Sometime in the 1990s, K.T. Rabeeullah was subject of media hype that attracted much public attention. He was facing a slew of charges and accusations. However, an official inquiry found him innocent later. Being a foreigner in the Kingdom, he in fact deserved applause for the services he rendered to the community.
Soon thereafter, while working for Malayalam newspaper in the country I began to hear a great deal more about him mainly, I must say, positive comments and opinions that would do anybody proud. In fact a few Arabs also wrote to commend him and suggested to the government to take it easy with him on account of the fact that he was carrying out extraordinary services for the Indian community as well as the Kingdom.
For he was managing and building several medical facilities and running them not only professionally but efficiently to enable as many patients as possible to benefit from them. So I decided to meet him at the earliest and to cover his activities whenever there was something to report.
There were other Indians in the same field but none as big as the man, neither in size nor in number of medical facilities he set up. Rabeeullah was committed to nonstop enterprise with zest and organization that left practically all the others panting to catch up with him.
The rigmarole that the press kicked up at the time was unjustified and had no basis, but in fact helped him and raised his standing in public eyes. The row also prompted me to meet with him which I did on more than one occasion including his attendance at one of our annual functions to celebrate the success of the newspaper despite his many and endless engagements. He had arrived from the airport and was going back to it the next day after a few meetings with his Jeddah staff. Such was his energy and seemingly endless enthusiasm for creative enterprise that focused on building and administering hospitals of a good quality for the services of the people here.
K.T. Rabeeullah was born in the southern state of Kerala, India, which has sent millions of people to the Gulf and the Kingdom in the past few years. He came here like so many of his compatriots to take up extremely modest manual jobs with no knowledge of Arabic or English. He is well versed in both now. And it was by a coincident that he joined an Arab gentleman in helping him run a medium sized hospital to cater to Indians at a moderate rate.
His progress was phenomenal after breaking up with his local partner and sponsor.
In my opinion the man is a genius. He had a flair for setting up, managing and staffing of hospitals. He is running as many as 24 hospitals and clinics in the Kingdom and the Gulf states, and planning a few more. During one of our meetings over dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Jeddah he asked me a few questions about the Republic of Yemen so I guessed that he was interested in that country too as he was in other countries in addition to the Kingdom.
I told him whatever I knew but he has probably not decided to go ahead yet. He is apparently waiting for the right time and opportunity to decide. Going by his record so far if he remains well and healthy as he is now, he will scale greater heights, although a few years ago he went through a severe bout of illness for which he was hospitalized in Switzerland for several months.
Under the umbrella of his Shifa Al Jazeerah Medical Group, he has 17 optical centers and 35 pharmacies which include 700 doctors and 10,000 other staff in the GCC. Apart from this he has some ambitious plans that would dwarf such institutions in India and the West. And he has already earmarked a few locations in the Kingdom for some more hospitals of modern design and up-to-date management.
Rabeeullah never stops dreaming and planning — in fact these are two features of his character. When I asked him about these features, he had no one convincing answer. But I guessed it was his overwhelming drive to dream, plan and achieve something substantial for the benefit of the largest number of people at the lowest price possible.
I do not know much about his charities nor does he talk about them but one in his home village is widely known. He gives money to the needy people there on a monthly basis. And he has plans to award assistance to outstanding people in various fields of public service, so that he may remain close to the working classes and the needy and poor people. This is the kind of satisfaction he derives from reaching out to his people. That is fine of course since that way he obtains the happiness he wants despite the hard work he exerts.
I did not say it to him but I have a strong feeling that if he remains hale and hearty and is spared big shocks, although he cannot avoid them altogether like the one that afflicted him in the early nineties, he will go far not only in his career, but elsewhere in life. Lesser people have reached higher places in Indian life. Why not him?
n Farouk Luqman is an eminent journalist based in Jeddah.