Dubai: Laxmikumar Narottam Goculdas (L.N. Goculdas), 75, is a pioneer. And how.
When he first came to the UAE in 1969 as a young entrepreneur, gas cylinders were only being traded, not made, in Dubai. He helped set up the first manufacturing unit for gas cylinders. By taking the risk, he helped shape the emirate.
He is also the man responsible for introducing solution for water purification, which until early 70s, when he brought the system in Dubai, was an unheard concept. Somewhere along the way, the veteran businessman became a multi-millionaire. Goculdas is one of those who assiduously worked his way up the ladder, helping usher in an era of modernity in the country, one with top amenities and facilities. He is a simple man at heart and feels gratitude for all that he has achived in the land of UAE. So a chat with this creative personality leaves you humled.
Memory of another time
It's a joy to listen to the articulate and suave gentleman. He transports us to another world — when electricity was a challenge, as was gas supply.
In 1969, Goculdas came from Bombay (now Mumbai) by plane.
Our journey began from Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Cairo, Beirut, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dhabi.
He was conducting a survey in the then-Trucial States to see what measures could be taken to improve facilities in the country.
“My family was in the gas business in Mumbai. My uncle who was the founder of our family business, was a pioneer in setting up LP Gas in India. Together, we decided to undertake a long trip to survey the situation in countries — starting from Afghanistan, going all the way up to the Middle East. Our journey began from Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Cairo, Beirut, Oman, and then we touched Dubai and Abu Dhabi. From here we went to Qatar.”
“During this trip, we saw a need to set up a gas bottling plant. It was the time when the Federation was not formed and Abu Dhabi, Dubai were part of the Trucial States. Cylinders were being filled in Bahrain and brought to Dubai on dhows.
"The empty cylinders were sent back to Bahrain and this meant more expense, as well as increased security risk. It was a major concern. So when we did a survey, we found the need for a bottling plant to be set up in the city.
"But the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum wanted to take charge of this project and we became involved on a turnkey basis. We worked out a feasibility study on setting up a manufacturing plant for gas cylinders and it was approved by the late ruler.”
With the setting up of the manufacturing unit, the risky process of transporting filled gas cylinders all the way from Bahrain completely stopped. Manufacturing gas cylinders locally meant a lowered security risk of any explosion, as well as a quicker turnaround time of gas supply to homes in the cities.
Dots of silver (gas cylinders came in silver colour back in the days from Bahrain) would line the surface of a boat, gently swaying with every wave; the closeness of flammables led to some - understandable, realistic - panic. And even once the volatile containers got here, they had to pass through the Al Maktoum Bridge; often this meant a delay, because they would need to wait for the bigger boats to pass before they could navigate their way through.
Soon we were exporting cylinders to other countries like, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. “This made us the first company to start organised manufacturing in the gas industry in Dubai. The only other manufacturing firm that existed was in the oil industry. The firm was McDermett.”
“This is how, our first company in Dubai, Cylingas company LLC, was established on 28 April 1974. A decree was passed by the late ruler Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum and the company was formally set up,” recalls Goculdas.
“We also manufactured pressure vessels. And it was considered a massive achievement to set [up] these units in Dubai. The biggest pressure vessel we built was 120 feet long and [with a ]12-foot diameter and when it passed near the World Trade Centre round-about, the police came out in full force to monitor the traffic on roads. It was such a beautiful sight,” said Goculdas.
The company went through several transitions and eventually became a subsidiary of Emirates National Oil Company Ltd (ENOC) LLC. In 1976, this firm became the first GCC company based in Dubai to manufacture gas cylinders.
The company became a pioneer in turn-key central LPG installations, gas distribution infrastructure, for industrial and commercial clients such as hotels, resorts and residential complexes. Cylingas was recently recognised for its excellent design engineering and field construction of elevated water storage tanks, aboveground tanks for storage of petroleum and refined products, refinery process vessels and other steel plate structures.
“Back in Mumbai, we were agents for ESSO (a multi-national company from USA) and Caltex. Both the companies became nationalised and it was called Hindustan Petroleum (HP). We lost our share of the business to the company and that is why we decided to set off on a journey to conduct a survey in the Gulf and Middle East.”
A year into setting up Cylingas, Goculdas’ uncle started another firm, Falcon Chemicals. “Falcon Chemicals started operations ahead of Cylingas although the latter was set up a year before the former company. The first product to be manufactured by Falcon Chemicals was sulphuric acid,” says Goculdas.
Over the years, the company has diversified into several business sectors with a marketing network spread across the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Sub-Continent and the Far East.
Today, Falcon Chemicals LLC is one of the leading multi-divisional manufacturing companies based in a custom-built new factory in Jebel Ali Industrial Area, Dubai. “Our years of manufacturing experience, extensive research facilities and active product development programme supported by a highly skilled and experienced staff has earned us an unsurpassed reputation throughout our product range. Today we have a diversified product range – more than 400 products - offered through multiple divisions makes Falcon Chemicals LLC one of the most recognised chemical manufacturing unit in the Middle East with an ever increasing customer base prospering and venturing to the new avenues of Business, related to Chemicals.
“For the uninitiated, sulphuric acid is a liquid used to purify or clean water desalination plants in the emirate set up by the government.The way it works is that when the process of desalination happens, there are deposits lining the pipes. These deposits have to be removed and the acid comes into play here. It helps remove the impurities.”
The Water and Electricity Department (WED) in Abu Dhabi was our biggest client. The other use for sulphuric acid was in car batteries. “Slowly, from manufacturing one product in 1975, we were producing over 400 products at the local factory. This is how we became pioneers in water purification in desalination plants.”
Goculdas recalled how late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum granted free land to set up the two firms. Cylingas was first located where Creek Park is now. Falcon Chemicals on the other hand was located where the Mina Seyahi Hotel is now located. Later, they moved the Falcon Chemicals plant to Jebel Ali as they made way for Dubai’s real estate expansion plans. The area where they were is now called Dubai Marina, he says.
“The late ruler was a hands-on leader. He was a man with a vision and ensured the city was transformed into a modern urban city.”
So what made this man who came to just do a survey live in the city for five long decades? “The energy of the city and the warmth of the leaders. The late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum had a vision and wanted to transform the city to a better place. When you see an inspiring leader like that, you become inspired yourself. Plus, a leader like him ensures there will be success for all. My three children were raised here, two of them have made homes in Dubai. So we love Dubai and believe in the land.
"The land has proved lucky for me and my family. We only want to give our best to this nation."