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A picture of Maghanmal Pancholia (seated front row fourth from left) and his family, all of whom live here in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Maghanmal Jethanand Pancholia, one of the oldest Indian businessmen in the UAE, worked till the last day of his life when he was 95.

On Wednesday, September 2, his son Lalchand Maghanmal Pancholia remembered him as the family marked his first death anniversary.

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“He loved his job and even on the last day of his life, he went to work. Relentlessly, he would arrive to work at 9am and sit at his desk. He took a break in the afternoon but was back for the second shift at 4pm sharp,” said Lalchand in a telephone interview to Gulf News.

“My father was much loved. He was a simple person, but with a huge passion and vision for whatever he set out to do. We miss him a lot,” said Lalchand.

Born on October 24 1924, the late Pancholia would have been 96 this year. Pancholia’s wife, Kalabai Maghanmal Pancholia, born on September 24, 1927, died on May 27, 2018. The couple left behind four children (two sons and two daughters), Dr. Lalchand Maghanmal Pancholia, 74, Jyoti Kishore Bhatia, 71, Rajkumar Maghanmal Pancholia, 67 and Kusum Anoop Asarpota, 65.

The late Pancholia came to the UAE in 1942 to take care of his family business. This was a time when there was no electricity, roads, water and urban modern amenities in Dubai. His father came way back in 1895 and his grandfather in 1860.

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Maganmal Pancholia, One of the oldest Indian businessman in Dubai, during an interview with Gulf News last year. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

In an interview to this reporter, which was Pancholia’s last to a journalist before he died, he spoke at length about his journey in the UAE. “I was following the family tradition — seeking a living in the Gulf,” he had said.

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Lalchand said: “Who knew then he would be so successful and would leave a legacy behind. We are all so proud of his hard work and achievements,” he said.

Seeking a better life

Pancholia’s original plan was to join his family’s pearl-trading business, but he vastly diversified. “My father diversified his business into grocery stores, gold and money exchanges. He then expanded into textiles, wholesale food, electronics and watches,” said Lalchand.

“Our [the Pancholia family’s] main business was to finance the pearl industry, apart from textile and food consumables. We were always connected to this line of work and could not think of settling anywhere else but Dubai. My father was the first in the family to pass matriculation, attend college and as part of the tradition, came to live and work in Gulf,” explained Lalchand.

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Maghanmal Pancholia and his wife, Kalabai Maghanmal Pancholia. Image Credit: Supplied

So when Pancholia arrived, there was a lot for him to do.

Life was a struggle

“My father would always sit with the family and share his old stories. Trust me, life was a struggle for him back in those days. I remember my father saying how there were no roads, buildings and basic facilities. Only huts and small buildings with [an] office below and a ghurfa (room) on top. There were no attached toilets in the room,” explained Lalchand.

A lasting contribution by the late Pancholia was setting up of the Indian High School Dubai in 1960. He also helped set up the Indo-Arab Electricity Supplying Co, responsible for supplying electricity in Dubai. Pancholia was the only Indian to be invited by the British Political Agent to be member on Board of Al Maktoum Hospital from 1960-1980. He was also the only Indian to be appointed by late Dubai Ruler Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum to be a board member of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry from 1965-1980.