- Joy Alukkas's father started their first jewellery showroom in 1956, in Trissur, Kerala
- Joy Alukkas completed his education till grade 12 and dropped out of college to join his father’s business
- In 1987, Alukkas entered the UAE market by opening his first outlet in Abu Dhabi
- His personal net-worth stands at $1.3b and the group now has an annual turnover of $2b with a presence in UAE and 10 other countries
Remember the story of King Midas who wished everything he touched would turn into gold? We all know that story did not end well, but not this Indian businessman’s tale.
With a similar ambition, just with an extra touch of magic, Joy Alukkas, chairman and managing director of jewellery chain Joyalukkas Group, has achieved astounding success in his career. And the fact that he did it from humble beginnings right here in the UAE, makes the story even sweeter.
‘Joy Alukkas’ is a household name in UAE and India. Just about every Indian, people from the sub-continent and those who love the yellow metal know him as a successful jewellery magnate based in the UAE.
Alukkas’ personal net-worth stood at $1.3 billion (Dh4.78 billion) in 2019. He is regarded as a pioneer in setting the trend for a jewellery chain in the country and introducing classic ‘desi’ designs to the local market here.
Since starting the business 32 years ago, Joy Alukkas has turned the group into a conglomerate that includes a money exchange service and a textile showroom among others. So, when this 'man with the Midas touch' settles down for an interview with Gulf News, one is pleasantly surprised by his rather quiet demeanour. As one gets to know him a little bit more, one realises that his soft persona deftly cloakes a burning ambition, an unrelenting drive and astute business skills. It is no wonder that he is one of the biggest success stories in the UAE.
Alukkas has been decorated with a number of awards and titles. To name a few, he received Dubai Quality Appreciation Certificate from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, 'The Business Excellence Award 2016’ from Shaikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahyan, who was then the UAE Minister for Tolerance.
He also won ‘Retail Chain of the Year 2017 & Digital/Social Media Campaign of the Year 2017’ at the National Jewellery Awards in 2017. The list goes on.
The magic mantra
So what contributed to the massive success of this Indian businessman who, from being a college drop-out, turned a multi-billionaire?
“Ambition, ambition, ambition. I have always worked around a goal. If today, Joyalukkas is a home-grown brand, it is because I have put my sweat into making it a brand to reckon with. We also added innovative strategies, tapped into the variety of opportunities the country offers to make a success of this brand,” he said.
“Indians and people from the sub-continent love gold and diamonds. Let’s just say they adore it. They are not just decorative pieces of ornament, but an investment tool as well. They are must-haves in practically every household. So the demand is definitely here in the UAE.”
When it all began
In 1987, Joy Alukkas decided to come to the UAE and explore the jewellery market here. He took his first flight to Abu Dhabi with several doubts and questions in his head. “I was visiting a new city, new country, entering a new market. So, naturally, I was anxious. Little did I know then that the UAE would welcome my revolutionary strategies for the industry with such open arms.”
Things changed as soon as he stepped out of the plane as he felt a surge of positivity replace all his fears. “The air was clean and fresh. It felt like the beginning of a new chapter in my life."
Modest to multi-billion dollar business
Joy Alukkas' father had started the first jewellery showroom in 1956. It was a modest business in Trichur, Kerala. The ‘Alukkas' brand was not well-known back then as it is today. Jewellery was not the primary business for the family. Entering the line was in fact an off-shoot of the family’s business strategy to diversify its portfolio, which — quite unexpectedly — focussed on umbrella-manufacturing and stationery.
“As you know the state of Kerala receives high rainfall every year. So umbrella-manufacturing was our prime business focus. In the 1970s, my father handed the jewellery business to my four brothers and myself,” said Alukkas who is one of 18 siblings.
“I completed my education till grade 12. I dropped out of college to join my father in his business. We brothers were excited about entering the jewellery business because we could sit inside air-conditioned rooms to greet customers, which was a treat for us!”
Fast forward: Today Joy Alukkas is by far the most successful businessman among the brothers. He has turned a ‘not so thriving family business’ into a massive empire. And he did it with vision, hard work and sound business strategies. “My success did not come overnight, however. There were challenges, but I faced them head-on.”
He admitted that when his father handed him the responsibility of running the business in the Gulf, he felt a bit short-changed. “I had not landed in the city yet. So I did not know what it would be like doing business here. I felt I was handed a raw deal in life. But look at how things have changed for me!”
In 1987, Alukkas decided to take the big leap into the UAE market to open his first outlet in Abu Dhabi. The same year he opened another showroom in Dubai. The third was in Sharjah in 1991, just after the Gulf War. His first big break-through, however, came in 2000 when the five brothers decided to part ways and split their family business.
“We took a piece of the business and went our separate ways. The distribution of the business was according to zones where we lived. For example, one of my brothers lived in Calicut, so he took the business in that area. I was handed the responsibility of the three outlets in UAE and the rest is history.”
Nineteen years on, Joy Alukkas is way ahead in the game compared to his brothers.
“Around the year 2000, banks also started giving loans to jewellery retailers which was not the case before. This majorly helped my business to grow.”
There was also little competition with small retail outlets and no established jewellery retailer in the market. On top of this, there was no jewellery maker selling classic Indian designs and we jumped into this market.
After the split, Joy Alukkas changed the group’s branding to Alukkas International, just to differentiate his business from that of his brothers.
“One day, while I was driving near Shindaga Tunnel, I came across a Majid Al Futtaim billboard. It struck me at that moment to change my company branding again to ‘Joyalukkas’. I had a good feel about it, so I called my staff to arrange all the necessary paperwork for this. The magic began thereafter.”
Soon he was opening one outlet after another. It was the start of a stellar business growth. “There was also little competition with small retail outlets operating at that time and no established jewellery retailer in the market. On top of this, there was no one selling classic Indian designs, so we jumped into this market.” The company made some innovative marketing strategies, too, along the way that did a lot for the company’s branding and presence.
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“For example, Joyalukkas was the first jewellery retailer to gift a Rolls Royce as part of the raffle draw. We also signed Indian film stars to represent our company and be our Brand Ambassadors. We were also the first jewellery brand to advertise in a cinema theatre, Joy Alukkas said.
“Every morning, I wake up thinking 'what next?'. Globalising a home-grown brand speaks a lot about the massive support I have received from the people in the UAE. It has been an incredible journey for me to say the least,” said Alukkas.
“Definitely, UAE has been one of the best markets for me. UAE is a dream place to be for entrepreneurs. Added to this, the country’s rules and regulations monitoring the jewellery industry helps set-ups like us to run our business in peace. There is ease of documentation, no dearth of retail spaces for leasing and everything is par excellence here.”