of metals, textiles and agro products.

Then, it happened which catapulted Adani Group into unprecedented global success, recognition and respect. In 1993, the Government of Gujarat announced managerial outsourcing of the Mundra Port and in 1995, Gautam Adani bagged the contract. The same year, he set up the first jetty, and began port functions from the Mundra Port & Special Economic Zone; later shifting them to Adani Ports & SEZ Limited (APSEZ). Initially, Gautam Adani took approval from the Gujarat government to set up a harbor facility to handle its own cargo at Mundra Port; however, sensing the potential in the project, he decided to turn it into a commercial port, and built rail and road links to it by individually negotiating with more than 500 landowners across India.

Growing consistently, Adani Ports & SEZ Limited has become the largest private multi-port operator in India, and Mundra Port is the largest private sector port in India, with the capacity of handling close to 210 million tons of cargo per annum.

In the meantime, Gautam Adani focused on developing other verticals and in 1996 itself, founded Adani Power Limited – the power business arm of the Adani Group, and generated success in all verticals together. Holding thermal power plants with a capacity of 4620 MW, Adani Power Limited is the largest private thermal power producer of the country. It is also India’s largest closely held thermal coal producer and the largest coal trader.

Entering the power generation business in 2006, he acquired Carmichael Coal in Queensland and Abbot Point Port in Australia. In 2018, he completed the acquisition of the power business of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure in Mumbai. He has also entered the petrochemicals sector in a USD 2.6 billion joint venture with Germany’s BASF and has also won bids to run 6 domestic airports.

Peerless Entrepreneurial Vision

Rapidly succeeding as one of the fastest-growing professionally owned enterprises in India, while maintaining world-class quality standards and a customer-focused approach, Adani Group had reached a milestone of more than INR 250 billion by 2009 itself, in just two decades, and in the process, had also become one of India’s most trusted and diversified trading houses.

Known for quickly taking decisions and believing in fast growth, Gautam Adani asserts, “If you analyse a problem too much, you will never tap the opportunity”. Today, the Adani Group has diversified into more than 50 companies dealing in resources, logistics, energy, agriculture, defence, aerospace, real estate, ports, special economic zones, IT-enabled services and several more, while its core businesses include commodities trading, edible oil manufacturing, Mundra port operations and distribution of natural gas.

A special pattern visible in Adani Group’s expansion is the synergy among its business units with which they stay together and make each other more productive and competitive. The Group emphasizes on converting partnerships into winning relationships and is committed to satisfy its stakeholders by constantly delivering good returns. Ranked as the 4th most powerful person in India, his net worth is estimated to be around USD 11.6 billion as of July 2019.

He shares, “The macroeconomics of India have never looked stronger and our continued investment has been driven by our confidence that over the next two decades, India will easily be one of the Top 5 largest nations in the world fuelled by the demand of its own population and energised by the sheer potential of a young workforce unparalleled anywhere else in the world.”

Rewards & Recognitions

Gautam Adani has led the Adani Group to several prestigious national and international awards and honors for its corporate performance, and has bagged numerous awards himself for his professional commitment, entrepreneurial success and unique vision. Adani Group has received the Dun & Bradstreet – Rolta Corporate Award for outstanding performance in Trading, the Five Star Export House award, the FIEO’s Niryat Shree Gold Trophy, the ICSI award for Excellence in Corporate Governance, the GCCI Export Appreciation Award, the International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities (ISPS) for compliance by Ministry of Shipping Govt. of India, the SRTEPC award, etc. Its Mundra Port and SEZ has been awarded the Port
Authority Award by Lloyd’s List for the Best Port in Middle East and Indian subcontinent. Gautam Adani himself has been honoured with the Excellence in Management Award by Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Offering Back to the Society

Gautam Adani is the President of the Adani Foundation, and together with his wife Priti Adani, has been leading it passionately and ingeniously. Founded in 1996 as the corporate social responsibility arm of the Adani Group, it works in the spheres of education, community health, medical aid, rural infrastructure management & development, sustainable livelihood management and charitable initiatives not only in Gujarat, but also in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

The Foundation initially worked with a few rural communities around the Adani port at Mundra, and gradually developing a team of committed professionals who have been painstakingly planning and implementing developmental and growth programmes in rural communities, it has enabled holistic development of several communities it has worked with. The Foundation follows a participatory approach to ensure a sense of ownership for the services it provides and the community wealth it creates, and through institutional and individual grants for education and medical relief has brought about tangible changes in the lives of rural communities.

