New Delhi, Jan 10: Looking for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, he left the backwaters of Kerala in 1978 to have a date with destiny in the Gulf.
Some 30 years down the line, Dr Ravi Pillai, the Bahrain-based tycoon is presiding over a business empire that is valued at 2.5 million US dollars and also generating employment for 28,000 Indians, thus becoming the single largest employer of Indians in the Gulf. But what makes Dr Pillai stand out in the legion of NRIs who ave struck it rich in their adopted countries is not merely his taggering wealth but also his emotional bonding with his parent country.
Touted as the 'Ambanis of the Gulf'', Dr Pillai, Managing Director of the Bahrain-based construction services major Naseer S.l Hajri Corporation (NSH) and Petrochem, Saudi Arabia, was in the capital to receive the 'Pravasi Bharatiya Samman' from President Pratibha Patil at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) conclave.
"I have employed a total of 35,000 people in the industrial contracting and oil refining sector. Among them are 28,000 Indians, and this makes me the single largest employer of Indians in the Gulf,'' he said.
But the dream of the business magnate is to recruit another 20,000 people from India in the next three months. ''I have recently signed several multi-million US dollar contracts with various international clients, which will enable me to recruit another 20,000 people from India in the coming three months as my operations in the Gulf are being expanded,'' said the unassuming businessman, whose phenomenal success typifies a happy
blend of business with philanthropy.
Dr Pillai said over the past two years his employees had been remitting to India Rs 70 crore every month on average. ''This remittance will increase in coming months. This is in line with our group's mission of constantly supporting India's economic growth,'' he added.
Awash with money and imbued with an extrtaordinary business acumen, he also talked at length on his future projects in India, Kerala in particular.
''I have drawn plans to invest in a big way in hospitality and medical tourism in India. Talks are also under way with the authorities for investments in the petro-chemical and infrastructure sectors,'' said the businessman, whose construction services cater to the needs of industries like refineries, oil and gas, petrochemicals, fertilisers, cement, power, desalination and steel.
He also talked about his interest to enter India's booming infrastructure sector, particularly construction of roads and highways, and the petro-chemical sector. In fact, the Kerala government has sought his investment in the proposed expressway in the southern state.
Dr Pillai said he would be constructing star hotels in Delhi and Chennai with an investment of Rs 120 crore, and these hotels would be better than the best in India. ''The hotels will be of international standards and will provide the best facilities available in the hospitality sector,'' he asserted.
In Kollam, his home town in Kerala, he said he would promote medical tourism in a big way by constructing a Rs 100-crore medical resort. He has already set up the Upasana Hospital and Research centre in Kollam where the poor receive free medical treatment.
Dr Pillai has also donated land to 100 orphanages in Kerala in a continuing contribution to the cause of the wretched humanity. He said he would explore the possibility of entering into micro-financing projects to help unemployed people and families with no income to help them become productive members of the community.
''What gives me a feeling of pride and satisfaction is that my skilled manpower, including engineers, get a salary of 10,000 dollars a month, which is the comparable to the best in the world,'' he said, in reply to a query whether he anticipated any challenge from MNCs and Indian companies in getting quality manpower for his wide array of business activities.
Dr Pillai, who was selected as the 'Best Partner' of Samsung Engineering from among the 100 major companies of the world at an industry award in Korea yesterday, said he was providing training to engineers from India.
Business was more an accident than design for Dr Pillai, but he has surely legitimised his success by creating enviable benchmarks in industry.