By Danish Reyaz
Several successful NRIs are working in Qatar, but Hassan Chougule is the most luminous of all names. Besides being a consummate businessman, he is a multi-faceted personality: he is a proven educationist, a philanthropist, a socialist, an author as well as a poet. Not only does he don many hats, but he also excels in all of them.
He takes immense pride in being an Indian and indomitably strives to contribute to the progress of his country of adoption alongside working for the upliftment of the downtrodden and underprivileged back in his home country India.
Born on Jan 1, 1951, in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Hassan Chougule hails from a poor background. Yet he has gone on to become one of the celebrated NRIs in Qatar who has achieved the rare distinction of heading four apex bodies of the Indian Embassy and a reputed Indian School. No wonder he is the deserving recipient of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman 2012 and a wide array of other prestigious awards.
Despite the spectacular success he has gained, Chougule remains a modest man. When you talk to him, he speaks with an affable charm showing no sign of condescending attitude, a trait that is deserting successful people these days.
Charity Lesson from Parents
Although he has multiple feathers to his cap, Chougule is clear about his priority. According to him, charity is the greatest achievement of his life. “There is no greater satisfaction in the world than becoming the reason for a smile on the face of a person in need,” says Chougule, ardently.
“While I was growing up, I had seen financial struggles my parents had to go through for my education. Whether it were books or uniforms or shoes arranging them was a tough task,” Chougule recalls.
“Even if my parents were poor they were of helping nature. They would help the poor in whatever way they could. I saw them sponsoring funeral rituals of the dead and helping in the marriages of orphan girls. So I guess that helping gene from my parents has been transferred to me as well,” he says smilingly.
Chougule says that from his childhood experience, he realised very early in his life that there would be many needy persons like him in this world. So he silently started nurturing a desire to help those people once he grew up and started earning.
But to be able to do charity, it was essential for him to earn well in life, so he focused on his studies from the start. “I worked hard on my studies and received scholarships at various stages of my student lives. This also took some burden off my parents’ shoulders,” says Chougule with a hint of satisfaction in his voice.
Start of the Journey
Because of his merit and hard work, Chougule secured his first job as an engineer in Larsen and Toubro in 1973, when engineering was considered a highly prestigious occupation.
And as soon as he started earning, he heeded to his inner calling to help people. He helped 70 High School students with free books and played his part in organising mass Muslim weddings.
“However, during my stint with Larsen and Toubro, I realised I had to earn enough to come good on the promises I had made to myself about helping others and leading a decent life at the same time. So in 1977, I went to Qatar because salaries were lucrative there.”
A Fight for Self-Respect
In Doha, Chougule joined Manweir Engineering, but soon he had a bad experience with this English-owned company that had scant regard for Indians. He fought against the company in Labour Court and won though it seemed like a fight of Goliath versus David.
“I was dissuaded by many not to pursue my case, but I was adamant because I wanted to make the company realise the value of an Indian,” says Chougule explaining the purpose behind his legal battle. After winning the case, he left the company and briefly returned to India.
Shift to Entrepreneurship
While he was back in India, many thoughts and ideas crossed his mind. After much deliberation, he finally started to gravitate towards entrepreneurship because the latter potentially promises a better return than a fixed-salary job.
So after a year, he arrived in Doha again with his friend Mohiudding Khateeb with whom he entered into a partnership to start Emad Electricals. Although Chougule was new to the business sector, he was a quick learner. He soon learned the tricks of the trade and grew the business by leaps and bounds.
Following his friend moving out of the partnership in 1995, Chougule took it upon himself to propel Emad Electricals to newer heights with his vision and handwork.
Emad Electricals is a leading brand in Doha for supplying the most extensive line of electrical items used by construction companies. Also, Chougule established Emad Traders dealing in refrigeration and air-conditioning spare parts and rewinding materials. Chougule later expanded into a staggering array of businesses, including his five lines of business in India.
Today Chougule’s business empire known as Emad and Success Groups encompasses everything from fiberglass, tours & travels, real estate, and education to hotels, restaurants, spas, and more.
But the ever so modest Chougule doesn’t take the credit for the stupendous success of his businesses. He says the employees working under him are the real worthy of recognition. “I treat them good, and in return they treat our customers and clients even better,” he quips smilingly but in all seriousness.
A Risk Taker
People think of Chougule as a man with the Midas touch as everything he touches turns into gold. Chougule laughs at this reference. He says that entrepreneurship does come with many risks, but if the plans are well-executed, success will catch you with unexpected rewards.
“Before any project, I think it through in detail and then make my moves. Once into any project, I put in a sheer amount of hard work to make it successful,” says Chougule.
“Over the years, I have become a little thick-skinned and don’t get flustered when things are not going well. I keep on persevering to make it work, believing in the Almighty all along,” he continues.
“If your intentions are selfless while helping others, the silent blessings do wonders for you. I think this has been standing me in good stead so far.”