Dr. Adnan Chilwan

By ensuring focus and progressiveness, whilst preventing himself from being distracted by actions of others, he has been taking charge, making his own rules, and writing his own script for the future Thus, driven by his own ambitions, and not by others’, Dr. Chilwan believes in building capacity for future – financial, people, systems and technology – pre-emptively and continuously, and considers them key ingredients in the recipe for his success.

Though success may be a subjective term, and may be a matter of opinion, Dr. Chilwan feels that it is also definitely personal. Whilst many measure success via theirs or the organization’s financial achievements, he has a very different perspective, i.e. shattering myths and changing mindsets.

He shares, “My success story is not just about the transformation of DIB under my leadership. It is about the mindset change that has happened because of what I believed I have pursued over my entire working life – making Islamic finance the norm. From my earlier achievements in incorporating the model in foreign conventional players, to converting a conventional bank into an Islamic entity, to completely unleashing the true potential of the oldest Islamic bank in the world, all have led to this massive change, and shattered the myth that Islamic finance is limited to select Muslim populous. Clearly it is not and the world knows it now.”

TAKING AWAY THE “IM” FROM IMPOSSIBLE

He is also aware that the world sees only the tip of the iceberg and considers others’ successes easy, and fails to see the years of hard work in achieving any greatness, which is understood and felt by only those who see it through till the end.

He observes candidly, “For me, the journey is just as rewarding as the final result. My career has spanned some of the most tumultuous years in the history of the financial services industry, but what I saw during this time was opportunity. Ten years ago, when I joined the bank, I had a decade-long vision for the organization – I knew the bank could be the single most disruptive player in the financial sector in this time frame. But this message would have been a little difficult to digest at the time, given the effects of the global financial crisis and the positioning of DIB in those days.”

Renowned for taking away the “im” from impossible, Dr. Chilwan set about to adjust the sails, broke the plan down into intermediate goals over shorter horizons which appeared more realistic then, and all of a sudden, what seemed ambitious and virtually impossible in those days is a reality today – DIB is the 4th largest and the 3rd most profitable bank in the country, a jump of around 9 places in less than half a decade, and all of that was possible organically.

Acknowledging that every success is a team effort, and though uninhibited passion and belief played a major role in DIB’s current success, he is also aware that even if your ultimate vision, goal or game plan is visible to a limited few, break it down into manageable steps, keep providing input and guidance to steer and direct, and instead of waiting for things to improve in order to progress and grow, craft out opportunities in any given scenario.

GROWTH – ELUSIVE TO OTHERS, EXCLUSIVE TO US

Getting a chance to understand a situation through the eyes of an expert is priceless, and here Dr. Chilwan shares how around 2008 when the global financial crisis impacted the UAE and the region, he wielded a different approach than most of his competitors and first expertly created the foundation and then swiftly made DIB the fastest growing organization in the region. He reminisces, “In 2008, the impact of the global financial crisis had made its presence known in the UAE and the region, and it was quite a dismal picture across the industry at the time.

“Most players were effectively trying to gather themselves up quickly and grab whatever business was available in the market to show growth in size and profitability. To me, it was clear that we could not do what the others were doing. That approach was definitely not aligned to the long-term plan I had for the bank and the industry.

“So, irrespective of how the market was behaving or competitors acting, for us it was time to CONSOLIDATE. I had a two-pronged agenda in mind even at the time, the second leg being GROWTH, but I knew that we were not ready to get a glimpse of that currently. So I provided the first five-year consolidation plan with yearly executable targets and goals, which effectively aimed to strengthen the bank financially, create capacity (financial, personnel, systems) so as to establish a platform from where growth was inevitable. And then when the time came, well the rest
as they say is history!

