Lulu chairman Yusuff Ali undergoes spinal surgery in UAE after India helicopter incident

Businessman is recovering in hospital in Abu Dhabi after his helicopter ditched in a field

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Yusuff Ali, the Lulu supermarket tycoon, underwent spinal surgery in Abu Dhabi two days after a helicopter he was travelling in made an emergency landing in bad weather in his hometown in southern India.

The 65-year-old chairman of the Lulu group was operated on by a team of 25 doctors led by German neurosurgeon Dr Amr El Shawarbi at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE on Tuesday, according to the company.

"Yusuff Ali is recovering well in hospital," said V Nandakumar, communications director of the Lulu Group.

The businessman was taken to Abu Dhabi from Kochi in India's Kerala state on a special flight arranged by the Abu Dhabi royal family, Mr Nandakumar said.

Lulu supermarket tycoon Yusuff Ali safe after helicopter makes emergency landing

Lulu supermarket tycoon Yusuff Ali safe after helicopter makes emergency landing

"Mr Ali and his family members expressed their sincere gratitude and appreciation to all well wishers and friends for their continued prayers and blessings."

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, Mr Ali's son-in-law, travelled to Kochi on April 11 immediately after the helicopter accident to supervise his return to Abu Dhabi.

Dr Vayalil is also the founder of VPS Healthcare, which runs Burjeel hospital.

Mr Ali was in Kerala on a personal visit and was travelling by helicopter with his wife to see a relative in hospital.

The couple, two pilots and two staff members were taken to the Lakeshore hospital in Kochi, also run by the family, after the accident.

Company officials said all passengers and crew were safe and underwent medical checks.

The group said the experienced pilots decided to make a precautionary landing in a deserted spot because of a sudden deterioration in the weather and heavy rainfall.

The accident is being investigated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, India's regulatory authority.

Local media reported that engine trouble caused the pilot to make a forced landing.

Residents who lived near the crash site helped Mr Ali and the other passengers to leave the helicopter.

Mr Ali is known as the retail king of the Middle East for his chain of hypermarkets.

He was one of the first 6,800 investors to be granted permanent residency in the UAE in 2019 as part of the golden card initiative. The programme was announced for select residents in the Emirates whose combined investments are worth Dh100 billion.

Mr Ali arrived in the UAE as a teenager to help with his uncle’s small distribution business.

He grew the business into a well-known chain of shopping malls, hypermarkets and diversified into real estate and hospitality.

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, the business extends across 37 nations in the Gulf, Asia, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The group has a 50,000-strong workforce and an annual turnover of $7.4 billion globally.

Mr Ali is also known for his philanthropy and was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, by the Indian government.