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Ambani of the Gulf bets big on Indian market

Last updated on: June 1, 2012 12:59 IST

Ambani of the Gulf bets big on Indian market

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Ruchika Chitravanshi in New Delhi

With a house on the top floor of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, Bahrain-based India-born billionaire Ravi Pillai is planning big-buck investments across the construction, hospitality, real estate and healthcare sectors in India.

Often referred to as the 'Ambani of the Gulf', his investment partners and he are looking at putting serious money in sectors that interest him. In what could be a coincidence, the group is in talks with Reliance Industries for taking up construction work at a petrochemical plant in Jamnagar, Pillai said.

"If all the resources are utilised properly, India can be the number one country in the world. To develop any country, there is a need for good leadership and good team work," Pillai, chairman and CEO of the RP Group, said. He is part of a visiting business delegation from Bahrain.

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Image: Ravi Pillai, chairman and CEO of the RP Group
Photographs: Courtesy, RP Group

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The RP Group has business interests in construction, healthcare, travel and tourism and education sectors, with a annual turnover of $3 billion and a workforce of 65,000 people. Pillai, among the biggest employers for Indians in the Gulf, said, "Investors want guaranteed results."

He added, "I can bring up to $5 billion investments to India, along with my investment partners, who are keen on this market."

From a farming community of Kerala, he started his own chit-fund business upon deciding there wasn't enough money in farming.

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Image: The RP Group has business interests in construction, healthcare, travel and tourism and education sectors, with a annual turnover of $3 billion
Photographs: Fabrizio Bensc/Reuters

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Ambani of the Gulf bets big on Indian market

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This Padma Shri award winner's life is quite a rags-to-riches story. Never for a moment, he says, has he regretted moving to the Gulf in the 1980s, when his construction business in India suffered due to a workers' strike. Although he did not leave India on the most pleasant note, he is sure he would not have been able to build a business empire, had he stayed back.

In India, Pillai has invested Rs 1,000-1,500 crore (Rs 10-15 billion) in the past year, most of it in the hospitality sector. This includes purchase of The Leela, Kovalam, for Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion).

Pillai has been close friends with the Nairs of the Leela group and is also in talks for buying the Leela's Chennai property. The matter is still in the negotiation stages, mainly over the asking price of Rs 700 crore (Rs 7 billion). Pillai is also in dialogue with other hospitality chains for buying more hotels in India, mostly in the luxury sector.

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Image: Pillai purchased The Leela, Kovalam for Rs 5 billion
Photographs: Courtesy, Leela Group

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His company has also building two five-star hotels in Kozhikode. While one is going to be called Raviz, which is also present in Dubai, the other is yet to be named.

Ask him why only luxury and he says, "Where else will the royal people stay? I want to provide good bed, good food and service. Also, I want to host my international friends from Korea, Japan, America in Kerala. So, we need to have good hotels."

Besides the Gulf, the company has set up its office in Mumbai and plans to recruit about 20,000 people next year. It recently expanded its operations in the construction business in Australia.


Image: RG Group has set up its office in Mumbai and plans to recruit about 20,000 people next year
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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