But Yusuff Ali’s big break came through in 1990 amid the Gulf War.
As many packed their bags to leave the emirate, Ali decided to invest and open a “big hypermarket” in Abu Dhabi, a move that caught the attention of Sheikh Zayed, the ruler there.
“He asked me, how do you have the energy when everybody is abandoning the country,” Ali says. “I told him we are here to stay and that I learnt my business in Abu Dhabi and was not willing to run away from the problem.”
An impressed Zayed called his son, the current ruler, and told him to take care of Ali.
“That relationship continues to this date,” Ali says. “They treat me like family. Even when PM Narendra Modi was visiting, I was seated with the royal family. They treat me like their own.”