Meet the Indian Bailing Out Prisoners in UAE
The 59-year-old philanthropist and businessman is the founder and chairman of Pure Gold Jewelers.
Firoz Merchant, a Dubai-based Indian businessman has become the first expatriate to be honored with the UAE’s prestigious ‘community service medal’.
The 59 year-old Merchant, who has spent more than USD 4 million to help free prisoners who were behind the bars due to non-payment of debts, is the founder and chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers.
Merchant has been awarded with the community service medal to recognize his efforts in serving the community, reported Financial Times.
“Whatever I have done, and will continue to do, is for the love of the UAE and India. I represent my country India and the UAE is my second home,” Merchant said while dedicating his award to his countrymen.
The childhood of the billionaire who currently owns retail stores spread across the gulf countries and India, was spent in a one-room house in the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai.
After finishing school, Merchant began helping his father with his real estate business where he learnt how to manage people and business partners. “When my father would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say ‘businessman’. I didn’t know what I wanted to trade in at the time, just that I wanted to carve out my own destiny,” Merchant told Gulf News in an interview.
It was during this phase when the family was struggling with the money that made him realize that there was no easy way to succeed. “Only hard work and determination can help you realize your dreams.”
Reaching New Heights
The first time he set foot in Dubai was during his honeymoon. It was also that time when he strongly felt that Dubai was the city for him. He returned to Dubai in 1989 and started his business with zero capital.
He began trading in gold bars but didn’t have the money to buy them so instead he would arrange transactions between small-time merchants and wholesalers taking a small commission. In 1991, he had saved enough to start his gold trading business. In 1998, he opened his first retail jewellery outlet. Today he has more than 100 stores across the Middle East, in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sri Lanka amongst others along with 200 stores in India
He was ranked 26th on the Forbes Middle East List of Indian Business Owners in 2014. In the same year, Dubai based leading business magazine, Arabian Business ranked him 28th on its 2014 Richest Indians list, with an estimated net worth of USD 435 million.
Saving the Prisoners
Merchant has also been involved in helping prisoners who are unable to pay off their debts. Since 2008, he has spent more than USD 4.08 million in paying off the debts of more than 10,000 prisoners who are behind the bars in UAE due to their inability to clear debts.
He launched a rescue and repatriation programme for prisoners of all nationalities in 2011, those who were arrested under insolvency laws.
In May this year he promised to donate USD 130,790 a year to fund the air tickets for released prisoners so that they can go back home to their families.
“These prisoners are victims of circumstances and are not real criminals. They are in jail because of debt,” Merchant told PTI.