An Indian business family’s 100-year journey in Dubai
The UAE is a land of opportunities under the wise leadership and if one has an innovative mindset and passion then no one can stop him from being successful, said Deepak Bhatia, an Indian expatriate and member of a prominent business family.
Deepak Bhatia, managing director of one of Dubai’s oldest establishments Uncle’s Shop, will celebrate his 50th birthday next month on August 10. He is the son of Vijay Bhatia, the first Indian film distributor in the UAE who launched several successful businesses apart from maintaining his family establishment, Uncle’s Shop, a trading venture he set up with his father, Uttamchand Bhatia, in the 1930s.
With its legacy of 100 years in Dubai, the Bhatia family first stepped on Dubai shores when Deepak’s grandfather, Uttamchand Bhatia, came with his uncle in 1920 as an 11-year-old boy. “Our roots are in Rajasthan, India but my ancestors moved to Thatta, Sindh (now a small city with fishing business in the Sindh province of Pakistan),” he said while talking to Gulf Today.
“During the deadly plague that hit Karachi and surrounded towns including Thatta in 1920, many family members who were my grandfather’s kin died. Only one uncle and aunt survived. Then they moved to Dubai, a new land of thriving businesses, to start a new life and run away from the calamities of the pandemic,” he said.
According to him, Uttamchand Bhatia learnt the ropes of business within two years and opened his first shop to sell clothes in 1922 at the age of 13 with the support of his new friend, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Within no time, the business of Uttamchand Bhatia flourished, due to his diligence and uncanny ability to realise local demands, apart from keeping an eye on upcoming opportunities. Soon he was known as ‘Vattra’ (meaning important in Arabic) among the locals and ‘Uttrabha’ among the Indian expat community as his business had already spread across the Gulf and India.
“At such a tender age, in a new land with a foreign language, my grandfather managed to survive and had a thriving business, importing different types and qualities of textiles from India and selling them among the local population including the royal family,” he said.
“My grandfather had close affiliation with the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum and in one instance when he came to name his shop, he agreed on the title ‘Uncle’s Shop’ as the late Sheikh Rashid was like an uncle to my father and his brothers,” he said, while unfolding the story behind the unusual monicker of their family shop.
Despite the challenges, the enterprise prospered over time as the family business was run by Deepak and his son, Yash, the fourth generation of Indian expatriates, calling the UAE their adopted country.
His grandfather, besides running his textile business, also served the community by setting up the first Indian High School opposite Dubai Museum, near ruler’s office, Bur Dubai. Then later the community established the Indian Club and High School. The land for the first temple in Bur Dubai, Krishna temple, was also acquired by Uttamchand Bhatia.
“He (Uttamchand Bhatia) died in 1986 and for the last over 35 years, not only members from Dubai’s royal family but also the Indian community in the UAE still remember and admire him as a great personality who lived an extraordinary life. We are also thankful to the Rulers who gave opportunities to our family to establish businesses that became very successful,” said Deepak.
Deepak’s father, Vijay Bhatia, lent a helping hand to the family business but in 1970 set up the first authorised film distribution firm and then later moved to the construction business in 1976.
Deepak had his own plans and in 1990 ventured into real estate business. “With the full support of my father, soon I added a number of products like steel, cement and other material to expand my business.”
His son, Yash, is also a remarkable success story with his innovative business ideas. He introduced green energy solutions in the fields of construction with modified solar panels, and on e-bikes which will be unveiled during Dubai’s mega event, Expo 2020.