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John Mathew: A Saga of An Expatriate

It has been 60 years since John Mathew first set foot in Kuwait and and he believes that his retirement will bring him the very same comfort, joy and vitality that will carry him forward in his journey…reports Asian Lite News

In 1930s and 1940s, it was for the erstwhile British colonies of Singapore and Malaysia that the first waves of professionally qualified Malayali migrants set out. Newly independent India of the fifties and the sixties witnessed Indian-educated migrants leaving the country in pursuit of better career opportunities in the West. During the accelerated decolonization process in the Middle East in the sixties, with Kuwait gaining her Independence in 1961, several Middle Eastern nations sought to consolidate and independently control their oil wealth. It became imperative to hire both skilled and unskilled workers to extract, exploit, refine and move these resources and power their economies.

Water and electricity were unarguably absolute essential inputs where the generation of larger quantities of oil and the development of basic infrastructure were concerned. Kuwait had no natural freshwater sources of her own and in the early nineties, water for use in Kuwait had to be brought in from Basra in Iraq via dhow or even on the backs of donkeys. Desalination plants were later set up for the purpose of purifying seawater for both commercial and domestic requirements.

Seeking skilled workers to these massive electricity and water projects, Kuwait’s Ministry of Electricity and Water advertised these vacancies in leading newspapers in India. In 1962, John Mathew was recruited to the Ministry. His experience working as a chemical engineer at FACT in Kerala and the 2nd rank, he secured pursuing his Chemical Engineering degree qualified him to work at the MEW.

Three years later, he was hired by the Petrochemical Industries Company (then known as Kuwait Chemical Fertilizer). On the path of aggressive expansion, the company sent John Mathew to the US and the Netherlands to attend training programs as a fully salaried employee for 18 months. On his return, he would find himself working with top management at the organization.

An expat’s life is a kind of self-imposed exile. Out of necessity, they uproot themselves to find their way in strange new lands. They often find themselves unable to surmount the odds and adversities stemming from being subjected to this process but finds in themselves the strength to soldier on. For some, nations in the Gulf are often seen as transit points to other lands. Though Mathew was inundated with lucrative offers from multinational corporations in Western nations, promising even higher advancement up the corporate ladder, he realized that Kuwait was where he needed to be and chose to find his way here.

It has been 60 years since John Mathew first set foot in Kuwait and and he believes that his retirement will bring him the very same comfort, joy and vitality that will carry him forward in his journey.

When asked what brought him to decide to return home after sixty years of life abroad, he quips, “My social life has died, most of my friends have either moved back home or are no longer with us. I can literally count the number of friends I have here, while back home, I have too many friends and relatives to count.”

As a capital investor and board member in three companies in Kuwait, Mathew holds an Investor Status No. 19 visa, which enables him and his family to continue living in Kuwait as expatriates for as long as they wish. In 1981, with his entrepreneurial spirit taking charge and spurring him to strike out on his own, he started his own company, providing employment to more than 7,000 people in the years since.

The late K. M. Mani, a political strongman from Kerala, once humorously remarked on the Malayali’s penchant for creating factions within factions because he wants to lead his own pack. The desire to illuminate his identity and become a pioneer wherever he finds himself has been coded into the DNA of every Malayali that leaves home. Case in point, an overwhelming majority of the 300-odd Indian organizations registered with the Indian Embassy in Kuwait under the aegis of the Indian Arts Circle are Malayali organizations. While he was an active member of the Students’ Federation when he was at the university and later, member of the Communist Party’s trade union organization during his stint at FACT, Mathew was, however, neither actively involved with any of these Malayali organizations in Kuwait, nor sought to lead any of them.

When abroad, a Malayali employs only his politics of survival, will deftly maneuver his way through any occupation and will completely dedicate himself to his profession. This makes a Malayali an ideal global citizen.

Mathew is happy to have been of service in the capacity of Transportation Coordinator on the Volunteer Committee which was formed under the leadership of M. Mathews with the singular goal of safely repatriating over 125,000 Indians who found themselves turned into refugees overnight when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq.

Hiring Iraqi buses with donations from passengers to ferry more than 100,000 Indians by road to the Jordanian border without the help of a single government agency was a task fraught with risks and challenges. As he recounts these events, one can see the pride he carries in having participated in this humanitarian endeavor which is now regarded as the largest civilian evacuation in history.

Mathew also recalls that, in those days of uncertainty, a greater challenge was the protection and repatriation of domestic help who were abandoned when their Kuwaiti sponsors fled their homes in the wake of Iraqi aggression. John and his colleagues on the Volunteer Committee headed by M. Mathews boarded the last bus out of Kuwait only after ensuring that every last Indian who wished to go back home, including these women, was safely and securely on their way to the Jordanian border.

When NORKA was formed, the Kerala State Government appointed John Mathew as NORKA’s official Kuwait representative. At the time, John was actively engaged in ensuring that the petitions of those who were unable to apply at the UN Compensation Commission for financial reparations following the Iraqi occupation were collected and forwarded to NORKA; he collaborated with the Indian coordinator at the UN Commission in Geneva, Swashpawan Singh (former Indian Ambassador to Kuwait), and saw to it that those applying for compensation even during the final rounds were given their dues.

