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How Omani business partner’s tips helped Sobha Realty owner tide over his misfortunes

PNC Menon’s financial troubles disappeared for good after he started carrying an inscription from the Holy Quran about 35 years ago

PNC Menon — the founder and chairman of Sobha Group — helms a multi-billion-dollar real estate and construction empire that spans several countries, including the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and his native India.

However, Menon was on the brink three-and-half decades ago.

“My business had suffered a huge setback and I was struggling to set things right,” the founder and chairman of luxury developer, Sobha Group, recalled during a conversation with Khaleej Times.

Menon said he was torn between hope and despair when his Omani business partner Suleman Al Adawi handed him an embroidered inscription from the Holy Quran.

“He asked me to put the verse outside my house in Muscat and I did that,” said Menon.

The inscription was a verse from ‘Surah Al Imran’ in the Holy Quran. It read: ‘In yansurkumu llahu fala ghaliba lakum wa-in yakhzulkum faman zaa llazee yansurukum min bah’dihi wahala llahi falyatawakkalil mu’minoon’. (If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely.)

Menon said divine intervention worked wonders for him.

He reminisced that within days everything fell in place and all his problems magically resolved.

Since then, the ‘ayaat’ (verse) has been a permanent fixture in all of Menon’s homes and offices, including those in the UAE and India.

“I feel protected and comforted by it,” said the 72-year-old practicing Hindu, who always carries the sacred prayer in his pocket.

Menon said the Holy Quran verse adorns the homes of his daughters and son as well.

In keeping with the Islamic faith, all of these wall arts face the qibla, the direction to which Muslims turn during prayers.

“Allah has been very kind to me,” said the India-born Omani businessman of humble origin.

Menon, who belongs to Palakkad in Kerala, was 10 years old when his father died unexpectedly.

Later, he dropped out of college and ventured into interior designing.

At 26, he sailed for Oman and had just $7 (Dh25.71) on him following a chance meeting with Al Adwai, who was then a captain with Oman Army and was visiting India to purchase a fishing boat.

Upon his arrival in Oman, Menon borrowed money and started a modest interior and furniture business in Muscat.

The fledgling unit quickly established its reputation in the market as it successfully executed several mega government projects.

Soon, Menon earned the moniker ‘The Palace Maker’ for his works for royalty in several Arab countries.

In 1995, Menon and his family were granted Omani citizenship, an honour rarely given to expatriates.

Around the same time, he launched Sobha Limited in Bengaluru, India.

The firm is named after his wife Sobha.

In 2003, Menon expanded his business footprint to Dubai.

“The emirate’s world class infrastructure made it a natural choice,” he reasoned.

“The soil of the UAE is so beautiful you grow roots beneath your feet. Once you live here for five years, you cannot leave this country. The same thing happened with us,” said the father of three children.

At present, his company is building the ambitious $4 (Dh14.69) billion project called Sobha Hartland, an eight million square feet project development near Mohammed bin Rashid City and has already handed over multiple units this year.

Sobha will launch a 200-acre development to Sobha Hartland next year.

Also in the works is The S, a 60-storey mixed-use tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, which will house Sobha’s corporate office by 2024.

Menon’s entrepreneurial journey in the UAE augurs well for the future.

“I’ve enough projects in the UAE to keep myself busy for another decade. If I were to place a bet on any country, it would be the UAE. It’s got a proactive and visionary government. The infrastructure is world class and there is zero corruption. You can’t go wrong with this combination,” added the optimistic self-made realty czar.


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