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Success Stories

Ravi Pillai: The Journey from a Farmer’s Son to a Billionaire

A Few Words About Mr. Ravi Pillai

The journey of B. Ravi Pillai, from being born into a farmer’s family to being listed as one of Forbes’ top billionaires, is nothing short of extraordinary. Giving hope to everyone who dares to dream big, Mr. Pillai is an exemplary figure to show that you really can shape your destiny.

When you are challenged with obstacles and feel your dream might be a far-fetched reality, just take a look at this Dubai-based Indian construction tycoon and businessman, and you will find the inspiration to give you the boost you need.

Early Life and Background

Born on 2nd September 1953 in a small village called Chavara in the coast town of Kollam in Kerala, India, he was born in a family of farmers. Yet, that did not deter him from dreaming to be an entrepreneur and carving a new path for himself.

Education and Skill Development

Understanding the value of education in realizing his dreams, he finished his graduation from a local college in his state and then ventured out to pursue business administration and completed his post-graduation in the same at Kochi University.

While a student at Kochi University, he commenced his very first line of work by opening a chit-fund company. He borrowed the capital from moneylenders, which he soon paid off by working his sweat and encompassing enough profit to fund his future endeavors.

Identifying Passion and Goals

Mr. Pillai knew the road to his success would be difficult, and he didn’t steer away from working hard because that was the only way to fulfill his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Using education as his means to reach his goals, he decided to start early.

The profit he earned through his chit-fund company would serve as the base capital for his future line of work – the one that has brought him the success that he enjoys today. He identified his leadership skills and knew how to best utilize the resources in front of him.

The Pillars of Success

Today, we might know him as the founder and chairman of the RP Group (Ravi Pillai Group), but the road to his success was filled with challenges, something that didn’t discourage him. In fact, the challenges only propelled him to further pursue his dream with even more passion.

Soon after his mild initial success with the chit fund company, he began an engineering contract business and found himself working for some of the biggest names in the industry – Hindustan Newsprint Limited, Cochin Refineries, and Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Limited.

Overcoming Challenges

Pillai’s career was far from a smooth journey. When a labor strike surfaced in one of his contracts from Vellore Hindustan Newsprint Factory, he didn’t give up. Instead, he decided that it was his time to shift gears and move to Saudi Arabia, which he did in 1978. This would be the place where he began his construction and trading business – Nasser S. Al Hajri Corporation (NSH.)

Seizing Opportunities

NSH would soon turn out to be his flagship company, and he used his network and success to the best of his abilities – expanding his business globally.

Apart from UAE and his home country India, he also set up his empires in Korea, Australia, Kuwait, USA, Bahrain, and Qatar, thereby putting himself on the map and gaining the recognition and respect of his global peers.

Hard Work and Dedication

Mr. Pillai’s determination to hard work led his company NSH to bag one big contract after another, including the hanger construction for a major French aircraft company. He soon would also gain the assignment of constructing the Royal Terminal – a project worth $50 million.

By the 1980s, he was all over the world, establishing his lines of business across locations that transcended international borders.

Innovation and Adaptability

Not only limiting himself to construction only, Pillai adapted himself to be involved with a wide range of other businesses by showcasing interests in cement, steel, oil and gas, and hospitality industries. Furthermore, he also holds stakes in some of the luxurious and biggest hotels in his home state.

Not to mention his involvement in the healthcare business through the Upasana Hospital and Research Centre has also garnered admiration in his homeland. He also ventured into travel and IT companies along with education and opened various shopping malls. With a turnover of over $5 billion from across all his ventures, he truly demonstrates diversified knowledge and skills.

Achieving Success and Recognition

Being the richest man in Kerala, he also gained quite a status by being ranked by Forbes in its billionaires’ list with a net worth of $3.3 billion as of July 2023, making him among the 1000 richest people on the planet.

For his remarkable work, the Government of India awarded him Padma Shri – the fourth highest civilian award in the country in 2010 and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2008. Excelsior College in New York has also felicitated him with a prestigious doctoral degree.

Empowering Others and Personal Growth

What began as a company with just 150 employees now has a roster of around 70,000 employees working in various companies for him.

His company also founded the RP Foundation, which is responsible for disbursing a tremendous amount of his company’s earnings to humanitarian causes.

Giving Back and Impact on Others

Despite his tremendous success, Pillai has not forgotten to give back, which is reflected in his philanthropic activities. Even though he maintains a low profile, he ensures that every year a huge portion of his wealth is dedicated to social causes of poverty alleviation, healthcare, and education, among others.

Among other many aspects, RP Foundation is also noted for its contribution to CSR activities.

A Journey Continued

Even though he has achieved everything a person can possibly achieve in their lifetime, Pillai doesn’t cease to strive for hard work. His vision to further nurture the potential in the Middle East is a promising sign for his business.

Not only his legacy will continue long after him through his children, but Mr. Pillai himself is still crafting hard to further strengthen the pillars of his business.