Dubai: Community members have paid tributes to Indian expat businessman MM Ramachandran, also known as Atlas Ramachandran, who died in Dubai late on Sunday night.
The funeral of the 80-year-old was held at the Hindu Cremation Ground in Dubai’s Jebel Ali area on Monday evening.
Hailing from the south Indian state of Kerala, Mathukkara Moothedath Ramachandran became Atlas Ramachandran after he established an empire of gold business under his jewellery group named Atlas in 1981.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was among those who condoled Ramachandran’s death. In a statement, Vijayan said the businessman was active in public forums and cultural gatherings in Dubai and had close contacts with the non-resident Malayalis.
Dubai-based advocate Hashik TK, who has shared many stages, with Ramachandran, said: "His biggest asset was the support he got from the public even when he faced many setbacks in his life."
Ramachandran once headed a vast business empire with around 50 branches of Atlas Jewellery stores across the GCC and India, including 19 in the UAE.
The business magnate had interests ranging from healthcare, movies, real estate and media also during his golden era. He was accorded celebrity status as a film producer, actor and a brand ambassador. Ramachandran had produced many Malayalam films including the hit movie Vaishali, which has been dubbed as the ‘Bahubali’ of the 1980s.
Ramachandran got into legal issues when his company was hit with multiple loan default cases worth Dh550million in the UAE. He was jailed in 2015 after a court sentenced him to three years in prison after finding him guilty of issuing two bounced cheques worth Dh34 million to two banks as security.
Ramachandran had pledged to repay all his creditors and had been working on the repayment plan ever since his release from the jail in 2018.
Preparing for a comeback
Ramachandran was preparing for a comeback and wanted to continue as the brand ambassador of Atlas, said Shamsudheen Nellara, managing director of Nellara Group of Companies. “I used to keep encouraging him to participate in events after his release,” he added.
“Restarting Atlas was his biggest wish. A team of investors had approached him through me. He was very optimistic about starting afresh soon,” said Nellara.
‘His life is a message’
Ramachandran’s life is a message for Indian expat business community, said Shamlal Ahmed MP, managing director, International Operations, Malabar Gold and Diamonds.
“His story showed us how careful we need to be in business,” he said.
Ramachandran had begun his career as a banker and then switched to jewellery business in Kuwait. Though he lost his business during the Gulf War, he set up a bigger business after shifting his base to the UAE.
MP recollected that Atlas was one of the top brand names in the retail jewellery market in the 1990s and 2000s.
“He was known for coming up with new marketing methods such as announcing gold rates daily and 1kg gold raffles. Companies like Malabar came into the field later and we are benefitting from such initiatives,” he added.
‘Glitter of gold in his heart’
UAE-based Malayalam journalist Sadiq Kavil said Ramachandran has left behind his wish to publish his autobiography. “He had started writing it when he was in jail. He had plans to title it as ‘Glitter of gold…Glamour of life’. He is considered by many community members as a man with a glitter of gold in his heart.”
Social worker Naseer Vatanappally said: “Apart from being a businessman, he used to love and support art and artistes.”
Manaf Abdullah, a family friend, said: “He was a father figure to people like me. He kept everyone close to his heart. He would remember everyone by name.”
Ramachandran is survived by his wife Indira, daughter Dr Manju and son Srikanth. Close family members and friends attended his cremation. Ramachandran’s younger brother M.M. Ramprasad Menon conducted the rituals.