Cover Story


December 5 - 11, 2018

Gulf Weekly Stan Szecowka
By Stan Szecowka


ONE of the world’s top business personalities has flown into Bahrain for this morning’s official opening of his company’s latest hypermarket located inside one of the kingdom’s newest malls.

Yusuff Ali M. A., an Indian businessman and philanthropist, will be attending the 100,000sqft store’s ribbon and cake-cutting inauguration ceremony at The Atrium Mall & Towers, close to the Saudi causeway on the edge of Janabiya and Saar.

It will be the 156th Lulu Hypermarket and the seventh on the island and the chairman and managing director of Lulu Group International, which owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide, remains as enthusiastic today as he did when his amazing retail journey began.

Speaking exclusively to GulfWeekly he said: “I’m always excited about welcoming yet another store to our growing network.

“It’s a new beginning, a fresh opportunity to serve customers and grow a circle of valued clients. The Atrium Mall is designed in a unique manner and with a university adjoining it, there will be excellent footfall – and its geographic location next to the Saudi-Bahrain causeway will help us to tap a new market.

“It’s also a sign of Lulu Group’s unwavering confidence in Bahrain as an economic growth centre. I thank His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, HRH the Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and HRH the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa for the confidence they have reposed on us. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Deputy Premier His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.”

GulfWeekly covered the opening of the first store in 2007 at Dana Mall in Sanabis. It wowed shoppers with the concept of competitively-priced food, electrical items, clothing, homeware and more. It expanded its presence to Riffa, A’ali’s Ramli Mall, Hidd, Juffair Mall and Galleria Mall, Zinj before the latest venture.

“Over the 11 years that we have been in Bahrain, we have grown tremendously and I believe that we have changed the way the retail industry serves customers,” said Yusuffali.

“The Lulu promise of quality, variety and cost-effectiveness truly made a mark. But as a business house, what we found attractive about Bahrain was the vision of its leaders, the ease of doing business and the transparency of the business environment. And, to add to this, the people of Bahrain – whether in government, in our team as staff or in our shops as customers – have given their regard to Lulu and I am humbled to receive this respect.”

So, why has the Lulu concept proved so successful? Yusuffali, from Nattika, Thrissur district, Kerala, explained: “Firstly, wherever we establish our footprint, we embrace the community. We spend time finding out what makes the community tick and we become a part of it.

“In Bahrain, for example, you will find that while our core customer service values are the same, our aisles are stocked slightly differently to meet specific area needs. Moreover, every employee from the directors to the shop floor assistant believes that the customer comes first.

“It is this attention to detail that makes shopping at Lulu a personalised experience and not just an anonymous, impersonal one. That, I believe is our USP (unique selling point).”

The new store will keep the winning formula, he promises. “I want to thank every resident of Bahrain for their warmth and loyalty to Lulu,” said Yusuffali. “I’m sure that the new store shall also live up to the much-appreciated Lulu retail experience. We look forward to serving our customers in this new hypermarket.

“I always say, if the shoppers cannot come to Lulu, Lulu will go to them! And, at Atrium Mall, we will be straddling two major geographic locations – the Saar and Janabiyah area of Bahrain, as well as the steady stream of customers from Saudi Arabia. So this 156th store is certainly getting close to the community in a different way.”

The slip-road into Saar and Janibaya, off the Saudi Highway, has been dubbed ‘Saudi Corner’ by locals, as revealed exclusively in GulfWeekly when building work started, and the Atrium Mall & Towers is the second of four new shopping and leisure destinations to open in the vicinity.

The mall is owned by a group of real estate investors and operated by a management team.

It will eventually boast 55 retail stores and food and beverage outlets, a children’s play palace and cinema complex. The university is housed in the east tower and the west tower will be residential.

Mall manager Prakash Sorari said his mobile phone ‘hasn’t stopped ringing’ since news that Lulu was to open and he was ‘so excited’ he couldn’t eat. It’s a case of déjà vu as he was in a similar role at Galleria Mall when Lulu opened there in 2016.

As well as local residents and Saudi visitors, Lulu’s first-floor store will have the added bonus of serving students and staff members attending the newly-opened campus of The British University of Bahrain, which works in partnership with the University of Salford, Manchester.

With that in mind, the store will have a make-your-own salad bar, gluten free, healthy local and world cuisine options. It also promises numerous opening ‘super deals – super savings’ on its massive range of goods.

Yusuffali’s astute business vision and strategic mind have evolved ambitious growth plans for the group and ensured their materialisation through a team of people who share his drive and dynamism. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, the group is best known in the Gulf through its chain of popular malls and stores.

Lulu Group, with its 48,600 strong workforce from 37 different nations and operational bases extending over the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Turkey, Spain, the UK, US, Philippines, Sri Lanka and India, is one of the most successful corporates of the times with a steadily ascending growth curve over the years with an annual turnover of $7.4 billion globally.

Apart from his busy business involvement, Yusuffali is equally active on the social front and is associated with various organisations. The philanthropist in him has always come to the forefront in organising huge and timely relief measures from the Gulf during recent natural calamities in India.

In recognition of his remarkable achievements in business and industry and his distinguished services in the field of social work, he was conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award by the former President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

He has also been bestowed with a British royal accolade for his contribution towards boosting international trade. Lord Lieutenant John Crabtree, HM The Queen’s special representative, handed over the award to Yusuffali during a glittering ceremony held at the Birmingham Council House. Later in the day he met Her Majesty at a royal reception for the Queen’s Award recipients at Buckingham Palace.

Despite the awards and business success, Yusuffali has no plans to rest on his laurels. “I’m very lucky to be living in an age when technology has shrunk the world,” he said. “My home country India and my country of adoption, the UAE, is where I spend most of my time but as the Lulu Group expands around the world, I think wherever there is a Lulu or the potential for one, will be a place I shall feel at home in. As they say – the world is my oyster!”

And the worldwide web will be playing a part too. “I must also take forward my first statement and tell you that we shall shortly launch our powerful online shopping experience – and then Lulu will definitely be closer to its customers than ever before,” he said.

As for bricks and mortar, Yusuffali is not counting. “I’m not fixated on numbers,” he said. “The Lulu Group works towards a holistic success rather than any set number of stores.

“I must say that I believe that market phenomenon such as recession or slowdown are temporary conditions and it does not stop us from forging ahead with our plans.

“We are currently working on 26 different projects in different countries in the GCC as well as in Egypt, India and the Far East. I think we shall be crossing our 200th hypermarket mark by 2020.”


More on Cover Story