Gulf returnees plan retail foray in Kerala

By Jeevan Mathew Kurian, IANS

Thamarassery (Kerala) : ISMA Farms Ltd, a collective venture by Keralites who have returned from the Gulf, plans to enter into organised retail in a major way with an investment of Rs.100 million ($2.5 million).

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ISMA stands for Investment Scheme of Malayali Associates, which aims to create employment and investment opportunities for those who have returned from the Gulf.

“At present we are considering an investment of Rs.100 million for our expansion plans,” Abdul Razzak, managing director of ISMA, told IANS. The organisation has opened its first retail outlet at Thamarssery, some 400 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

“ISMA will open two hypermarkets in Kozhikode district. The first one will be at Nadapuram (60 km from Kozhikode) and it will be opened before July. The next one is at Vatakara (40 km from Kozhikode),” Razzak said.

The hypermarket at Nadapuram will have a floor area of 9,000 sq ft. ISMA, which is registered as a public limited company, will also open retail outlets in the districts of Malappuram and Palakkad.

The capital for ISMA is collected as shares from Keralites in the Gulf. The minimum investment is Rs.100,000 ($2,500). ISMA currently has 100 shareholders.

“We want to provide them a safe investment avenue as they become victims in many financial frauds. Part of their investment will be deployed in mutual funds and they will be issued certificates for this.

“We also promise to give back their capital after four years,” said Razzak, who has worked in the retail sector in Salalah in Oman for 20 years.

To ensure public participation and mobilise funds, ISMA’s retail outlet offers family club membership for customers.

“Club membership comes at Rs.10,000. Customers can make purchases for Rs.6,000 on credit. This will help those families depending on monthly remittances from the Gulf. We also provide home delivery services,” said S.V. Abdullah, sales manager of ISMA, also a Gulf returnee.

ISMA, which started functioning in February 2007, began its operations with a dairy and a goat and poultry farm at Varadoor in Wayanad district.

“Our plan is to market produce from our farms through retail outlets,” said Razzak.

The organisation has also started a housing scheme for Gulf returnees.

“Under the Ismalayam Housing scheme, we plan to provide houses at reasonable rates for those returning from the Gulf,” Razzak said.

At present ISMA runs a school at Ambalavayal in Wayanad district.

“The school currently is up to the third standard. We are also planning to open a residential school and a hospital,” Razzak said.

“In Kerala, expatriates are an exploited lot. People bracket all the Gulf returnees with rich non-resident Indians. A large majority of those in the Gulf work on small jobs. Only a very small number of Gulf expatriates return home successful,” said Abdullah.