“All the scepticism has disappeared, and the market in fact is expecting even more from us. And what to me is perhaps our greatest achievement is that in these last few years, we have made Islamic banking a household model across the country and are now spreading it to other markets as well.”

For him, the true satisfaction is the achievement of what he is pursuing – rewards and accolades are a mere ratification and reaffirmation of what he already believes to be true. His steely self-belief, firmness of purpose and passionate efforts have naturally brought him various recognitions of the highest order, as he has been ranked amongst the top 3 Indian leaders in the Arab world by Forbes, and also in the CEO rankings in GCC. He has also won multiple awards and accolades for his vision and excellence in Islamic banking, including the Islamic banker of the Year award multiple times.

Believing that success is not static, and is not a point in time, but is the ability to build on what has already been achieved to reach newer, greater heights, his thirst for more keeps him inspired and motivated, while he follows his true passions, and always seeks more beyond the horizon. At the same time, his philosophy is reflected in the vision of the organization as well – progressiveness, constantly evolving, improving and moving in a northbound direction.

Committed to give back to the society, which has helped him achieve tremendous success, he is deeply involved in CSR activities. More than just about money, his CSR goes well beyond financial commitment and support. He believes in positively impacting lives of others in a variety of ways, and accordingly devotes his time to propagating not just the business model he believes to be the most appropriate for today’s world, but also his own learnings and experiences to students and practitioners across the globe.

Competing with himself, he believes in daily improvements, which can do wonders while continuously moving towards one’s goals. “One does not need complex strategies and plans and huge towering targets. Incredible things happen if you believe and follow the concept that you are your own competition in this world. My first thought every morning and my life-long motto is simple – TODAY WE NEED TO BE A TINY BIT BETTER THAN WHAT WE WERE YESTERDAY.”

Tony Fernandes

CONNECTING EVERYONE

Mr. Fernandes is the CEO of the Air Asia Group, a low-cost airline that operates scheduled domestic and international flights to more than 165 destinations in 25 countries. A graduate from the London School of Economics, he is currently the member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He always had a dream of owning an airline because he believed that airlines connected people. Thus, he planned to make connecting more convenient for them. Son of an ingenious businesswoman, he saw innovative business ideas being discussed and executed at close quarters. The concept of establishing Air Asia originated when he felt that people in South-East Asia like to travel in a budget-friendly way. His aim was to set up a low-cost airline so that everyone can fly at affordable fares.

With a goal to build a low-cost carrier that would make air travel cheaper for an ordinary person, Tony along with his business partner Kamaruddin Meranun took over Air Asia in 2001 Mr. Fernandes mortgaged his home and used his personal savings to acquire the company that comprised two Boeing 737-300 jet aircrafts and debt of US$11 million. But his precise acumen towards handling the operations of the airline helped clear all the debts within a year and the airline touched the break-even point. Soon it expanded throughout the continent as its affiliate airlines Thai Air Asia, Indonesia Air Asia, Philippines Air Asia and Air Asia India started serving a large number of passengers. The unique tagline of Air Asia “now everyone can fly” indicates the low fares that enable middle-class to travel by air and connectivity to places that were earlier not well-connected aerially. Mr. Fernandes’ biggest achievement has been to open up countries within the South-Asian region, which previously did not have open-skies agreements, to new budget carriers. He has always focused on reaching out to the remotest parts of the planet in order to connect these with the rest of the world.

TURNING THE DREAMS TO TRAVEL INTO REALITY

While establishing the airline, Fernandes’ vision was to make air travel affordable for everyone as he was well aware of the fact that that people want the best prices for the tickets and unbeatable airfare deals that can help them in maintaining their travel budget. So he came up with a unique and bold idea of providing discounted airfares that can let the passengers travel anywhere, anytime without burning a hole in their pocket. It also allowed them to book a last-minute flight without caring about the ticket prices as the airline started offering plenty of lucrative offers to its customers. Through its attractive offers and smooth booking process, the airline has become a one -stop destination to explore, dream and venture to new places and cultures and turning the commoner’s dreams to travel by air into reality.

