Dubai: As a college boy, Indian expat Mundarath Muralikrishnan Nair, known as MMK Nair, was fascinated by aeroplanes as they whizzed past like a speck in the sky.
As he wished with all his heart, he ended up working in an airport and later running a flying institute, thus becoming part of five glorious decades of aviation in the UAE. Serving in the finance department of Dubai Airport from its inception, Nair had a remarkable growth in his career till he retired as the Director of Finance after 40 years from April 1970. After his retirement, he has continued to be in the aviation sector in the UAE as managing director and shareholder of Emirates Aviation Services, the premier flying school in Dubai established in 1989.
As he completes 51 years in the UAE when the country is celebrating its golden jubilee, Nair is full of memories.
Hailing from the South Indian state of Kerala, Nair graduated in commerce and later did a diploma in Airport Finance and Economics from Loughborough University, London. He worked for a short while for Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)’s previous office in Colaba in erstwhile Bombay.
It was in March 1970 that Nair landed in Dubai, the city of his dreams, thus becoming one of the Indian expats who had reached the Trucial States before the union of the federations.
When air-conditioner was a luxury
“Life here in those days was not very easy with minimum facilities,” Nair recollected. “The air-conditioner was a luxury. There was no public transport and no proper road between Dubai and Sharjah.”
He said people could not enter Sharjah during high tide in the present area between Al Mulla Plaza and Al Khan. “Very few people had private cars and those cars used to be mostly Land Rovers and Austins. Currency notes were in Riyals and coins in Dirhams.”
He recalled Dubai Airport staff being transported in Ford pickup trucks with the cargo bed covered with canvas. “There was an immigration border post at Jebel Ali where passports were checked to allow entry into Abu Dhabi. There was no proper road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Commuters used the taxis run by bedouins, which were mostly Benz. The starting point was from the old Plaza Cinema Theatre or Vegetable market. The Al Maktoum bridge had only one lane and used to have a toll system,” Nair said, while walking down the memory lane.
His journey with Dubai Airport
When he reached Dubai, Nair said, the airport was run and managed by a UK firm called International Aeradio Limited (IAL). “They provided complete operational services like air traffic control, meteorology, communications, airfield maintenance, electronics and fire services. I joined them in April 1970 as an accounts clerk. My initial responsibilities included dealing with collection of landing, parking and class B charges, staff salaries and bank run. From then on, there was no looking back.”
His dream, his passion of getting a job related to aviation or airports, started taking shape. “I went on to continue successfully for a long, 40 years of service till my retirement as the director finance of the most vibrant, world-class Dubai Airport,” Nair said.
He feels blessed and proud to have been an integral part of the growth of the Dubai International Airport, which involved massive expansion projects. “I was honoured to be one of the signatories of Dubai Airport, being the only Indian expatriate allowed to do so back then. I have also been blessed to witness the incredible growth of Dubai Airport, which is now among the busiest in the world.
“I am happy to have been involved in the massive expansion of the airport starting from old and new terminals, bigger runways, the Cargo Village, Terminal 2, FedEx, Dubai Duty Free, Airshow facilities, Dubai Aviation College and Club and the new concourse, which opened in April 2000. I have also been involved in the Airport Free Zone at the beginning.”
Implementing IT in the processing of accounting functions since the early 1980s in conjunction with the Ruler’s Office of Dubai, was one of his achievements. “I had also helped put into practice clear definitions of financial policies and procedures, asset management and human resource development,” he recollected.
Working with the legends
Nair said he was fortunate to see several times the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum during his official visits to the Ruler’s Office. “When the Department of Civil Aviation was formed, Mohi-Din Binhendi became the Director General of Civil Aviation and I was reporting directly to him. I learnt a lot under his able leadership and guidance. Later on, it was my privilege to work directly under Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the President of Civil Aviation, Dubai, who has proved his amazing vision to the aviation world.”
Nair retired from Dubai Airports in 2010. However, he had become a shareholder and a founder board member of Emirates Aviation Services (EAS) since its inception in 1989.
“It is the first flying training school certified by the GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority), UAE. I was involved in the EAS activities even when I was in Dubai Airport. After retirement, I fully engaged myself in the EAS operations as I am also the managing director.”
EAS provides training towards Private Pilot’s Licence, Instrument Rating, Simulator Training etc. Several of its former students have become successful pilots with international airlines, something that Nair is proud of.
‘Dubai made me what I am’
In recognition of his 40 years of dedicated services in the Dubai Airport, Nair has been granted the UAE’s prestigious Golden Visa. “I am forever grateful to this country and to the visionary and dynamic leaders of this peace-loving nation. Dubai has given me everything and has made me what I am today and I owe everything to this place."
“I am indeed lucky to have been living in this totally blessed, wonderful, safe place, Dubai, with my family and will continue to do so. I have been fortunate to have witnessed the formation of the UAE, 50 years ago, along with many others,” said Nair.
I am forever grateful to this country and to the visionary and dynamic leaders of this peace-loving nation. Dubai has given me everything and has made me what I am today and I owe everything to this place.
A grandfather, Nair lives here with his wife, his only son, daughter-in-law and a grandson, who is 10 years old. The love for flights and aviation now runs in the family. “My son works for Emirates airline. My grandson too is interested in aviation. He has even done the flight simulator a couple of times,” said Nair.
His main hobby is listening to Carnatic music. He is known for bringing Indian fine arts to the forefront in Dubai through various community groups and social clubs.
Nair has served as governor in the India Club — Dubai. He was also involved with the Indian Business and Professional Council and the Rotary Club.