Dubai: It’s that spot of darkness in his past he’ll never be able to get over. In Grade 8, while many of his peers were sleeping the sleep of the naive, Lal Chand was learning how the world worked; it would be a hard lesson.
His mother, who suffered from a heart condition, passed away because the Chand family could not afford her by-pass.
It’s a deep wound that still haunts the now 60-year-old.
This boy would go on to change the fortunes of his entire family. He would become a multi-millionaire industrialist and philanthropist. But this would not be for some time.
In Grade 8, first he had to contend with the emotional distress. “My father was a small trader and we barely had money in the house to buy oil to light the lamp. Where were we going to get the money for her medical treatment?” asks Chand.
It is not easy watching your mother die in front of your eyes and feeling so helpless about it. But I did. And worse, we could do nothing about it. We just watched her go. That day, I decided I have to turn my life around.
– Pakistani businessman Lal Chand
“It is not easy watching your mother die in front of your eyes and feeling so helpless about it. But I did. And worse, we could do nothing about it. We just watched her go. That day, I decided I have to turn my life around,” says Chand, who now lives in Dubai.
“The day she died was a turning point in my life. There was a void in my heart. I felt terribly sad and asked the universe why this had happened. I knew the answer. There was no money in the house. And I had to [change that],” he says.
Chand was born in a tiny town called Taluka Bhatoro, in Sindh Pakistan, in 1960. His father, Gangaram, ran a wholesale business, Gangaram Kothi, which did quite well for a while.
But then things began to go awry. When Chand was five years old, the Indo-Pak war broke out and the family business took a hit.
A few years later, in 1971, when there was another war, his father’s business went from bad to worse. Chand was in Grade 6 at the time.
His parents turned to their spirituality to deal with the turmoil they now faced.
Under their guidence, Chand also became influenced by Sufi philosophy – soon, he was making trips to the shrine of Sufi Shah Inyat Shaheed in Jhok Sharif, a small village where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs come together.
Dealing with heart break
In Grade 8, this fortitude would come in handy. Chand was in mourning. But he was also making a decision that would influence the rest of his life.
“I never wanted to be in a situation again where there was no money for basic necessities of life. It is one of the saddest things for a family to go through,” he recalls.
His conviction that education would prove his way out of the doldrums kept him in school and working hard.
“The power of education is something else. There are so many Bollywood movies made on this theme. But I am a living example of how to turn your life around with education.”
He stood first in Grade 10 and started working with his brother, Sadadram, who was in the family business in Bathoro, on a part-time basis.
Chand went to Hyderabad to pursue his college education while helping in the family business. In the morning he would attend college; in the evening, he would work in the office.
During this time, he also enrolled himself at the Mehran University to study Civil Engineering. Chand’s education was funded by hard-won scolarships.
Chand graduated in 1985 from the university where he also took up a job as a lecturer to support the family household.
One might expect someone who has seen the first-hand burn of a drowning business to steer clear of it. For, Chand however, it seems the spirit of entrepreneurship was etched in his DNA.
In 1989, he took a chance — on himself. He started a real estate business in Hyderabad Sindh.
In 1990, he also ventured into the stock exchange. Three years later he left his university position and moved to Karachi to expand his property and stock exchange business.
Coming to Dubai
In 2001, Chand had made about Dh5 million through his work in Pakistan; it was time to go overseas. It was time to come to Dubai.
But wait! His [Chand’s] growth happened in Dubai.
Eighteen years later, Chand, has, not doubled or tripled his earning. In fact, take this: The current turnover of Chand’s company hovers over a billion dirhams.
After coming to Dubai, Chand started a general trading and property business.
“The economy was booming in the UAE. And my business began to see a spike. In 2005, I expanded the business to London, UK, where we started a stock exchange company, property and other allied businesses.”
He also started SG Sports, a betting company in Milton Keynes in partnership with Shahab Gauri.
“The business did extremely well in Ascot and other horse racing tracks as well as through telephone betting,” said Chand.
Soon after, he returned to Dubai and opened another company in JAFZA called LC BIZ LIMITED for property, general trading and investments.
Then he decided to take work around the prevailing market conditions. Chand invested in a number of properties in Dubai when the 2008 recession hit — the value of which doubled once financial conditions had settled.
“Tapping into opportunities is key if you want to be a successful businessman,” explains Chand.
Chand’s business interests range from real estate and software to restaurants and general trading.
But this wasn’t enough. “I know the pain of losing a loved one for not having money. I don’t want someone to go through that,” he explains.
And so he started a non-profit entity, to help better lives.
He set up LC Well, a wellbeing organisation, headquartered in London and operating from Dubai. The non-profit entity offers free classes of yoga, meditation, counselling and everything related to stress management and healthy lifestyles.
All a person has to do is register on the website, avail its membership and then receive all benefits including access to lectures, workshops, meets with psychologists, wellness videos and campaigns – for free.
Chand said: “My life has changed 180 degrees. Today the success I have achieved is all the blessing from the universe. I want to give back to the society. when I have achieved success, I feel it is the right time to help others.”
It is his quest to create a more equitable, peaceful and tolerant world where individuals think, not just of their own happiness but of those around them, too. “The membership of [LC Well] has grown from 500 to 10,500 in a short span of time. Even now, there are about 15-20 people who come in every day for counseling, yoga, etc.,” he said.
Chand’s office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) has a meditation and counseling area overlooking the Dubai skyline. He will start construction of a brand new tower called the Wellness Tower in Silicon Oasis in January of 2020.
It (Wellness Tower) is my dream venture and should be ready in 15 months. The tower is targeted for those who want to make wellness a part of their daily living.
– Pakistani businessman Lal Chand
“It is my dream venture and should be ready in 15 months. The tower is targeted for those who want to make wellness a part of their daily living.
“The building will be designed to be most environmentally friendly with solar panels and the like. There will be commercial units but enough importance will be given to health and mental wellbeing. A meditation and yoga centre will be part of the structure.”