He has a multifaceted personality and is an expert in handling various operations with utmost dexterity. Tune Hotels, a hotel chain based on the no frills concept having its presence in Britain, Australia and the far-east was the brainchild of Mr. Fernandes. He won the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award 2017, which is issued annually by Asia House, the Londonbased Centre of Expertise on Asia, to recognise outstanding contribution to Asian business and society. He was honoured for AirAsia’s success and his ‘championing’ of ASEAN.

Living Life Meaningfully

Believing that “No one person can define success or happiness for anyone else; one has to find one’s own path,” Tapan Singhel defines success as “to be simple, take life as it comes, and to help people I meet smile more.”

DESTINY INSURED

He reminisces that he always wanted to be a scientist and was trained to be one. However, a challenge by a friend – that he of course won – got him into insurance. The story goes like this, in his own words: “One of my friends suggested that I take part in an entrance exam to be recruited as a senior officer in a government insurance company. I refused but he challenged me saying it’s just an IQ test. I took up the challenge, cleared it and joined the company in 1991, which was also my first job. Since then there has been no looking back.”

He has not only been associated with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company (BAGIC) since its inception, but he has also consistently achieved significant newer milestones for BAGIC, finally bringing it to the pedestal of one of Asia’s best insurance companies through his lofty vision and untiring efforts. Being a thorough professional, he has made significant and path-breaking contributions to BAGIC and while doing so has created an exceptional and incredible experience for himself throughout his journey.

DARK HORSE OF THE LONG RACES

Mr. Singhel’s love for challenges has always enabled him to triumph with an edge over others, be it winning clients, achieving targets, and getting a good P&L ratio in his profession or achieving varied forms of success in his personal life. His experience during his college years, when he finally pulled himself back together in his final year and secured a position among the toppers, after lagging behind in his first two years of graduation, left him with a great learning that “one can bounce back and emerge stronger from any given situation.”

His positive thinking, passion, enthusiasm and the white heat of desire to make the most of any given situation invariably gave him an additional sway over any impediments that came between him and his goals. He shares, “I never got disheartened or depressed whenever I faced hurdles in my journey. I would always put my best effort and never lost faith in my abilities. Facing and overcoming these challenges have played a major role in shaping my personality.”

NEED FOR TRANSFORMATION

One of the most knowledgeable persons on earth on insurance issues, Mr. Singhel has been endeavouring on two fronts to develop the insurance sector as one of the most rewarding in our economy: creating sturdy infrastructure through development of technology, and creating ample awareness so people are inclined to utilize the benefits and financial tools provided by various insurance policies.

Realizing that the optimum level of development, awareness, inclusiveness and participation in this sector can be achieved only with concerted and joint efforts of the government and the private sector, he has contributed immensely in his own capacity towards growth of insurance as a social cause. Being ever-optimistic about public and private sectors together achieving towering targets, he feels, “Together they have introduced and implemented several schemes for Crop, Personal Accident, Health and even Life Insurance. Several more such ideas and suggestions are in pipeline. The key to this lies in implementing insurance solutions and creating awareness by bringing together entire communities right from the grassroots, into the mission. Insurance would be a household name if all the stakeholders put collaborative community-level efforts.”

His devotion for making valuable changes in the insurance sector is reflected in his insights that he offered to AsiaOne on being asked what reforms would he bring if he had a wand of absolute power. “I would have made the entire economies understand the role of insurance as a social cause, a powerful tool that bridges the gap between economic losses and insured losses. Also I would take insurance to the last mile of the country, with seamless transactions and products simplified to a level where anyone would be able to choose the best cover as per his/her requirements. And lastly, I would take away the negative perception that is associated with this industry. We are in the business of doing good, by helping out people in their direst hours of need. It is actually one of the noblest professions one could be in!”

