Tributes have been paid in the UAE to businessman Atlas Ramachandran, who died on Sunday at the age of 80.
Members of the Indian community remembered him as a man with a “heart of gold”.
He died after being taken to Aster Mankhool Hospital in Bur Dubai with chest pain. His wife Indira and daughter Manju were with him.
Ramachandran, from Kerala, was once a gold tycoon with at least 50 Atlas Gold jewellery shops in the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and India, and an annual turnover of Dh3.5 billion. But he died an embattled businessman who lost everything to debt.
In 2015, he was jailed for failing to honour two bank cheques worth Dh34m.
His Atlas Group of companies – with ventures in real estate, health care and filmmaking – owed Dh550m to banks.
After his release from jail, Ramachandran was in negotiations with the banks on a debt resettlement plan and had spoken about resurrecting his business empire.
Lawyer Hashik Thayikandy, a prominent community member who had tried to help the family secure Ramachandran’s release from jail, told The National that he was an “honest man who everyone loved and admired”.
“He had a love for music and cinemas. When I met him last time at a function to pay tribute to a musician who died young, he seemed very emotional,” Mr Thayikandy said.
“Life was not very kind to him but he fought all odds with grit and confidence. He never gave up. The expat community from Kerala will always have fond memories of him”
Ashraf Thamarassery, a social worker in Dubai, said Ramachandran was a generous and kind businessman.
“He gave until he could and helped everyone in his good days. There were so many people knocking at his door for help but during his difficult times, there was no one to help him. It is tragic,” he said.
“I had once spoken to him when he was in jail. One thing that I admired about him was that he always was in good spirits.”
Prominent businessmen and community members also went on Twitter to praise the businessman’s fighting spirit.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was someone who was “never reluctant to help the poor”.
Neo Nair wrote on Twitter: “The last time when I saw him in Dubai, he was tired and frail but the fire and passion in his eyes were intense. For someone who has seen the best and worst phase of life, Atlas Ramachandran was an inspiration.”
A household name in Kerala
Ramachandran, a banker turned businessman, opened his first jewellery showroom in Kuwait in 1981.
Over the years, his business empire expanded to the UAE and other GCC countries. With his generous donations and contributions to community initiatives and social activities, Ramachandran became popular in India and other countries.
He also produced several Malayalam films such as Vaishali, Dhanam and Vasthuhara, and also acted in a few.
Ramachandran served as the chairman of Dubai Shopping Festival’s Gold Promotion Council and secretary of Dubai Gold Council.