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“People Thought We Could Only Be Cooks And Drivers. I Head A $3 Bn Global Firm Now”

Success is not easy; the rocky road leading to it is filled with numerous hurdles that tests ones patience, grit and determination. The ones who get past these roadblocks are sure to find rewards. As the saying goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but getting to the end of the tunnel without giving up is the real challenge.  One such example of strong determination is Ravi Pillai, who has also known as ‘Ambani of the Gulf’.

Ravi Pillai’s larger than life story of going from rags to riches is not something that happened overnight, but is a result of his persistent dedication and hard work. Hailing from a farming community of Kollam district, Kerala, Ravi couldn’t figure out why they had such a hard time making ends meet despite all the farming and work. This was the time he decided to be an entrepreneur and provide jobs. He achieved this while he was still in college. He started a chit-fund company with an initial amount of Rs 1 lakh that he borrowed locally. Soon he was making a profit of Rs 15,000-20,000 monthly. He reinvested his profits in his company.

After graduation, he went on to pursue a Masters in Business Administration while still working. That was an era when the construction industry was gaining ground in Kerala and he used this opportunity to start his own company that did sub-contract work. He hired engineers and workers and got the company rolling. His clients included FACT and Cochin Refineries; however the largest chunk of his business came from Velloor Hindustan Newsprint. However, soon the workers decided to boycott work as they believed that outsiders were taking over their business.

At this juncture, Ravi quit everything and decided to move to the Gulf. In 1978, Ravi reached the foreign shores of Saudi Arabia. He didn’t know anyone there and risked all his savings by finding a local partner whose name he could use to get started. The investment was entirely his. Back then, most deals happened verbally and there were no legal documents signed. The risk was huge and yet he decided to go ahead with it. Ravi also got into trading goods and in 2 years time he had managed to raise capital for his company.

Thus, was born Nasser S Al Hajri Corporation with 150 people. Ravi recruited people from Nagercoil and soon they were getting some big projects. Thereafter, he stepped into the refinery and petroleum projects. Those days when the Koreans owned several businesses in the Middle East and Indians were considered only fit to become cooks, drivers or gardeners. In a smart move, Ravi hired a Korean and soon they were making their foray into the Petroleum and Refinery industry. With right steps at the right time they were soon making 100 percent profits every year.

Soon more work came rolling from American, Canadian and other Saudi Arabian companies. Today, Ravi Pillai’s companies employ over 60,000 people and 75% of them are Indians making him the the largest employer of Indians in the Gulf. Ravi is glad that his efforts have enabled him to help other people get a good life. He is glad to see his country prosper and progress. He was ranked 34th by Forbes rich list and heads the $3 billion RP Group of Companies.

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