REWARDING LIFE

To promote the nobility of his profession, he has been spreading the awareness on goodness of insurance since beginning. In the process, he has gathered invigorating memories and profound moments of satisfaction since the beginning of his career. He recalls one incident where he went personally to give the cheque to the widow of an accident victim. “The tears that I saw in the eyes of the widow and her kids when we handed over the cheque made me realize the importance of my work and its impact on the society at large.”

He has drawn constant inspiration from his family – his parents were his greatest teachers who have greatly contributed in making him what he is today. His wife and daughters have taught him to be agile and take challenges head on.

Though he has won several awards in his life, he still considers that his biggest award is the smile on the face of the person who has faced a lot due to unforeseen circumstances.

BACK TO THE SOCIETY

Believing that like individuals, companies too have a soul and a thought process that drives them to take up social causes, personally and professionally he has made immense difference to the lives of people. He and BAGIC have undertaken activities for the welfare and empowerment of local communities, consequently enhancing lives of children from underprivileged background, with the understanding that they are the future of the country, and irrespective of their background they should get equal opportunity to create a bright future for themselves. He is associated with NGOs such as Smile Train India, Association of Rural and Urban Needy – Project Rainbow Homes, SOS children’s village and have created care centres and charity trusts at some of the leading hospitals in Maharashtra that take care of treatments for the indigent.

He is extremely passionate about life, and thus advises the youth to be passionate about everything they do in life, and also enjoy what they do thoroughly.

M A Yusuff Ali

MAN OF INNOVATIVE IDEAS

Born on 15 November, 1955 in the Thrissur district, young Yusuff completed his schooling from Natika. He later went to Gujarat to acquire diploma in the field of Business Management and Administration. From a very early age he fancied becoming a businessman.

In the year 1973, an 18 year old Yusuff left his homeland to join his uncle in Abu Dhabi who ran a manufacturing company there. Yusuff was a quick learner. Not only he clearly understood the business process but also started coming up with innovative ideas to boost their enterprise presence.

Yusuff developed the wholesale distribution of the group and soon set foot in the retail industry. With the launch of Lulu Hypermarkets, MA Yusuff Ali had marked his arrival in style. In the 1990’s when UAE was witnessing a sea of economical changes, Yusuff Ali found it to be the best time to take control and the company started rolling out Hypermarkets across the country.

With a motivated leadership and a dedicated employee bench, Lulu Group has bloomed day and night in the retail industry. The firm today has a hundred and fourteen supermarkets, hypermarkets along with grocery outlets and most of them can be found in the Middle East.

The company then started expanding across to other countries, and without surprise their products were widely accepted and the company now has a firm base in the Malaysian and Indonesian market.

The young boy from India might have left his motherland in search of a better future but he certainly never forgot his childhood. Lulu Group has significantly invested in the Indian Sub-continent. It owns a Lulu Mall and a couple of Marriott Hotels in Cochin. The company is engaged with building a technology park known as the Lulu Tech Park along
with the Grand Hyatt hotel.

Mr. Ali as has also revealed his plans about investing four hundred and thirty five million dollars in Telangana, a southern Indian state which will have a chain of supermarkets, malls and convention centers.

EXPANDING HORIZONS

Yusuff Ali has never settled with the things he and his company have achieved. He is known for his never ending curiosity and will to do something new in every aspect of life.

The 62 year old tycoon is now thinking towards vividly expanding into the hospitality sector and the group has already started working towards realizing this dream. Lulu Group International recently signed a $170-million agreement with London-based property developer Galliard Homes to create a five-star hotel at the site of the original Scotland Yard Police Station in London.

Not stopping by with the hospitality industry, MA Yusuf Ali is also a major player in the retail banking sector. Mr. Yusuff has always emphasized on the need of a good and capable team. He believes in the fact that the leader is only as good as his team. Under the employment umbrella of Lulu, come more than 35,000 people from 37 nationalities.

Mr. Yusuff is renowned for his philanthropic character as he is very actively involved in social and humanitarian activities across India and West Asia. MA Yusuff is a proud father of three daughters and makes sure that he spends enough quality time with family. His work has been recognized by the Indian government and he has been bestowed with the Padma Shri Award in 2008 and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in the year 2005.