When asked about his opinion on the matter of the Kuwait government’s policy of not providing residence permits to those over the age of 60, John, now 84 and ready to return home after sixty years of expatriate life, says “The age of 55 to 75 years is that phase in a person’s life when he can function as contributing member of society using the good experience and judgement that he accumulated over the years. Any society would do well to utilize their experience. It could only be beneficial to the nation and society,” he goes on to say, “… even if I am back home, I will continue to be involved with the day-to-day activities of my business. I am a workaholic. I believe in working hard. Work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Enjoy the luxuries you can afford. Live your life happily and harm no one.”

Mathew does not believe in an after-life or reincarnation. He has travelled to almost every country on the planet. He cherishes his travels and his books and is a regular invitee to the events conducted Indian writers in Kuwait. Penned by him, “A Saga of An Expatriate” is an English semi-autobiographical novel set against the backdrop of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. He has also authored three books in Malayalam.

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Food Lite Blogs Profiles

Vdeliver Gathers Momentum

Vdeliver is a unilateral platform with different luxury cuisines available under one roof, with the ease of ordering through a website and an app.  Chef Sahil Singh meets Asian Lite’s Riccha Grrover to share his experiences on handling a multi-cuisine cloud kitchen Vdeliver, an umbrella platform for serving the best of cuisines that have been handcrafted with years of expertise with the finest restaurants across India and abroad. An exclusive for Asian Lite International

Vdeliver is an endeavour by Chef Sahil, he is recognised as one of the finest Pan-Asian and youngest Executive Chef in the country with over fourteen years of experience in the culinary domain. He was also involved in the launch of culinary landmarks such as Shanghai Club, TIAN Asian Cuisine Studio at ITC Hotels, Head of Oriental Octopus at India Habitat Centre and Chor Bizzare, Wasabi by Morimoto at Taj Mahal, Delhi, Brand and Cuisine creator of restaurants – PaPaYa, BoTai, and TYGR. EXTRACTS:

Chef Sahil Singh

RICCHA GRROVER– Tell us about your delivery brand and your cuisine offerings under that banner?

SAHIL SINGH: is a unilateral platform where we operate 10 brands under one Hood. We have almost 700 plus dishes on the menu where there is choice of European, Asian, Indian, Biryani Brand, Bakery, Pizza brand, Burger brand, Comfort Chinese brand, Rolls brand a brand completely dedicated for soya based cuisine.

RG– What have been the challenges to the FnB industry in Covid times and what difficulties have you overcome as a chef in these times?

SS– World is still facing the backlashes of Covid in FnB sector. In India restaurants have started to pick up as India people forget soon. Unemployment loss of revenues resulting in loss of Income for almost 9 months has been the after effects of Covid for me. Standing up on feet again all by God’s grace is what I am grateful for.

RG- How is a meal across cuisines from Vdeliver different from other speciality cuisine delivery services and restaurant home delivery? What makes it unique.


SS-I have given almost 3 months before starting off to get the packaging designed and customized. The entire facility is made as per 5 star Hygiene standards. Even the frying oil we use, veg and Non veg is separate. I have tried to bring a 5 star quality meal at your doorstep and we have been quite successful in doing that so. We also are emphasizing on catering to house parties and corporate events.

RG– What are the top 5 dishes say from your Chinese menu you recommend a first time diner to try? What can diners expect when they order a meal from Vdeliver?

SS-Being the first time diners I would recommend to go with hot and sour leeks and chestnuts, Crispy tofu with Fragrant chilli, Twice cooked pork belly with 5 spice and black beans, Turnip cakes, Crispy prawn open bao. Expect food prepared in Fully Hygienic conditions by chefs trained at the best hotels and restaurants and in wonderfully thought packaging.

RG-What words of advice do you have for budding chefs? What is it that keeps you inspired in your profession?

Chef Sahil Singh

SS-Love your job and forget the money. Money is a byproduct of your hard work and passion for your profession.

RG-What have been your biggest highs in the Vdeliver project and what is your vision for it in the future?

SS-Doing 10 brands in one kitchen were one heavyweight championship fight. Thinking, Execution, Building menus for 10 brands, almost 700 dishes and launching all 10 brands together is something I believe nobody has done in the history of FNB worldwide. The vision for the future is to expand it throughout Delhi NCR and take it International to Dubai, Europe and the US.

Vdeliver not just delivers the tastiest flavours in town. They also deliver the goodness of the finest ingredients along with good memories of delectable food and the best dining experience at home.

Biz Profiles Business Economy India News Profiles

ODISHA: Manufacturing Hub of Eastern India

Odisha is fast emerging as the ‘Manufacturing Hub of Eastern India. Chief Minister Mr Naveen Patnaik said the state government is embarking upon the second phase of value addition for development through its vision 2030 Plan, which aims at adding up to 50% value to the metals produced in the state, thereby opening up vast vistas for investment in the state… reports Asian Lite News

Naveen Patnaik, Odisha Chief Minister

Mr Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister Odisha, said the eastern state has shifted to a broad-based and inclusive economic growth from the pre-2000 era’s resource-dependent development.

