Shaji Ul Mulk
Meet Shaji Ul Mulk of Mulk Holdings whose company enjoys a turnover of $1.8 billion annually, his personal net-worth alone stands at $2.7 billion Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Dubai: Shaji Ul Mulk is a rebel and has been so since a child.

He knows what he wants and he goes after it.

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Now how many brilliant academic students you know who get admission into prestigious college in the world, only to give it up to pursue a dream of being an entrepreuner?

Meet Shaji Ul Mulk, with a personal net-worth of $2.7 billion and whose company – Mulk Holdings enjoys a global annual turnover of $1.8 billion.

But this was all possible only because Mulk decided to give up his admission into the prestigious Wharton Business School in University of Pennsylvania way back in 1982. He was 21 and for a young man of that age, he took the risk – well supported by his family – to give up his college admission to pursue a dream of being an entrepreuner.

And today he has built an empire. Mulk Holdings is a multinational conglomerate with diversified business interests spanning primarily four sectors – Construction, Renewable Energy, Plastics and Health Care.

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The parent firm owns and manages a group of 18 companies for more than two decades, spearheaded by Mulk. The organization’s head-quarters are based in Sharjah Hamriya Free zone. Mulk Holdings has won the prestigious MRM Business Excellence Award for the best foreign manufacturer in 2009 from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In recognition of Eurocon’s continuous growth and excellent performance in the industrial business segment, His Highness Sheikh Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi The Crown Prince of Ajman, conferred The AJMAN INDUSTRIAL EXCELLENCE GOLD AWARD upon Eurocon Building Industries under the category of BEST FOREIGN FACTORY in 2007 as well as Ajman’s Best Exporter Award for 2009 given away by Ajman Chamber of Commerce

Shaji Ul Mulk
Shaji Ul Mulk gave up his education in Wharton's Business School in order to pursue his dream of being a businessman in UAE Image Credit: Supplied

The Nawab who becomes a billionaire in UAE

For the uninitiated, Shaji Ul Mulk is a Nawab. What does this mean? He hails from the aristocratic family of Nawabs of Kurnool in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. He is the founder and chairman of Mulk Holdings, a global business powerhouse with diversified interests in the manufacture of building facades, facade contracting, healthcare, plastics and sports assets. The company employs a workforce of more than 7,000 globally and has operations and manufacturing bases in the US, Europe, India, the UAE, Oman and Ghana.

He chairs the Mulk Foundation, the active CSR wing of the group, and is responsible for various philanthropic initiatives in UAE and India, offering free medical clinics, free libraries, support for disabled children and an orphan marriages programme.

The flagship product of the group is the manufacture and distribution of the A2 fire-rated aluminium composite panel under the brand name of Alubond A2. The brand has grown into the world’s largest aluminium composite panel manufacturer with an installed capacity of 25m square metres and installations in more than 100 countries.

Shaji Ul Mulk
Shaji Ul Mulk with his family Image Credit: Supplied

The company under Mulk has won numerous national awards such as Sheikh Mohammed’s MRM Excellence Award in 2009 for the Largest Foreign Manufacturer in UAE, a Sharjah Excellence Award in 2011 for the Largest Manufacturer in Large Scale Industry, and an Ajman Chamber of Commerce Award as Ajman’s Largest Manufacturer in 2010 and Power Brand in GCC.

But his claim to fame of course has been pioneering the concept of T10 cricket which created quite a global phenomenon when it was launched. An avid cricket enthusiast, he is the only Indian member of the Emirates Cricket Board, headed by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.

Flashback

All this is now.

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But not in 1982 when Mulk came to the UAE first to work. “Dubai was a stepping stone for my dream of living and working in the USA,” he told Gulf News.

Take this: Mulk was a gold medalist from the Venkateshwara University in Andhra Pradesh. He wanted to pursue college in the USA. He came to UAE to save some money for his college and prepare for his GMAT exams. But destiny would have it otherwise – as Mulk would soon realise.

