Maghanmal Pancholia: The man who brought electricity to Dubai
A golden moment with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.- KT file photo
Dubai - The UAE was still 29 years away from its historic union when he landed in Dubai in 1942 to join his father's business.
Maghanmal Pancholia, popularly known as Maghaba, had called Dubai home for almost eight decades. The UAE was still 29 years away from its historic union when he landed in Dubai in 1942 to join his father's business. The then 17-year-old had no clue that he was destined to be a part of the great success story of Dubai that swiftly transformed from a hamlet to a bustling metropolis.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, he had said: "My father and three elder brothers were already in business in Sharjah and Dubai when I joined DJ Sind College in Karachi for higher education in 1942.
"However, I could not pursue my degree due to protests and the closure of colleges in the wake of the Quit India Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi. I had to come to the Gulf (Trucial States), where our Thattai Bhatia community had a long-time presence."
Maghanmal arrived aboard a Chinese Cargo ship called 'Woo Sang'. The fare was Rs23 and the voyage took eight days after touching the ports of Gawadar, Muscat and Bander Abbas. "Life was very difficult without electricity, especially in summer. There were no roads and hardly any cars. Camels and donkeys were the modes of transport," he said.
Back then, there were no formal procedures or permissions required to start any business. "When we started our electricity supply company (Indo-Arab Electricity Company) in 1957 in Dubai, we did not require any permission from the authorities. The business licensing system started only in 1961 and licence fees for any business was Rs100."
After the formal launch of the Dubai Electricity Company in 1961, things started improving. More Indian expats started moving to Dubai. Even foreigners were allowed shareholding in the company until 1980 when the company was nationalised.
Pancholia was one of the founding shareholders and was elected director of the Dubai Electricity Company from 1961 to 1980. Formal supply of electricity changed things in Dubai rapidly. "I could never imagine that Dubai and the UAE would change for the better so much and so fast thanks to the vision and open-door business policy of the past and present Rulers," he said.
Pacholia had made great contributions to the Indian community in Dubai. He founded the Indian High School and was its honorary chairman for almost 20 years (1961 to 1980). He was the founder trustee of the India Club and chairman of the Indian Association Dubai for four terms.
He launched educational, social and medical institutions in India. His family businesses - Arabian Trading Agency and Maghanmal Jethanand Group - are involved in real estate, electronics, steel, luggage, watches and investments.
He once said, "The best advice I received from my father was to be honest, helpful and friendly to others in life. I try to live up to my motto of 'simple living and high thinking'."
Pancholia's wife passed away at the age of 92 in May last year. He leaves behind four children, 11 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and an unforgettable legacy.