M V Kunhumohamed of Jaleel Holdings
At 73, M V Kunhu Mohamed of Jaleel Holdings looks fit as a fiddle. Not to mention his extremely positive persona that makes him rather endearing. But behind this persona, is a man who likes to succeed. He is ambitious and rises like a phoenix when the need arises. Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Dubai: M V Kunhu Mohamed came to the UAE way back in the 1960s as a driver. Now, 73, Kunhu Mohamed is a billionaire businessman and his tale is a true real rags to riches story.

We at Gulf News headed out to meet the man behind the success of Jaleel Holdings - one of the largest wholesale distributors of food in the Middle East today. 

Once a driver, now a billionaire in UAE

Kunhu Mohamed started working in the UAE in the 1960's.

He recalled, "I came to the UAE in a boat way back in 1969. I worked as a driver in the Ras Al Khaimah Sheikh’s palace. The Sheikh had a beautiful garden where fresh vegetables and fruits would be grown. The produce from the garden was absolutely fresh. The garden was so big and the produce [was] a lot."

"So I started taking some extra produce into the market. Soon the demand grew and I got a driver to come pick up the produce from me and sell it in the market. Soon the business started growing. I got a lot of help – from a monetary perspective - from the Sheikh’s family. They gave me money to expand my little business that I was involved in," he said.

That was the beginning, the business man claimed, saying: "Soon my sales began to grow multifold.”

Starting out

In 1972, Kunhu Mohamed set up his business officially.

M V Kunhumohamed
M V Kunhu Mohamed with his three sons

The company began as a wholesale fruit store in Deira, Dubai. Over the years they expanded their business diversifying into various other sectors. The company streamlined its operations bringing all businesses under the umbrella of Jaleel Holdings in 2008.

Having a dream

“A dream becomes a reality with sweat, determination and hard work. Today Jaleel Holdings has earned a reputation of trust. Our products and services are delivered in the quickest possible manner, at competitive prices, keeping intact the quality of all products. This is only possible when you have the support of your market and backing of your team and staff. All this happens after years of hard-work.”

“I had a dream and that has borne fruit today. I feel blessed. The organization has stayed true not only to these values but also ensuring the delivery of the finest quality services and products across sectors and I will not have it any other way.”

Reminiscing the past

“Before I came to the UAE I lived and worked in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. But the political scenario was not conducive for business people. So I left the city to come work in the UAE. I arrived in a boat just like many others did during my time. There was sand, sand and only sand. My first job was that of a driver. I worked for the royal family. It was perhaps one of the best days of my life.”

M V Kunhumohamed
M. V. Kunhu Mohammed recalled how he received immense support from the royal family when he wanted to start his food distribution business

“My employers treated me with kindness, like I was their own. I was a mere driver, but they respected me for who I am. I feel so much gratitude for them even today.”

Kunhu Mohamed said : “As part of a company that helps create positive and exciting experiences for the trading community, I am greatly gratified to work with an energetic, forward-looking workforce that is dedicated to serving the company's customers and stakeholders at the highest level."

Working around professional beliefs

Kunhu Mohamed said the success and growth of his business has been due to consistency in terms of standards and policies that the company has adhered to. "We have received alot of support from our local and international partners and stakeholders who have all truly made our enterprise a massive success. nd to the efforts of our supportive local and international partners."

"Over the years, our professional belief in ethics and quality has evolved into a set of corporate standards and practices, which we use as our benchmark for excellence. This attitude of providing the highest level of quality in all of our endeavors has paid-off at every step of the way. Today, we pride ourselves on being a trustworthy name in the trade across the GCC.”

He said he learnt all this from his early days of working in the Sheikh’s palace. “They encouraged me to grow and excel and this is what I do today with my staff. Not just that as a policy in my company today, we pay salaries on time. I don’t believe in making the employees suffer. This is how my life was when we came to the UAE. There was love and respect given to me and I am doing the same for my employees.”

Kunhu Mohamed recalled how he received immense support from the royal family when he wanted to start his food distribution business. “Today, I am in this position in life – all thanks to the love and support I received back then. I want to pass this on to my staff.”

Meeting the challenges

Through the decades, Jaleel Holdings has grown from strength to strength despite market challenges. In fact through the years, the company has encountered three major setbacks but managed to bounce back after.

“The challenges were either due to market slowdown or like in one instance when I had a fall out with my relatives who were managing my company. I was living in India at the time. When I came back to UAE to take over my business, I saw red. Basically the company was running at a loss. There were loans in the company’s name.”

Bouncing back in 1985

In 1985, Kunhu Mohamed re-started his business. He came back with a vengeance, a lot of will power and determination.

“And so I worked from the scratch and built my business back again. I remember my oldest son who had to be educated for college looked at my company balance sheet. He asked me how he could go to college when there was no money in the account. I promised him the balance sheet would look green by the time he returned and that it was.”

“Today, I am helped by aided by professional standards, thoroughly tested policies and with the support of over 1,500 dedicated team members we continue to take steps in moving forward with major developments that are rapidly taking place at home and around the globe.”

“Going ahead, we will strive to endeavor to be one of the most actively competitive companies in this region with emphasis on efficiency in operations, reliability for our customers and trust on discovery and amendments on new techniques and business strategies.”

“I could not have achieved my success anywhere else in the world. The land of UAE has given me and my family much and I am so grateful for that.”