Jawaharlal Gangaramani owns 12 companies in UAE with 18000 employees under its umbrella. He is the man who built the palace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
This is the success story of how a young Sindhi civil engineer who set up a construction company in a foreign land and became the UAE’s Building Magnate. His story is material for a management lesson. It’s a salute to the spirit of entrepreneurship nestling in any ambitious expat.
Jawaharlal Gangaramani came to the UAE 46-years ago as a project engineer to work, ironically, in Dubai’s distinctive landmark — the World Trade Centre. But, displeased at working for someone and being a perfectionist, this ambitious Sindhi decided to strike out on his own and formed his own company — Al Fara’a General Constructions. Since its inception in 1980, this company has executed over 200 residential and commercial projects valued at billions of Dirhams.
The palace of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at Al Wathba, the Mafraq hospital, the ultra-modern Al Mariah complex and almost “one tower in every street of Abu Dhabi” are but a few of the buildings they’ve built.
This businessman has also branched out into philanthropy, into art in the form of painting canvasses, and is deeply involved in the activities of the Art of Living organization.
His wife Usha Gangaramani seems the perfect foil to this Al Ain-based high-profile businessman. Acquainted with the Art of Living program first from her husband in 1999, she’s now an ardent believer. “My husband, suffering from stress at work, benefitted from this course and I got influenced by his enthusiasm.”
“It’s amazing how by just giving 30 minutes of your time every day you can go out and face life,” says Usha.
This mother of three subsequently completed a teacher’s training course in Bangalore, India, and is equipped to conduct her own classes.
“It was love at first sight for me. When I first met Usha in a family function, I was instantly drawn to her. I was 29 years old and I felt my search for a soulmate was over. I did not know her name but proposed to her instantly. To me marriage was about starting a life with another person, of setting up my own house and having children,” Jawahar Gangaramani had told Gulf News in an interview.
“I believe, I can term our marriage as successful. The reason being we took care to give and not consider what we get out of the marriage.”
“It helps that we share similar beliefs, for example, we are on the same wavelength spiritually — together we feel we should take time from our busy schedule and help society now.”
“We love plays, meeting people and creative activities. While I paint, she loves designing interiors through the interior design section of the company,” Jawahar said.
“We might quarrel over small things but Usha always makes up with me quickly. She hates any distance between us. We’ve also matured together and reached a stage where we don’t let any differences between us take center-stage.”
He told, “The strength I draw from my wife is her support. Life must have been difficult for her when she had first followed me out here. I had no time; I was busy setting up the business. She must have been lonely but she never complained. There were no conflicts over bringing up the children either, since they respected me and fell in line with my organized and disciplined nature. Truly, I believe, life can be won over with common sense.”
“We live for the moment, believe we are blessed and want to work to bring happiness to others. We believe there’s love inside us and love can change everything, even people who are against you.”
Usha told, “When I first met Jawahar, I felt there was this instant connection. There was chemistry between us and we got along well from the start. In fact, his first words to me were ‘Will you marry me?’ I was taken aback. I was expecting an inquisition and was ready to field the standard questions from a prospective groom. It was not his physical appearance I was attracted to but the energy inside him.”
“When I first followed him out here in 1979, I was not even 20 years old. Coming from a joint family situation, I felt alone in Al Ain. My husband too was busy and had no time for me. I did not meet anyone for a month sometimes. But, I wanted to be a supportive wife and weathered that period out. I am reaping the benefits of that now. Even if we have differences I make up quickly to bridge the silence between us.”
“My husband and I believe in destiny. After the Art of Living course, we are more appreciative of our life together. But, you also have to work to make a marriage successful.”
She said, “There’s no mantra expect you have to give each other space and unconditional love. You cannot concentrate on what you did not get but how much you get from this marriage.”
“We also share a lot in common. We love meeting new people. Jawahar is a great host and invites people home. We’ve also matured as two individuals. We realize we are blessed and can help others less fortunate than us. We are at this stage in our lives, where we accept situations and people as they are, to help and live every moment to the max.”
Their three children, highly educated, are also involved in business and holding key positions in their father’s companies.
Jawaharlal Gangaramani was born in Mumbai. After graduating in Structural Engineering from Bombay University in 1971 and starting his career in Mumbai, he moved to Dubai, in 1974, to work as an engineer in a local construction company and got involved in the construction of Dubai World Trade Centre.
In 1980, he split with his employer and joined Al Fara’a General Contracting Company, along with founder Adel Saleh, a UAE businessperson. The company, has since, grown into a conglomerate, Al Fara’a Group, with 12 companies and 18,000 employees under its umbrella, and presence in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Al Fara’a General Contracting has taken up a new name, Al Fara’a General Constructions, and remains the flagship company of the group. The group has interests in construction, real estate, infrastructure, interiors and education.
Dr. Gangaramani was listed by the Arabian Business.com as 45th among most powerful Indians in the Persian Gulf region. Forbes Middle East listed him as the 21st among top 100 Indian leaders in the region. He lives in the UAE with his wife, Usha and three daughters, Shalini, Natasha and Heera. He is also counted among the richest Indian in the Persian Gulf, Rediff.com placing him at 18th position.
Dr. Gangaramani’s contributions to the society have been widely reported in the media and generally acknowledged by public institutions. He has established two institutions, Al Fara’a Foundation and R. P. Gangaramani Charitable Trust, to channel his charity activities.
Dr. Gangaramani supports many non-governmental organizations such as Special Care Centre in Abu Dhabi, the Hope Centre in Al Ain and Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care, Special Needs and Minor Affairs, involved in the education and personal development of under-privileged children. He also supports Deepalaya, Children’s Rights in India (CRY), Oxfam India and Jeev Sewa Sansthan, NGO s based in Mumbai, and engaged in welfare activities related orphan children.
On the education front, Gangaramani entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UAE to support a three-year integrated program for the promotion and development of Emiratis. He supports a training center in Al Ain, which provides vocational training to unskilled laborers.
Al Fara’a Group, under Dr. Gangaramani, was one of the first business groups in the UAE to offer support to the returning laborers during the Amnesty in 2012. He also contributed for the construction of the headquarters for Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam (Association of Bahrain Keralites).
President and Executive chairman – Al Fara’a Group
President and Executive chairman – Al Fara’a Properties
Chairman – Al Fara’a Properties
Chairman and managing director – Al Fara’a General Constructions
Founder member – Indian Business Council – Abu Dhabi
Awards and Recognitions
Padma Shri – Government of India – 2010
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman – Government of India – 2009
Pazhassiraja Puraskar (Vyavasaya Ratna)- Government of Maharashtra – 2011
Global Indian Achiever of the Year – Construction Week India – 2012
Honoris Causa Doctorate – University of Georgia