Melwin Joy
AUTHOR

Melwin Joy

All stories by: Melwin Joy
Siddeek Ahmed – To infinity and beyond

The desert kingdoms of Persia have been, for the most part, welcoming and benevolent to the thousands who landed on its shores seeking a better life. While many attribute their better standards of life to the Gulf economy, only very few can claim to have found meteoric success.

Dr. Siddeek Ahmed’s achievements are indeed awe inspiring to many who believe in perseverance and hard work. The business conglomerate, Eram group, he built from scratch comprises 40 different companies that operate in 16 countries. The business empire extends from the region’s leading travel management company to recognized entities in the industrial contracting sector, customized turnkey solutions to manufacturing of innovative products, health care and hospitality sector, to name a few.

Eram Group is one of the largest diversified business groups to be licensed by SAGIA (Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority). 

Eram holds around nine foreign investment licenses, most probably the most by any company in KSA.

Dr. Siddeek’s life story is similar to that of countless other expats. Born in a little village of Mankarai in the district of Palakkad, Kerala, India as the second youngest of nine children, he was deeply influenced by the generous and compassionate nature of his late parents, Panamtharayil Ahmed Haji and Mariyumma. He strongly believes that the inculcation of such noble and humanitarian values, very early in his childhood, laid the foundation for his philanthropic pursuits today.

In his early twenties, after acquiring a Diploma in Electronics, he set off for the desert kingdoms of the Middle East seeking a brighter future and pursuing his passion. What set him apart from the rest was his  etermination and positive attitude. When most expats left when the Gulf War broke out, Dr. Siddeek stayed on in the Middle East. He took advantage of the myriad opportunities that presented themselves when the countries started to rebuild after the war.

With funds from his own pockets and contributions from a few supportive friends, Dr. Siddeek set about building an impressive conglomerate. Over the years, the organic growth was evident owing to his futuristic vision, persistence and ability to capitalize on niche market opportunities setting up a strong foundation for the company.

The diverse interests of the group might puzzle some. Dr. Siddeek states that each is a separate, profit making unit that functions under the group’s umbrella. According to him, the secret behind the success lies in wholeheartedly investing in the people instead of simply investing in a business. Plans are underfoot to bring each of Eram’s companies under a more organized corporate structure. With its headquarters in Saudi Arabia, over a 100 offices spread across the globe and close to 10,000 direct employees, one cannot but admire the scope of what one man has built with sheer determination and persistence. An able and just leader, Dr.Siddeek acknowledges the role played by his brilliant and competent management and staff, unstintingly sharing his pride and pleasure with them. He also recognizes the supportive role played by his employees’ families. He frequently states,

“I take care of my family, friends, employees and customers. They take care of me and my business.”

Recently, he was presented with a distinctive honour, the ‘Labour Friendly Employer’ award instituted by the KMCC. His offices are situated as far and wide as Thailand and Tanzania, across four continents. He has graced the covers of prestigious business magazines and been named the Top Indian Business Leader by the Forbes Middle East.

As remarkable as Dr. Siddeek accomplishments are in the field of business, the unstinting efforts of the man to bring about positive changes in the lives of countless, ordinary people deserve equal attention. The Founding Chairman and Managing Director of Eram group will be mighty pleased to be referred to as a ‘Social Entrepreneur’ as much as a visionary business leader. Today, he uses his immense influence and employs his vast resources to bring about sustainable changes that he feels are not just necessary but imperative in the societies around him.

While providing employment and thereby a livelihood is in itself a commendable endeavour, Dr. Siddeek’s desire to touch the lives of those less privileged and to create an impact on a larger scale has driven him to set up charitable organisations and become personally involved with many initiatives at the regional, national and international level. His philanthropy is based on the firm belief that people are mere custodians of wealth and that it should be shared for the common good.

Dr. Siddeek brings the same zeal and commitment to his philanthropic projects as he would to his various businesses. His involvement does not end with signing the cheques. He delves deeper into the root of the problem. That is how from sponsoring dialysis machines, he moved on to take up the sanitation issue facing his native land. Dr. Siddeek feels that areas such as sanitation and water supply require diligent attention and proactive solutions for the future of mankind. Eram’s award winning R&D arm and social enterprise, Eram Scientific Solutions, was set up to tackle challenges of such nature. This dynamic research and development organisation associates with 16 international universities, including CalTech and the Duke University, furthering goals of recycling, reusing, tapping renewable sources and other cutting edge research projects that aims to benefit humanity as a whole. The company has been roped in to create a sustainable model for public toilets. The aim is to employ innovative technology to provide public restrooms that are hygienic, efficient and easy to maintain. The model developed byEram Scientific Solutions is a fullyautomated, unmanned unit that requires less than half the water used in a domestic toilet. Along similar lines, a She-toilet, a public restroom that is equipped to dispense sanitary pads is being developed.

