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‘Fearful & wonderful’: Lulu group chairman recalls the chopper crash

Dubai: LuLu Group chairman and managing director Yusuff Ali M A is still vividly recalling some of the first things he saw when their helicopter crashed in the south Indian state of Kerala nearly three months ago. There was a house — as well as a lorry and some electrical wires.

Although he recalls being ‘frightened,’ he also described it as a ‘wonderful’ experience. ‘This is the third month after a fearful yet wonderful chopper crash. It was a miraculous escape. Allah saved me. The chopper landed on a walled plot of small land. Nearby, there were a cement mixing lorry and a house, as well as electrical posts and wires by the side. It was also a marshy area. Our pilot said he didn’t know how he managed to land the chopper there. We all escaped thanks to the blessings of Allah. The Almighty ensured all of us safely landed and escaped unharmed from a grave accident,’ Yusuff Ali said during his first media briefing since the crash.

The Indian businessman suffered a spinal injury but said he was fortunate not to have been paralyzed. ‘I was sitting at the back of the chopper and that’s why I suffered an injury to my spine. Fortunately, my wife and staff were all fine. I was actually lucky that my injury wasn’t worse as I could have suffered paralysis and wouldn’t have been able to walk,’ he said and shows several photos from the crash site.

He underwent spinal surgery in Abu Dhabi and had six screws implanted in his spine. ‘I underwent keyhole surgery. Screws have been implanted in my spine. I am undergoing a rehab program and physiotherapy. Currently, I walk on the treadmill twice a day, and after a month, I should be able to run.’

Yusuff Ali, who leads the Non-resident Keralites’ Affairs (Norka-Roots), said he would lobby for the compensation of Covid-affected expats in India.

LuLu Group has opened 26 hypermarkets and supermarkets worldwide since the pandemic began, including four e-commerce centers, and a massive expansion is planned across states in India, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.

‘We hired more than 3,000 new staff. We plan to open 30 hypermarkets by the end of next year. We are also looking to aggressively grow our e-commerce business,’ Yusuff Ali said.

He said that more than 500 staff members from the UAE are stuck in India due to travel restrictions. ‘However, we must follow the safety protocols set by the UAE government. Health and safety are our priority.’

‘Our preparations for taking part in the Expo Dubai are in full swing. We will be part of the Indian Pavilion and have our representation,’ he said.


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