Meet the ‘Masala King’ of Dubai

51-year-old Maharashtrian Dhananjay Datar’s journey to the top is a typical rag- to-riches story

India At Large staff

In 1984, Dhananjay Datar arrived in Dubai from Mumbai with nothing more than dreams in his eyes. He opened a small kirana shop with his late father in Bur Dubai with just about 5,000 dirhams in hand. Dubai was developing fast and the small store kept pace with it, evolving into a specialist supermarket chain.

Today, the 51-year-old grocery store magnate is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil, a trading company that has become a household name in the UAE, selling everything from masalas to chutneys, from rice to tea and coffee. Its clientele includes leading five- star hotels, catering companies and some of the most recognised names in the business firmament, such as Dubai Duty Free, Emirates in- Flight Catering, Jumeirah Hospitality, Sheraton Group, Al Habtoor Group, and so on. Al Adil opened its 30th outlet in the UAE recently.

Christened ‘Masala King’ by the Sultan of Dubai, Datar is ranked 45th on the Forbes Middle-East rich list.


“Initially, it was to be just a grocery store but we soon realised that Indian expats were pining for the flavours and tastes of things they had enjoyed as kids – poppadoms, liquorice, herbal shampoos, sundried mango candy, hair oils, and spice mixes. Gradually we established our name as being the grocery store that stocked authentic Indian foodstuff,” Datar told Gulf News.

The business tycoon likes to be in the news. In 2009, he made public relations history when he held a press conference 40,000 feet above sea level on board a Royal Jet Airways Boeing 737 to celebrate his company’s 25th anniversary. A few years ago, he held his younger son Rohan’s thread ceremony too, 40,000 feet in the air.

At the special press conference, Datar was accompanied by his wife, Vandana, whom he had gifted a customised Rolls Royce Phantom that cost Rs 8 crore to toast the occasion, and 50 mediapersons and business associates. The Rolls Royce that he gifted to his wife, he said, was the 18th ‘special edition’ Phantom in the world and the first in Dubai.

According to reports, guests were taken in three stretch limousines from the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Bur Dubai, to the airport, where the chartered jet awaited them. Datar did the cake- cutting midair and popped champagne as the guests were taken on a three-hour tour over the UAE.

But he doesn’t forget his humble beginnings in a small village in Maharashtra. Datar ensures that he extends his support to the Indian community through various CSR activities, making notable contributions towards his community and the Marathi language. All of Al Adil’s super markets employ an 100% Indian workforce. He actively helps to provide an overseas platform for programmes like ‘Marathi Vishwa Sahitya Sammelan’ and ‘Gaurav Maharashtracha’. Datar says sustainable and rapid growth is the mantra for the Al Adil Group.

“Never forget your humility, even when you are very rich. Learn every day from your employees, customers and your children and be open-minded to receive those lessons when they come your way. Your client gave you the profits you enjoy, never forget that. Try and be modest about your achievements and never be ashamed of doing any kind of work, whatever it may be,” Datar told Gulf News.

So what is his mantra for success? “Business has no caste or religion. If you have the determination to face a challenge, you must take a plunge. A new business is like a newborn where you have to continuously nurture it without expecting a return. Be patient and continue to build it with love and sweat and eventually it will yield profits,” he told Gulf News.

Pics courtesy: Gulf News


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