The eToilet initiative has garnered numerous accolades and brought the focus of the media on him. Yet, the problem is so deeply embedded in the Indian society that more awareness and propaganda are necessary to achieve the aim of the project. eToilets have been set up so far in 21 states across India. International organisations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the UN and the Government of India, have lauded his efforts and pledged their support. The India Today Group bestowed him with the Safaigiri Toilet Titan Award, which was presented by the Hon. Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi. More than 40 awards and honours have poured in from across the globe, signifying the importance and the relevance of this project. A unit of the eToilet was displayed at the UN Day celebrations held in New

Delhi. The theme of the event was ‘Innovation in India’. The technology, design and functionality of the unit received rave reviews and generated a great deal of interest among the visitors and officials alike. Dr. Siddeek donated couple of eToilets to the UN which will soon be installed inside the New Delhi compound. The eToilet developed, tested and prototyped in India is a shining example of the ‘Make in India’ campaign that also aids the Indian government’s ‘Clean India’ mission. Continued innovation and research has considerably brought down the cost of each unit to just under a lakh of rupees making it a viable option for schools and public institutions.

The enormity of the problem does not deter the man. He ploughs ahead creating the necessary infrastructure and coming up with innovative solutions. Dr. Siddeek and his dedicated team combine their expertise and resources in various fields to create and execute the mammoth project that is likely to be a game changer on the hygiene and sanitation scene of the country.

While his business acquisitions and mergers make headlines in the business world, Dr. Siddeek continues to bring every resource at his disposal to make lasting changes at the grass root level. By offering technical knowhow and funds, Eram group is taking forward various government initiatives in India and abroad. One such instance is the project to augment the groundwater level in three panchayats of Palakkad district, Kerala. This initiative would ensure that the villages along the River Bharatapuzha will not face a drought-like situation during the scorching summer months. Joining hands with the MGNREG scheme, defunct wells and untended ponds were identified. The wells were cleaned and the ponds de-silted, enhancing their capacity to retain rainwater. The broken shutters across the river, a part of a mini irrigation project, were replaced, thereby preventing water runoff. This would result in the recharging of the groundwater level in the area. So far, more than 150 wells and water bodies have been given a new lease of life. The success of the project would likely see it spread to other districts of the state.

It would seem as though no area or sector has been overlooked by this generous soul and his dynamic business empire. Graameen.in is an initiative by Eram Infotech to offer the skilled and revered artisans and craftsman of the Indian villages a global platform. The e-commerce site sells Indian handlooms and handicrafts sourced from the far flung villages and towns of the country. This enterprise is a major boost to the cottage and handicraft industries that would otherwise have been left behind in this day and age of online shopping portals.

Dr. Siddeek shares his delight at having had a chance to interact with the former President of India, the late Dr. A.P. J. Abdul Kalam. The beloved scientist and leader has left an indelible mark on him. Deeply touched by Dr. Kalam’s humble and down to earth personality, he continues to be inspired by the great man’s vision for India. In fact, it was during one such meeting that the former President pointed out the gap in industry-relevant training in the country, leaving Indian graduates with diplomas but not enough employable skills.

This prompted the Eram chairman to join hands with the Kerala State Academy for Skill Excellence to set up the ESPOiR Academy. He envisioned  a top notch institution to nurture industry-ready graduates in various disciplines such as Mechanical, Electrical, Instrumentation and Quality Assurance, Quality control etc. It is a one of a kind institution in the country that provides hands-on practical training – in various disciplines, conducted in well-equipped labs. Spread over one hundred thousand sq ft, this state of the art facility trains students in the latest technology, turning them into skilled labour especially for the Oil & Gas, onshore and offshore Rigs, Power Plant and Petrochemical industries and awarding them diplomas that are accepted in most of the GCC countries. The aim is to bring down the unemployment in the state by producing a competent labour force that has specialized expertise and skills vital to today’s industries and being an enabling factor for the late Dr. Kalam’s great vision for India.

While many consider the education sector to be a lucrative business, Dr. Siddeek continues to view it as a social responsibility and noble undertaking. Eram Educational and Welfare Trust was instituted to impart excellent education at par with global standards. The first school is now functioning on a 15 acre campus in South India. Today the Trust runs the Mariyumma Memorial Primary School and Mariyumma Memorial Secondary school, named after his late mother, following the state’s curriculum. A Teacher’s Training Institute also functions on the premises. Since taking over the institution, Dr. Siddeek has brought in trained and experienced faculty of global repute, that passionately believe in imparting value based education while giving equal emphasis to sports for all-round development of the students’ personality and character. The management firmly believes in the all-round development of the students. While the infrastructure of the school and its grounds are being upgraded to international standards, plans are also underfoot to start another educational institution that will offer the CBSE and IB curriculum.

