Ever since a video of a few men offering namaz in Lucknow's LuLu Mall premises went viral on social media, several claims against it have been made by Hindutva groups in the past few days.
Some of the claims include,"LuLu Mall discriminates against Hindus; 70 percent staff of the LuLu Mall staff is Muslim; most men hired in LuLu Mall are Muslims and most women are Hindus."
Following protests by right wing groups, demands to chant Hanuman Chalisa at the mall, claims and counter-claims by the mall authorities, police complaints, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's warnings against "unnecessary demonstrations", four people were arrested on Tuesday, 19, July for offering namaz in the premises after being booked under several sections relating to spreading religious unrest and enmity.
The mall, inaugurated by CM Yogi himself on 10 July, is just one of the LuLu Group's developmental projects in Uttar Pradesh. Here's a look at the empire, the investments, and the political connections of the LuLu group in India –
Lucknow's LuLu Mall and the Group's Investments in UP
The LuLu Mall, located on Amar Shaheed Path in Lucknow's Golf City, was inaugurated on 10 July this year.
The mall is the fifth such establishment launched by the The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based LuLu Group, with the other four establishments in Kochi, Bengaluru, Thrissur, and Thiruvananthapuram.
Lucknow's LuLu Mall, the group's latest project in India, spans across 2.2 million square feet.
The mall has been built at a cost of around Rs 2,000 crore, and is home to several top brands, such as Decathlon, Nykaa Luxe, Starbucks, Kalyan Jewellers, Chilli's, and Uniqlo.
The mall further houses 15 fine dining restaurants and a food court that can accommodate 1,600 customers. Apart from this, it has the largest LuLu Hypermarket, LuLu Fashion Store, and LuLu Connect.
After its inauguration, mall authorities had announced that it would provide over 15,000 direct and indirect job opportunities.
Further, the group has planned several other projects across UP totaling Rs 2,500 crore. While the company plans on building LuLu malls in Varanasi and Prayagraj, a LuLu Food Processing Hub is scheduled to come up in Greater Noida.
The chairman of the LuLu group, Yusuff Ali MA, attended the third UP Investors Summit in Lucknow which was also attended by PM Modi, CM Adityanath and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, among other senior dignitaries.
LuLu Mall Part of LuLu Group's Expansion Plans In India
The group has made headlines for allegedly having the political backing of not only CM Adityanath, but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been present at the ground-breaking ceremony of several of its projects last month.
The group's 'LuLu India' project, which showcased its expansion plans in the country – said to be worth a whopping Rs 14,000 crore – was also launched by PM Modi earlier this year.
Apart from UP, the group has three more projects in the pipeline across Kerala: a LuLu Hypermarket in Palakkad, and LuLu malls in Calicut and Kottayam.
In May this year, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Karnataka government to invest around Rs 2,000 crore in shopping malls, hypermarkets, and food processing units across the state, which is supposed to create 10,000 new jobs.
The group also signed an MoU with the Tamil Nadu government in March for investments worth Rs 3,500 crore, and has pledged Rs 2,000 crore towards a mall in Gujarat.
In January, it had pledged to invest Rs 200 crore for a food processing hub in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar.
Padma Shri Awardee, Owner of LuLu Group, Who Is Yusuff Ali MA?
Yusuff Ali MA, owner of the LuLu Group, was named the most successful Indian businessman in the Arab world by Forbes in 2018.
The 66-year-old hails from Kerala's Thrissur district and went to Abu Dhabi in 1973 to help his paternal uncle, the founder of the LuLu Group, run the business. While the group started out as a family venture, over time it diversified into a number of different businesses.
As per Forbes, Ali's net worth, as per July 2022, is $4.7 billion, making him the 564th richest person in the world. His other assets include Scotland's Waldorf Astoria and London's Great Scotland Yard Hotel.
Ali is also the first expatriate to find a place in the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI) as a Director Board member. Last year, he also became the first non-Arab to be in the ADCCI's Director Board for the fourth time in a row.
The billionaire is also known for his philanthropy. He is said to have donated around $6.8 million during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a treatment centre comprising 1,400 beds, in Kerala.
Apart from this, he also donated more than Rs 9 crore towards the rehabilitation of flood victims in Kerala in 2018.
LuLu Group's Investments Across the World
The LuLu Group has a workforce of 60,000 employees spread across 42 countries across the world.
Its operational bases extend over the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Turkey, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, United States of America, and India.
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, the group has a variety of businesses, including hypermarket operations, shopping mall development, manufacturing and trading of goods, hospitality assets, and real estate.
Its main operations, however, take place in 23 countries across the Middle East, Asia, the Americas, and Europe.
(With inputs from Forbes.)