I came to Dubai on a cargo ship, made a fortune and retired at 42: Indian expat
'We owe our success to the support of the Emiratis’
The UAE is a land of opportunity and anyone who dares to make a mark is rarely disappointed, says Gopal Rochiram Chimnani, founder Rochiram & Sons Ltd, who came to the UAE in 1969 at the age of 19 and doesn’t feel anywhere else except the UAE.
“I remember the day I hopped on a cargo ship from India to come to the UAE to be with my father. It was in the late 1960s. I’d come with a pocket full of dreams and five decades later I am cherishing success at all fronts: family, business, friends, life.”
An Indian national, Gopal’s father had come to Dubai in early 60s and worked as a textile trader. On completion of Gopal’s school education, his father asked him about further studies, but he had little interest in investing time in gaining academic prowess. Instead, Gopal asked his dad to allow him to join him in Dubai.
“At that time British Council in India gave visas, but many people took an alternative route through cargo ships to travel to Dubai and Sharjah. There were three ships: Dumra, Dwarka and Siddar from Bombay (erstwhile name of Mumbai), a metropolitan city in western India. I took Dwarka. These ships came via Pakistan and Muscat, and it would take four to five days to reach. We slept in bunkers, and at the first stop in Pakistan, where cargo was loaded and unloaded, we were given some food. Thereafter, we sailed again. There were no docks at that time in Dubai. On arriving near Dubai waters, we were asked to switch ships. I remember paying Dh10 to the launcher boat that eventually got me to Dubai shores,” said Gopal.
In Dubai, his first stint at work was at an entertainment firm as a sales executive. Soon after, his father secured a licence for business in Sharjah and asked Gopal to take charge. This was the start of a golden journey. Gopal launched his company in Sharjah, Rochiram & Sons Ltd, and opened a supermarket specialising in goods from India and Pakistan. “At that time, there were two brands of supermarkets: Spinneys and KM Trading. Both catered mainly to European goods. There were also Mohanlal and Tulsidas Lalchand, and some wholesalers from Iran. Choithrams, Lals, and the likes entered the market later. We earned popularity in no time and started getting customers from all northern emirates and Dubai. I started the business hoping to earn a few millions in 35-40 years and retire by 60 or so. But I had made much more than that in just 20 years. By 42, I surpassed my goal manifolds and retired,” said Gopal.
Gopal and his two sons now run a home linen business and supply home linen products to corporates and hypermarkets in various countries. “I have two sons, one manages our business in the UAE and the other in India,” he said.
Talking about the rise of the UAE and why he calls it a land of opportunities, Gopal said, “The UAE is a beautiful and an ambitious country. What makes it so successful today is its local population. The Emiratis are honest, and full of warmth and love. They have opened doors for many foreigners like me, supported and treated us with utmost respect. Individuals and families like mine have flourished with the growth of the UAE because of the support of the local population,” adds Gopal.
Comparing life in the 60s and 70s to now, Gopal says, “Life was beautiful; those days were the golden days. Money had value. People had love and warmth. There were very few Indians in the UAE at that time and business opportunities were in abundance. Rents were cheap. We paid 100 bucks for an apartment a month. Monthly charge for electricity was fixed. There were no air conditioners, no refrigerators. At night, we used to sleep on the sand, because it was nice and cold. It used to take minutes on car to travel between Dubai and Sharjah, and one could walk too. I remember once reaching Dubai from Sharjah following foot trails in the sand. It took me about an hour, I think,” says Gopal, adding, the UAE is a paradise.
“I do not have the same feeling anywhere else in the world. When I land at Dubai airport, I feel I have reached home. This country has given me everything — peaceful living, prosperity, opportunity to fulfill my dreams and goals, raise a family, see my children flourish. What else could I have asked for.”
On doing business in the UAE, Gopal said, “The UAE provides a very conducive environment for people to grow. The laws are pretty straight forward and support ease of doing business. Anyone who truly aspires to work and earn well, has to simply work and follow the rules. You can enjoy life like a king. The society is cordial, and you can also be sure of the support provided by the locals. This country has given us everything.”
At 71, Gopal wouldn’t have had this journey in any other way, he says. "I have enjoyed my working life here and now I am enjoying my retired life. I live one day at a time.”
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