Dr. Siddeek has even converted his love of football into a means of social change. He revived the Sait Nagjee football tournament and brought in iconic football player Ronaldinho to Kozhikode, much to the delight of the football fans. To encourage more young people to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle, he instituted the UN@70 Cup, an All Kerala Inter-School football tournament, thus named to commemorate 70 years of the United Nations existence. The English goal keeper Peter Shelton attended the closing ceremony and gave away the trophies.

A joint venture by Eram, ARC Hospitality, is a celebrated catering and food Distribution Company based out of Dubai, UAE. They cater more than 30,000 meals a day to the corporate sector. The enterprise specializes in offsite catering, offering a wide variety of global cuisines. Today, ARC Hospitality runs restaurants and cafes, is popular for its mouth-watering dishes, bakery products and caters to the Who’s Who of Dubai.

Dr. Siddeek humanitarian initiatives are many. He has been a generous supporter and well-wisher of the Regional Cancer Center. His role in facilitating a heart transplant, the first of its kind in Kerala, had made headlines. People of multiple faiths and backgrounds came together and worked as a cohesive unit to make this time sensitive feat a success story. KAICIID, an international intergovernmental organization, founded by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Austria and Kingdom of Spain has used this incident to further their dialogue on religious harmony and enhance cooperation among people. A documentary film narrating this instance of compassion and grace is being developed to further KAICIID’s efforts to spread the world of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Dr. Siddeek ensures that his humanitarian schemes do not discriminate on the basis of caste, religion etc. He has built homes for the homeless, funded medical treatments and touched the lives of countless who turned to him in a time of distress irrespective of their faith or nationality. On a global scale, Eram group is collaborating with the UN on its Save Mother Earth campaign as a part of its CSR initiative. The aim is to spread awareness and promote the various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the esteemed organisation. The company is taking an active role in spreading the message across 196 countries.

While his humanitarian efforts continue unhindered, the Eram group is marching ahead conquering new markets and domains. It is interesting to note that Eram group’s business ventures lean heavily towards sustainability. For instance, their latest joint venture is with Enel Distribution, a part of Enel Group, a globally recognized leader in energy distribution and smart grid solutions. Eram is now equipped to bring smart grid and smart meter solutions to the GCC geared towards Smart City projects.Eram is also considering various strategies to give a major
impetus to ‘green energy’ solutions.

In India, Eram’s acquisition of the Punebased power electronics company is expected to provide a major fillip to the power demands of the country. Once again, Eram Magnaflux Systems Pvt Ltd’s focuses on efficient harnessing of renewable energy and their expertise in developing and installing its product range which includes Solar/Wind chargers, PCUs and Off-grid Solar UPS will reduce the population’s absolute dependence on the national grid.

Another division of Eram, Arabian Power Electronics Company (APEC) is a first of its kind manufacturing facility in the GCC, providing power electronics with production facilities in Saudi Arabia, backed by a state of the art research facility, functioning in collaboration with EramMagnaflux in India. APEC’s Industrial UPS Systems, Battery Chargers, Frequency
Converters, Inverters, are endorsed by leading companies in the region. With a well-trained and experienced engineering team, the company is in a strong position to execute large scale projects providing system integration solutions, installation and commissioning, providing turnkey consultancy services & training, and perform preventive maintenance of various products.
Many honours and distinctions have been bestowed on him. He is a recipient of numerous awards including the International Humanitarian Award at the International Interfaith Harmony Conference.The award was presented at the UN International Interfaith Harmony Conference, held at Malaysia in 2016, jointly organized by the Department of National Unity and Integration, Prime Ministers Department Malaysia, International Islamic University of Malaysia, and Madin Academy. He was recently awarded the Pravasi Outstanding Business Icon Award conferred by
the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam. It was presented by the Opposition leader of Kerala, Mr. Ramesh Chennithala. Dr. Siddeek’s deeds and mission confirm that many more such accolades will follow. Eram group’s growth and success is testimony to this visionary business leader’s acumen and resilience. Without a doubt many would aspire to replicate his journey.

Unaffected by fame and fortune, Dr. Siddeek continues to live a simple life with his wife Nushaiba, and three children, Rizwan Ahmed, Rizana Mariam & Rizwi Mariam, by his side. Always in touch with his roots, forever ready to employ his wealth for the greater good, Dr. Siddeek has influenced and touched the lives of countless people outside the realm of his business. Those who were touched, directly or indirectly, by his generosity and initiative would hardly find words to express their gratitude.

Melwin Joy
AUTHOR

Melwin Joy

All stories by: Melwin Joy