It's a grand looking award ceremony in a five star hotel in Dubai. It's an all Malayali function too, in which many mid level businessmen from Kerala who have been successful in the Gulf, are being honoured by VIPs specially air-dashed from Kerala. The number of awardees is 25.
There are many such successful businessmen in various GCC countries, who are craving to be well-known. Such people have no problem in coughing out a few thousands of dirhams once they are selected for an award by an organisation. In return, they get media coverage, a presentation of their achievements in front of an invited audience, an award sculpture and a dinner with VIPs. Because their numbers are more than two dozens, the money collected from them covers all expenses and the organisers make a nice packet of profit too.
But our topic this week is not awards, but the lot of successful Malayali businessmen who win these awards. There are hundreds of such businessmen in the Gulf and this lot has come up in the last 20 years. There are a handful of billionaires among them, and hundreds of millionaires. It's as though the enterprising among the Malayalis have chosen to do business not back home, but outside India.
First came the poor Malayalis, who reached the dream shores of Dubai in small boats and worked hard in menial jobs are almost over. Then engineers, doctors and executives came. Now it's the turn of entrepreneurs. From job seekers to job givers-It has been a long way for Malayalis. Back home Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy calls for the same transformation, but it's translated in to reality in the Gulf.
There is no exact figure of how many Malayalais are there in the UAE. But there are 2.6 million Indians. Of the total Indians, minimum of 40 per cent are Malayalais according to Indian Ambassador to UAE T. P. Seetharam. It means there are more than a million Malayalais there. It's estimated by Indian organisations that, there are 50,000 to 80,000 business ventures in UAE run by Indians. If 40 per cent of them are owned by Malayalis that means there are more than 20,000 such ventures. And that includes cloth ironing centres, small restaurants serving sardine fish curry and rice, to super markets,Schools, hospitals, clinics, factories and finally retail behemoths like the LuLu international.
If trade union leaders of Kerala happen to see the work culture there, they would be shocked out of their wits. They would feel the impulse to declare agitation like they do back home. Working hours exceed 14 hours, no weekly off days or annual leave. Waiters in many restaurants have no salary, only tip is their income.
But there is a steady stream of creative people from Kerala to Gulf these days. After Free zone was established in UAE, local sponsorship is no longer required. If you can shell out about 25,000 dirhams, you can start your own company and be on your own. Professionals from media, multi media, event management, advertising, art, photography,film making etc. are flocking to UAE these days.
This is how Malayalis who were till now labourers evolve in to big time investors. They are getting rich and they occupy the higher echelons of the society now. To know about the Malayalis power in investment, go to not to Kerala, but to UAE.
Last post. In a Malayali owned restaurant chain with more than 30 branches, Philippine girls and Malayali men are employed as waiters. There is a curious reason. Philipinos work like machines, doing whatever they are told to do. But if there is a crisis, a decision or wise intervention required, the Philipinos have no clue. There, clever Malayali are needed. Hence!