“My sister and her husband lived in Dubai. My brother-in-law had a small company with five staff members dealing in solar panel glass covers. That product doesn’t exist anymore.”

Shaji Ul Mulk
Shaji Ul Mulk is a Nawab of India, but he did not mind working in small jobs in UAE in order to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a successful businessman in the UAE Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Mulk was put up in the installation department of his brother- in-law’s company. “My job was to clean window panes and install the panel sheets on the windows.”

Mulk stayed in Shaikh Hamdan colony - Karama. “I would walk across the road, take a sharing taxi. Then take an abra to Deira. There I would take another sharing taxi to Sharjah.”

Today, the fact that he owns a Rolls-Royce Phanthom among other luxury cars is a different story altogether.

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Three days into the job, Mulk told his brother-in-law he was meant to do more and bigger things in life not clean windows. “I told him I wanted to go into the market and sell. He refused point blank and said I should stick to the job given to me. Next day I did not turn up at work. Instead I head out to the market to make a sale. Of course my first sales call was wrong. But I promised my sister and her husband I would make a deal in a week’s time. In three day I had done it. Within few months, I was feeding the company’s capacity 100 per cent. Besides, I found time for myself. So I told my brother-in– law I wanted to take off some time to do sub-contracting work.”

Within a year into his job, Mulk had saved $30,000 through the sub-contracting work he was doing. This money all went into paying his college fees into Wharton’s Business School. My ticket was booked, hostel paid for. I was set to leave the UAE and pursue my dream of US. After all, I had got into one of the best business schools in the world. I could not have asked for anything more,” said Mulk.

Shaji Ul Mulk
Shaji Ul Mulk said one has to take a calculated risk in order to see success in business Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

A week before he was to fly to the US for his master’s education, Mulk let his hair down with a friend. “Sub-consciously I had taken the decision. But I needed to share my thoughts with someone. So I asked a friend for advice. I told on one hand there was a dream college admission, on the other hand there was money in the bank from the sub-contracting work. I was tempted. My friend put the entire situation in a very simple perspective. He asked me if I wanted to be an entrepreuner or a service professional all my life. My answer was former. He said I had answered my own question. And the decision was made. I gave up my Wharton’s admission to stay back in the UAE and pursue business.

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The rest is history as they say.

Soon he was enrolled into a big finance house where he was given a shareholding. But Mulk was thinking of being independent and on his own. “I thought I have worked 10 years for someone else, now let me work for myself. And so he bought a massive land space in Ajman Freezone. I set up a massive manufacturing plant here. I bought some shares in a company called Alubond USA with the promise of setting up a manufacturing plant in the Middle East.”

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For the record - Alubond U.S.A is an Aluminum composite Panels (ACP) and Metal Composite Material (MCM) Panels brand. The company has emerged as the world’s largest ACP and MCM brand with a twenty five million square meters of manufacturing and processing capacity from its various facilities in Europe, UAE, Oman and India. Alubond has also expanded its products to offer a full range of Fire Rated Metal Panels including A2 Mineral Core ACP, B Mineral Core ACP, Solid Aluminum, Honeycomb, Exotic metals MCM in a choice of metal skins like galvanised steel, Stainless Steel, Copper, Bronze and Titanium.

The company in addition to production of metal composites also has a complete backward and forward integration manufacturing facilities producing Fire rated Mineral Core, fire rated adhesive films and color coated coils.

The next milestone came for Mulk when he decided to launch the Abu Dhabi T10 League cricket. Pioneering the concept, Mulk who is also a member of the Emirates Cricket Board, was in fact in the World Cup squad for UAE way back in 1992. “I had conceived the project two years before we launched the T10 league late 2019.”

Shaji Ul Mulk
The lady behind his success Image Credit: Supplied

So what drives Mulk

“Taking the risk is important but backing it up with the proper research and hard work is equally important – perhaps more. You need to take risk – but a well calculated one,” said Mulk.

“End of the day I have been able to achieve all this thanks to the support of my family. My wife has been my pillar of strength. I could not have achieved this without her. She never doubted my abilities once and that was and is critical to me.”