Dubai: The Abu Dhabi headquartered Emke Group, which operates the Lulu super-and hypermarket chain, is making an entry into high-end retailing by acquiring a stake in London-based The East India Company. This represents one of the first major investment plays for the former outside of its own operations.

Under the proposed plans, Emke Group will pick up 10 per cent in The East India Co and 40 per cent in one of the latter’s key subsidiaries, East India Fine Foods Ltd, which retails specialty tea and high-end crockery. “We plan to use the East India Fine Foods platform at both the physical retail and online levels, and across geographies,” said M. A. Yussufali, Managing Director. “There are niches within luxury retail that we can try and create a presence for us in the longer term.”

The value of the deal, which is to be signed in London this week, has not been revealed. Emke Group had reported revenues of $5 billion (Dh18.3 billion) plus in its last financial year.

Apart from its 100 odd supermarkets, the Emke Group had been widening its interests in fine dining and niche F&B offerings. But the acquisition of the East India Co stake does upgrade its exposure to specialty retailing and simultaneously across multiple markets at that. East India Co had in the recent past been setting up locations in key destinations, and most recently in Abu Dhabi.


“It was vital that had investment exposures at both the parent- and operating company levels in East India Co,” said Yussufali. “This gives us greater flexibility in the way we can sync Emke Group plans with those of East India Co It creates a win-win situation for both parties.”

The “East India Company” name is deeply rooted with India’s past. It was this trading group that first established a British beachhead in the country in the 1600s and then set the stage for India to be the jewel in the crown of the British Empire until 1947.

It was in 2010 that Sanjiv Mehta acquired rights in The East India Co. and then gave it a makeover as a niche retail operator. It started off with a presence in London’s tony Mayfair neighbourhood and has since moved on to other markets.

Luxury retailing continues to develop strong roots in the Gulf markets, and the latest expansions at leading destination malls and announcements of new mall projects will ensure this remains so. Within the wide umbrella of luxury retailing, the players are looking to create super specialised niches that can draw in an exclusive and loyal clientele.