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Murari Jalan, the man with links to Gupta brothers, now behind Jet Airways revival

The low-profile businessman is also said to have alleged links to Ramdev's Patanjali

Untitled design (40) Murari Jalan | Image Courtesy: Murari Jalan Twitter

More than half a year after he gatecrashed the Indian aviation space, Murari Jalan, the man who breathed life into the bidding process of Jet Airways, is still an individual shrouded in mystery. The man is again making headlines as the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Tuesday gave its nod to the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium's bid for the airline and the resolution professional is hopeful that the carrier will be back in the skies by the end of this year.

Reportedly, Ranchi, Jharkhand-born Jalan lives by the adage "don’t put all your eggs in one basket". His business interests span across diverse sectors like real estate, mining, trading, construction, fast moving consumer goods, dairy, travel & tourism, and industrial works. Hence, an investment in the aviation sector seems to be a natural progression. Similarly, his investments also span across geographies—from Russia to Uzbekistan to the UAE and India. 

Jalan began his career in the 1980s Calcutta taking over his family's paper trading business. Jalan have also reportedly worked as a trader for established manufacturers such as JK Paper and Ballarpur Industries. After a successful stint at paper trading, he is said to have set up a business in photo imaging and distribution of its equipment. 

Once Jalan moved his base to the UAE, he quickly expanded to sectors such as real estate, mining, fast-moving consumer goods, and construction. He was chairman of the Agio Image group, which sold and distributed photographic and consumer products of well-known companies such as Sony, Panasonic, and Konica.

According to various media reports, Jalan acquired Kolkata-based Kanoi Paper and Industries and renamed it to Agio Paper in 2003 to expand his paper trading business. Later in 2015, Jalan acquired stake in the company of Dr. Naresh Trehan and Associates Health Services for Rs 75 crore. Yet, little is known about his story to riches. 

Interestingly, Jalan has been focused on Uzbekistan, a part of erstwhile Soviet Union, after having significant investments in the country capital of Tashkent. It is learnt that his real estate development company, ‘M J Developers’, has contributed to the infrastructural development of Namangan and Bukhara cities in the country that gained independence in 1991. 

"An investor is always on the lookout for opportunities. We have always been attracted to investing in developing markets for the new and fresh challenges and excitement it brings and the growth scalability It offers compared to saturated markets of the Gulf & West. Moreover, we are fascinated by the region’s culture, tradition," Jalan was quoted by an online portal in response to a question on his interest in Uzbekistan. 

Headquartered in Dubai, MJ Developers' main businesses span over countries such as Russia, Brazil, and India. 

News reports also give cues to "mysterious yet unestablished links" between Jalan and Patanjali Ayurved owned by Baba Ramdev. Reportedly, there are documents with Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs which show that the company of Murari Lal would be involved in trading, export, distribution, and marketing of milk products, health foods, herbal medicines and ayurvedic cosmetic items for Patanjali. "Regardless of these claims, the company never opened, and the founders never looked back on it. We do know that Patanjali Ayurved is owned by the yoga guru, Baba Ramdev. However, it is not clear whether the two companies are linked in some way," a report in Marketfeed says.

The Jalan family also has close ties with the Gupta brothers (Ajay, Atul, Rajesh Gupta) of South Africa who are facing serious charges of corruption in that country. Shashank Singhal, son of Atul Gupta, is married to Jalan's niece Shivangi.

A BusinessLine report early this year said that Jalan was mulling to start a full-service airline and develop an airport in Uzbekistan. Jalan does not have an aviation background but members of the Kalrock management, including Manoj Madnani and John Oram, have looked at cargo and logistics while working for Polish billionaire Jan Kulczyk. Yet, questions and concerns remain galore on Jalan and how the low-profile businessman is charting Jet Airways return to the skies. 

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