Deepak Arora
Deepak Arora is the managing director of DRA Group of companies. His company, one which he owns and runs, just won the tender bid to construct the Indian and Emirates Airline pavilions for Dubai Expo 2020. Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Dubai: Deepak Arora, 67, just won the tender to construct the Indian and Emirates Airline pavilions for Dubai Expo 2020.

He is the managing director of DRA Group of companies.

Turn back the clock and it was a different story altogether.

His struggles were plenty to get to where he is today, yet when you sit down and talk to this billionaire Indian expat, he says he never thought of it as a struggle.

“The dips in my life were never a struggle. I just took it in my stride and did what I needed to do,” Arora tells Gulf News from his plush mansion - all of which comes with a 60,000 square feet built up area in Emirates Hills.

Turn back the clock

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Arora came to the UAE in 1976. He had just completed his bachelor’s degree in architecture.

“While I was studying, there were some people from the UAE looking to employ people on an hourly basis. I applied for the job. I was young and rearing to start work and my career path.”

Deepak Arora
“The dips in my life were never a struggle. I just took it in my stride and did what I needed to do,” Arora tells Gulf News from his plush mansion - all of which comes with a 60,000 square feet built up area in Emirates Hills. Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Three days into the job, Arora was rearing for more. “I saw people were coming only to make the quick money. They were not contributing anything. On the third day of my job, I told my employer that I was not coming for the job anymore. I told them I did not want free money. I wanted to do something constructive and contribute for something bigger,” Arora recalled.

“On a parting note, I told them however, if they wanted to reach out to me for something more permanent and serious, they could do so.”

In two weeks, Arora got a call from the UAE employer.

The company – based in Ras Al Khaimah – asked him to come and work in the country. “I still had three months left for college, so I could not commit.”

“I know there are no second opportunities these days. But back then I thought if the job was meant for me it will still come. Three months later in November 1976 I landed in the land of sand and sun in the UAE,” said Arora.

Deepak Arora
Deepak Arora sitting in his backyard in his plush mansion at Emirates Hills. A 100-year old Olive tree stands tall in the background Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Life in UAE in 1976

“The Federation had been formed in 1971 and the country was progressing. I would not say infrastructure was in place. But from stories I heard at the time from people who had come before – it was better than what it was in the 40s, 50s, 60s.”

He said a common sight used to be cars getting stuck in the sand. At the time Arora was 24 and ready to face anything out of his comfort zone.

In 1977 there was a huge recession. The company where he worked was firing its employees. And Arora was one of them.

“Luckily I found another job – a better one. The company was involved in the township of Ras Al Khaimah and I got involved in the project,” recalled Arora.

His job involved a lot of town planning work – something that he was not taught in college as an architecture student.

Deepak Arora
A family picture of Deepak Arora Image Credit: Supplied

To his bad luck, the company closed down six months later. This was the second time his career saw a shake-up of sorts.

“I was working on a pipeline project. And that came to a standstill. From the network I had built, I got the opportunity to work on another project. This time it was a poultry farm project. It was the first poultry farm project coming up in the UAE. And I was appointed to do the supervision.”

Arora said he found a lot of flaws in how the construction was being planned out. “I challenged all that was being planned out. And by this time I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to have my own company,” he said.

And so in 1980 he registered his first company and named it Deep Construction. The company was based in Ras AL Khaimah. And the poultry farm project was the first job he received under his new company. Around this time Arora was also looking at getting married. “My parents had seen a girl and I planned a visit to India to see her and get married.”

Deepak Arora
In front of a building Image Credit: Supplied

“Three months later we were engaged on 14 February.”

He was set to get married in May same year. But when he returned to Ras Al Khaimah after his engagement, Arora found the poultry project was going nowhere and the project was shelved. He was back to square one.

“I was engaged. I had told my fiancé that I was a company owner and now I had to tell her I had no job. Of course I was honest with her and her family. I told them what had transpired. And they still agreed for the marriage. In June I was married. Up until then I was leading a bachelor’s life sharing accommodation. But now I had a wife. And so the day my wife arrived to UAE was the first day I leased an apartment in Sharjah. It was a one-bedroom apartment,” recalled an emotional Arora, who could not contain his tears while talking of the incident.

Today Arora, his wife , two sons, daughter – in –law and grand-child live together in their Emirates Hills mansion of 60,000 square feet built up space.

Talk about rags to riches and this is it. An example of how hard-work, determination, the burning desire to be a successful entrepreneur can bring you the success you need.

Arora said moving to Sharjah from Ras Al Khaimah seemed like a massive progress. “It felt that I was inching closer to my dreams of doing bigger things and taking on bigger projects.”

He joined a private construction group and started working on different projects.

Deepak Arora
Deepak Arora's mansion fronts the gorgeous Montgomerie Golf Course in Emirates Hills Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Turning point

Today, Arora is managing director of D.R.A. International Group. The company was established in the year 1983 and consists of three branching companies namely City Diamond Contracting L.L.C. , Giant Star Trading L.L.C., Meptech Electro Mechanical Contracting L.L.C. The companies have diversified their jobs from residential complexes to construction offices, warehouses, logistics and industrial buildings dealing in steel and concrete structures. The company has further specialised in the field of Turnkey Services to its clients by providing most economical and functional design with a special care for aesthetics.

The turning point in Arora’s life however came when Jebel Ali Freezone (JAFZA) started.

There was nothing much happening in Jebel Ali until 1990.

He was contracted to build the Swarovski project. It is a special façade design and installation done by Arora and his team of staff. The design includes several thousand of real Swarovski crystals in elevations. It is a stand out building in JAFZA.

Deepak Arora
Deepak Arora came to UAE in 1976, he is a billionaire in UAE today Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

The rest is history as they say

“One project led to another. Till today I have not marketed any of my projects. My work has come to me from word of mouth.”

For example, in 2002, when Emaar launched Emirates Hills, there were four sample villas they had built. “I built my villa according to my design. Soon it became the fifth sample villa in Emirates Hills. Trust me, every Friday morning, we would have people from UAE coming and seeing our house. Every Friday, we would have people popping into our villa to see how it was done up.”

Till today Arora has built over 150 villas in Emirates Hills.

“Hard-work is key. Stick to your principles and do honest work. Have a dream and stick to it, there is nothing and nobody who can stop you from succeeding. I never viewed the dips in my career path as failure. I just kept at what I did. I never chased money. I did my work with due diligence and the money came.”