Lulu supermarket tycoon Yusuff Ali safe after helicopter ditches in Indian field

Abu Dhabi-based businessman, his wife, two pilots and two others taken to hospital as a precaution

Yusuff Ali, managing director of the UAE-based Lulu Group, is safe after a helicopter he was travelling in made an emergency landing in India's Kerala state due to bad weather.

The 65-year-old, his wife, two pilots and two other passengers were taken to hospital in Kochi as a precaution, a company spokesman told The National.

The businessman was in his home town for a personal visit.

“Yusuff Ali MA, currently in Kerala, was on a short trip from his home in Kochi to visit a relative at a nearby hospital,” according to a statement issued by V Nandakumar, head of communications at Lulu Group.

“Due to the sudden deterioration of the weather conditions and heavy rains, the experienced pilots decided to make a precautionary landing at a safe place to prevent any risk to the life of the passengers or to the public at large.

“All passengers and crew underwent necessary medical check-ups and are safe.”

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

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

Residents who lived near the crash site helped Mr Ali and the other passengers out of the helicopter, according to journalists who spoke to people who saw the chopper crash.

Kerala officials said the pilot attempted to land in a football field near the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies but landed in an adjacent empty plot of land near the national highway.

Mr Ali, who became known as the retail king of the Middle East for his chain of hypermarkets, arrived in the UAE as a teenager to help with his uncle’s small distribution business.

Yusuff Ali, chairman of Lulu International Holdings. Victor Besa / The National
Yusuff Ali, chairman of Lulu International Holdings. Victor Besa / The National

He expanded the Abu Dhabi-based business into a retail conglomerate.

Lulu Group International has an annual turnover of $7.4 billion with businesses in 22 countries, including hypermarkets, shopping malls, hospitality and real estate.

The group's expansion continued this year with the opening of ten hypermarkets in the first quarter, taking Lulu's total store count to 207.

As part of its growth plans, 10 new hypermarkets are due to be opened in the UAE this year.

In June 2019, Mr Ali was the first of 6,800 investors to be granted permanent residency in the UAE “golden card” initiative. The programme is for select investors and residents whose current investments are worth a total of Dh100bn.

Updated: April 11, 2021 12:49 PM

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