He was addressing the 93rd Annual General Meeting of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). In the meeting, he highlighted the state’s industrial growth in the last two decades by perusing of sound industrial policies and transforming of the state by value-addition to the vast natural resources it is endowed with.

The session started with the welcome address by Dr. Sangita Reddy, President, FICCI, Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals, who spoke about the investor-friendly industrial climate of Odisha.

This was followed by a video presentation on how the state of Odisha, under the able leadership of Chief Minister Patnaik has transformed itself into an industrial powerhouse within two decades and how in spite of economic slowdown due to COVID-19, Odisha could get very high investments during this period.

The chief minister thanked FICCI for being the National Industry Partner for the 3rd edition of the ‘Make in Odisha’ Conclave

Hon’ble CM also stated that the state government is embarking upon the second phase of value addition through its vision 2030 plan, which aims at adding up to 50% value to the metals produced in the state, thereby opening up vast vistas for investment in the state.

The chief minister said the state is fast emerging as the ‘Manufacturing Hub of Eastern India.’

“The State is implementing path breaking technological reforms to reduce physical interface for availing Government services,” he added. “My Government’s transformational initiatives under ‘5T’ Charter and ‘MO SARKAR’ have played a major role in creating a conducive business environment in the State by inculcating professionalism and behavioural change in the State Government agencies. 

“I am happy to inform all present here today, that as part of my government’s initiative to reduce regulatory burden on industries, new end-to-end online systems for over 30 Government to Business services have been developed by various departments of the State. To further ensure that the service delivery is prompt, the timelines for the services have also been included under the State’s Right to Public Services Act. The State has also developed a dedicated land bank with over one lakh acres of land available on a GIS-based platform for easy site selection by industries. 

“Odisha has been recognised as an investment destination of choice over the years. Odisha was ranked number 1 in terms of attracting investments during April-September 2019, and is poised to continue this leadership position. 

To attract new investments in the identified focus sectors, our officials have held discussions with institutions and industries from Japan, Republic of Korea, USA and Vietnam to showcase the business ecosystem and investment opportunities in the State. I am happy to note that the investor sentiment towards Odisha is extremely encouraging.  Even during these difficult COVID pandemic times, I am happy to inform you that Odisha has been able to attract new investments of over Rs.1 lakh crore across multiple sectors.”

Concluding his speech, the chief minister thanked FICCI for being the National Industry Partner for the 3rd edition of the ‘Make in Odisha’ Conclave and requested them to nominate dedicated sectoral teams to work with the respective departments in the Government of Odisha especially in important sectors such as Food Processing, Chemical, Metal and metal downstream, Textile, Tourism and IT.

Industry leaders Mr. Harsh Pati Singhania, MD, JK Paper Limited and Mr. Sandip Somany, MD, HSIL were all praise for Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha for his visionary leadership and shared their experiences about robust industrial facilitation in Odisha and the support from the state government for industrial investments. 

Mr Uday Shankar, President-Elect, FICCI offered vote of thanks to the dignitaries and thanked the Odisha Government for helping the industries during the testing times. He also thanked Hon’ble CM for considering FICCI as the National Industry Partner for the upcoming Make in Odisha conclave and assured all the support from FICCI.

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Julien Geffard: Ola’s New Director of Electric Business

Ride-hailing major Ola on Friday announced the appointment of Julien Geffard as the Director of Go-To-Market Strategy for its electric business in Europe, as the company gears up to bring the first of its range of electric scooters to the European market in the coming months.

Geffard, who brings to the new role over 15 years of experience across some of the world’s leading automotive companies, will be based out of the company’s Amsterdam office.

Before joining Ola, he was the Global Commercial Director and a member of the Board of Management at Peugeot Motorcycles.

Geffard had a successful stint at Bentley Motors Ltd as their Head of Sales and then as Head of Retail Marketing, Europe. He had also worked with Alpine and BMW.

Julien Geffard, Director of Go-To-Market Strategy for Ola’s electric business in Europe

“As we gear up to bring the first of our range of electric vehicles to markets around the world, Julien’s expertise will be key to building our electric business across Europe,” Bhavish Aggarwal, Chairman and Group CEO, Ola, said in a statement.

In his role at Ola, Geffard will be responsible for building and growing Ola’s European operations for its electric business.

“Europe is a key market for us and our tech and digital expertise, coupled with the unique customer experience, will be key for us as we launch our products across Europe,” Geffard said on his appointment.

Ola said its electric scooter comes with sophisticated design and a banana shaped battery that is easy to remove and charge anywhere.

The company said it is in advanced stages of setting up a scooter manufacturing facility in India to cater to the global demand from customers around the world.

Once completed, it will have the capacity to produce over two million scooters a year, the company said.

The two-wheeler EV market in Europe has seen double-digit growth in 2020, with customers looking for differentiated products that are stylish, smart and lightweight, available at competitive prices.

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