Micky Jagtiani
Micky Jagtiani, Founder of Landmark Group. The retail-focused group was launched in 1973. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News archive

Dubai: One of the doyens on the UAE and Gulf business landscape, Micky Jagtiani, has died. The founder of the Landmark Group had through the decades built up a multi-billion corporate behemoth and with interests across markets, in the region, the subcontinent and beyond.

It was Micky at the helm of Landmark Group – comprising max, babyshop, Splash, homecentre and other immensely influential brands – that built up the network, first in the Gulf markets, then across the region and into India as well.

His wealth was estimated $5 billion plus by Forbes - but there was much more to the man than just what he had. Landmark has been one of the systemically vital job creators in the Middle East.

Micky Jagtiani was 70 years old. 

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Renuka Jagtiani, Chairwoman & CEO Landmark Group
Renuka Jagtiani has in recent years been helming the continued growth narrative of Landmark. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
“Renowned for his exceptional leadership, unwavering customer-centric approach, and deep market understanding, his visionary spirit and strategic foresight helped the Landmark Group and its brands become a household name in the community.

From its humble beginnings with a single store in Bahrain in 1973, Micky Jagtiani was the driving force in shaping the conglomerate’s extraordinary journey. His strategic acumen enabled the Landmark Group to emerge as the region's foremost retail and hospitality conglomerate, with over 2,200 stores in 21 countries across the Middle East and Africa, as well as the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.

He is fondly remembered by his family – Renuka, Aarti & Savitar, Nisha & Kabir, and Rahul, his grandchildren Samar, Nikhil, Yohan and Aliya - and his beloved Landmark Group community.”

- - Statement from Landmark Group

The Micky formula

Landmark was one of the pioneers among family-owned businesses in the Gulf that was never content with being dominant in any one market. The Micky formula for the retailer was to head into new markets - at the first opportunity itself. And not just with one brand.

"The Group could so so easily have focussed on a handful of brands and hope those would get bigger," said one consultant who had worked closely with the group. "Mickey and Renuka (his wife) never wanted that. They went bold on brand extensions and additions - well before others cottoned on to the idea.

"That's what made Landmark exceptional. Micky too."

One of the revered brands in the Landmark portfolio - babyshop. Image Credit: Supplied

Art of delegating

One of the wealthiest men in the Middle East (and beyond), Micky's other strength - some say 'super-strength' - was his delegating of responsibilities. This meant each brand/division charted a way to prominence with operational flexibility, said a source who had worked with the group.

"I have known Micky from the time he moved to Dubai in the early 90's," said Ishwar Chugani, Managing Director of Giordano Middle East. "We spoke quite often, met a lot in the malls as we were both doing our MBWA - 'Management By Walking Around'.

Ishwar Chugani
"Micky carried a pen and notepad and took notes. My fondest memory of him was bumping into him in Düsseldorf and we both decided to have a dinner," said Chugani.

"He was a visionary, leader, mentor and dear friend."

And what did Chugani learn from Micky? 'Humility...'

A near 50,000 strong group

Landmark's workforce numbers are around the 48,000 mark, affirming its status as one of the biggest employers in these markets. Multiple HR industry sources have in the past spoken about the low staff turnover rates the group has had through the years, especially at the senior executive levels.

Micky was a trailblazer in so many ways - but in a region that is dominated by family-run businesses, his professionalism was an example for all of us. And set a precedent for how family businesses can scale professionally.

- Ashish Panjabi, COO at Jacky's Electronics
"Once, we had a dealers' seminar where he and his sales executives were invited. When he came, after greeting the hosts, he immediately moved to his executives to greet them first. The vacuum left by him is rare..."

- Ram Buxani, Chairman of ITL-Cosmos Group

I always admired the way he treated his executives. An entrepreneur who made several millionaires from those who worked with him.

- Ram Buxani

The 'details' man

Many who knew Micky observed his habit of turning up at malls to get a first-hand feel of consumer vibes. He could take a favoured spot in one of the F&B joints and take out that 'pen and pad'.

"He paid attention to the details, took bold steps, and valued people he worked with," said a marketer. "In many ways, he was a pioneer - he created a culture that has led to innovation in building original brands, an unparalleled retail infrastructure and a community of loyal Landmark employees. And customers."

He was a visionary leader of retail industry whom I have always regarded as an elder brother.
Over the years we have shared a very good relationship both on the personal level and on the business front.

Yusuffali MA, Chairman of Lulu Group

I personally - and the whole business community - will greatly miss him.

- Yusuffali M.A

Even with brands such as babyshop and homecentre in the Landmark portfolio, the Group still went ahead with an online push fairly early in the ecommerce evolution. But where the Group has scored is on the omni-channel side of things, where it has been able to leverage the physical presence of its brands into creating hybrid possibilities.

“His vision and drive in creating popular brands was coupled with great execution and understanding of the strengths of his leadership team. I owe my success in setting up Landmark Group’s Saudi businesses to his belief and confidence in me and his unwavering support.”

- - Neelesh Bhatnagar of NB Ventures

Landmark also focussed on the supply chain side of things - for confirmation all one needs to do is pass through its state-of-the-art logistics hub in Jebel Ali Free Zone, which went operational just ahead of the pandemic times. And came in handy during all the subsequent phase of supply disruptions in the wake of Covid.

That was quintessential Landmark - being ahead of its times. A legacy of Micky Jagtiani...

Mr. Jagtiani was one of the pillars of the UAE business community, having established one of the country’s most successful retail empires. In a career spanning over 50 years, his influence has spread beyond his business, being the founding trustee of Life Foundation.

- Shamlal Ahamed, Managing Director - International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds.
“I remember Micky from the days when the earlier Oasis Centre was in place.

A hands-on person, very detailed, and always willing to interact with whomever he met. I have had a few small chat sessions with him in the cake and coffee shop in Oasis. He even explained to the person manning the counter what should be the right size of the cake slice for optimum results.

- Niranjan Gidwani

Truly a retail institution in himself.

- Niranjan Gidwani
Micky Jagtiani pioneered the concept of retail when the market was in its infancy He was known for his innovative thinking which helped him to identify market gaps.

He introduced many novel marketing techniques in the retail industry.

- Joy Alukkas, Chairman, Joyalukkas Group

He was ever ready to share his experience and provide guidance, whenever I wanted to check anything with him.

- Joy Alukkas