In 1992, at the age of 19, Mohammad Basheer boarded a plane from India to Abu Dhabi where he landed his first job as a delivery boy at a grocery store, but he never let go of his dream. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Growing up in an Indian fishing village in the early ‘80s, 10-year-old Mohammad Basheer was forever coming up with new ways to earn extra pocket money.

An affable lad, he was often found at a makeshift roadside stand peddling odds and sods to passers-by with a view to someday save enough to buy a ticket to the outside world to follow his dreams.

“When we had school holidays for 10 days and there were festivals in Kerala, I used to do a vegetable stand outside the house on main street. We had another festival where we used a lot of fireworks. I used to sell them, too,” said Basheer.

“Whenever I do anything, that stand is always in my mind. I wanted to be a businessman since I was young,” he told Gulf News.


revenue generated by Blue Mart last year

As a youngster working in his father’s hardware shop, he would daydream about leaving his hometown of Koyilandy in Kozhikode, Kerala, for the bright lights and big business deals of a cosmopolitan city.

As his childhood piggy bank grew, a seed was planted in the young Keralite’s mind that would guide him on an inspiring journey that has culminated into a successful supermarket and restaurant business empire in the UAE beyond his wildest expectations.

Dreaming big first began to take shape at age 19 when he boarded an aeroplane from India in 1992 with his passport and a UAE visa en route to Abu Dhabi where he landed his first job as a delivery boy for a grocery store.

He eventually took a new job in 2000 and moved to Dubai where he worked as a doorman welcoming wealthy Dubai visitors through the doors of Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

For nine years, Basheer said he gained an immeasurable understanding of world cultures through the wide diversity of the people he met.

Basheer accrued a respectable purse of hard-earned savings salted away from a number of small sideline business ventures and in 2009 made the biggest decision of his life — to open his first Blue Mart grocery store in Barsha.

The new mini supermarket operated on Basheer’s highly successful business model of focusing on friendly service coupled with in-store and home delivery of basic everyday foodstuffs ranging from vegetables and milk to eggs and bread.

Today, Basheer, 47, said the dividends from his initial entry into the grocery market industry have grown to the point where he is now chairman and owner of a Blue Mart supermarket chain of 24 stores in UAE and Gulf region, which turned more than Dh200 million in revenues last year and employs more than 1,000 people.

If I commit to something, I make sure I follow up, I do not ignore anything. I have a team, I make sure it is happening on time, 24-seven.

- Mohammad Basheer, Chairman of Blue Mart

His company also owns more than 10 restaurants in the UAE such as the Wide Range Restaurant at Kite Beach.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Basheer now has plans in the works to branch out into the medical sector.

The secret to building his small but growing empire from those early days selling roadside vegetables?

It’s all about dedication, Basheer says standing outside his latest Blue Mart store opening at Queue Point in Dubai.

“I am dedicated. If I commit to something, I really make sure I follow up, I do not ignore anything. I have a team, I make sure it is happening on time, 24-seven,” Basheer said.

His success, however, could not have been possible without the economic vibrancy of his adopted country, he said.

Basheer extolled the UAE’s inclusive society that includes migrants and offers them an environment in which they not only earn a living but build a company to help others.

He expressed his gratitude to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for nurturing a tolerant society that welcomes outsiders with dreams of a better life.

“I love this country, you know, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad is a great leader and he has very good vision. And I’m sure he treats everyone fair, whether you are a foreigner or a national. He looks after everyone and really cares about people living in this country,” Basheer said.

Dubai’s growth to more than three million people has created opportunity through growing consumer demand, Basheer said.

Purely and simply, growth equals opportunity, he said.

“Whenever new projects come, there are new opportunities for everyone, whether it is a new supermarket, restaurant or laundry.”