Get immense support from UAE government, says Lulu Group CEO

IMEC will usher in a new era of connectivity


Interview/ Saifee Rupawala, CEO, Lulu Group

Q) The UAE-based Lulu Group is today one of the world’s fastest growing retail chains. You have been with the Lulu Group for almost four decades. How much credit do you give to the UAE government in helping Lulu Group to reach where it is today? 

Right from day one of our operations in UAE, the support and cooperation of the UAE government has been immense, be it the direct help towards our group or the general all-round business environment of this great country. The business-friendly environment, world-class infrastructure, and ease of doing business that UAE offers has been incomparable thanks mainly to the visionary leadership over the years. What I find incredible is the way the law and regulations have been regularly revised to adapt to the changing global dynamics i.e., introduction of 100 per cent business ownership, long term golden visa scheme, free zones, property ownership for expats to name a few.

Q) UAE has more than 3.5 million people of Indian nationality, which is the single largest community of Indian origin in the world. Doesn’t that make UAE a hub for Indian firms and startups? 

Undoubtedly, the role Indians have played in the growth of UAE over the years has been very crucial and vice a versa the role of UAE in the success stories of many Indian organizations is truly remarkable. If in early days Indians were predominantly in the blue color jobs and other similar professions, today the UAE plays home to some of the brightest brains from India. Almost all leading Indian organizations have their bases here now and they not only cater to the local markets but also to the wider Gulf region. UAE today has exclusive ministries such as AI, investments, happiness, which is focused to making this country the most favored destination for any startup.

Q) Has the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the UAE and India helped the Lulu Group? 

As one of the largest retailers, currently Lulu group imports a substantial amount of food & non-food products from India for our 258 hypermarkets and supermarkets in the region, and this import volume will further grow as a result of this new CEPA initiatives which grants us the privilege of duty exemption on all imports, resulting in significant advantages for our group.

Q) The ties between UAE and India have been very good in the recent times. Who do you give credit for it? Was there a visible change after Narendra Modi became the prime minister?

The strong ties between the UAE and India have been built on mutual respect and shared interests for a long time now. Both countries have worked diligently to strengthen this relationship, and, yes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership and his personal brotherly relationship with the leaders of UAE has further strengthened it.

Today the UAE is India's third-largest trading partner and the second-largest export destination for Indian products. For the UAE, India is the second-largest trading partner. The UAE is also the seventh-largest investor in India. I see a great opportunity in further boosting the Agri-exports from India and would like to see easing of regulations to this effect, which will go a long way in ensuring food security and boosting economic cooperation between our nations.

Q) What are your views on the proposed India-Middle East-Europe-Economic Corridor? How is it going to help India and the UAE? 

This landmark corridor is expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration across two continents, thus unlocking sustainable and inclusive economic growth. It will surely usher in a new era of connectivity with a railway, linked through ports connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, driving existing trade and manufacturing and strengthening food security and supply chains of both India and the UAE by opening up new markets and economic opportunities.

Q) What are the expansion plans that Lulu is looking at? Earlier this year the group launched logistics and packaging facility under the name Y International. 

Lulu Group continues to explore various expansion opportunities both in existing markets as well as new ones across the world. Apart from growing our retail footprint in MENA, India and the Far East, we are focused on strengthening our food sourcing and processing hubs globally. Today we have our own “sourcing & export” operation in 24 countries from the US to Philippines which ensures uninterrupted supply and price stability that is very crucial for our huge retail operations and food security initiatives of the UAE.