Foray into Education
“Ensuring education is the best charity done to any humankind,” says Chougule, “It is the education that has made me into what I am today. So, it becomes my responsibility to contribute to this field in whatever way I can.”
Driven by this desire, in 1984, Chougule started Indian Ideal School in Doha, followed by another school, thanks to the support of his associates and close friends.
Although these schools were performing great, he still wanted a top Indian school brand to grace the soil of Doha. He started talks with Doon Schools, but somehow that didn’t materialised. Then he pursued Delhi Public School (DPS) to establish a branch in Doha, but talks got stuck midway for some reason.
Once, it so happened that he had organised a luncheon meeting for the then Foreign Affair Minister Salman Khurshid, who was visiting Doha. During the conversation, he learned that Mr. Khurshid happens to be one of the permanent Presidents of the Delhi Public School. Thereon, things picked up again, leading to the DPS finally opening its branch in Doha with the name Indian Modern School.
DPS is synonymous with excellence, and its name attracts the best and the brightest students. Despite that, Chougule trod cautiously, employing fool-proof ways to filter and select the best deserving students and teachers so that his resolve to provide the best quality education in the region doesn’t get compromised.
Today DPS Indian Modern School is flourishing, and each year it is crossing milestones to emerge as the topmost school in the region, imparting exceptional education.
Works in India
Despite his active involvement in education in Doha, Chougule hasn’t lost sight of his homeland India, as he runs four education institutes in the coastal belt of Maharashtra.
Plus, there are about 140 Urdu medium schools and 40 English and Marathi medium schools running in the Konkan region under the patronage of his organisation Ideal Foundation since 2000.
Among other things, the foundation provides moral science teachers in as many as 60 of these schools to foster ethics and religious teachings among the students. Chougule also points out that the foundation is not only working for a single community.
“We have converted more than 70% of our Urdu medium schools into semi-English recently so that students from other communities also get access,” Chougule informs.
Besides education, the foundation focuses on providing medical assistance to terminally ill patients. With tie-ups with certain medicos, it helps the poor get the prescribed medicines for free. Moreover, the BPL households in the region are supplied free rations to deal with their hunger.
“Not only do we help, but we make sure the help is fruitful for its intended purpose. Like we don’t give the school fees of the needy students in their parents’ hands instead we deposit fees directly at the concerned schools,” he adds.
For youths’ employability, Chougule says they run various vocational centres and Industrial training institutes in the region. Opening a paramedical college, a poly technique, and an engineering college is also in the pipeline.
In the line of the Indian Foundation, Chougule also leads Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF) in Qatar that is responsible for charitable works among needy people.
Chougule leaves no stone unturned in mobilising community support for social and charitable causes, whether in his individual capacity or as head of various organisations. Especially during disasters and natural calamities in India or Qatar, he becomes a ray of hope for the affected people.
He says, “During the difficult times it is important that we rise to the occasion and pay back to the society in whatever capacity possible.”
An Accomplished Community Leader
Chougule has lived in Qatar long enough and headed various organisations at the top levels that he automatically becomes the representative voice of the Indian community living there. And the community has always benefitted from his able leadership.
Chougule is the only Indian in Qatar to head the four apex bodies of the Indian Embassy such as Indian Cultural Centre, Indian Business and Professional network, Indian Sports Centre, and Indian Community Benevolent Forum.
His leadership qualities were in full display when he assumed charge of the Indian Cultural Centre. The Centre is the parent body of other 100 sociocultural organisations. When he took its control, he transformed it into a buzzing hub of activities of the Indian community, which was otherwise lying dormant for years.
From thereon, whichever bodies Chougule headed, he set their wheels on the motion. With his enthusiasm and pro-activeness, he overhauled and reinvigorated these organisations to meet the objectives for which they were established.
Politely discounting his efforts, Chougule says, “It is not what I did, but the fact that the Indians from various walks of life are now holding good positions in Qatar gives me immense pride and satisfaction.”
“A large number of CEOs, CAs, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, surveyors, contractors, and other professionals in Qatar belong from India. The Indian community here is one of the reputed and brightest ones that has carved a niche for themselves by their skills, education, and hard work,” he satisfactorily adds.
Love for Literature
Hassan Chougule’s reputation goes beyond business and philanthropy; he is an avid admirer of literature. He is the chairman of Anjuman Muhubaan- E-Urdu Hind, Qatar, dedicated to promoting Urdu. Among its various activities, it organises the annual Urdu poetry symposium (Mushairas) in Doha, inarguably considered one of the finest among the Urdu poets and its enthusiasts.
Now and then, Chougule could also be seen reading out his Urdu couplets in these Mushairas amidst thunderous applause from the audience. Apart from being a poet, he also has two biographies, “Imprints of Life” and “Moments of Life,” to his credit.
His biographies bear testimonies to his struggles and achievements, which can inspire anybody who seeks guidance in his pursuit of excellence.
“With hands full with a string of social and professional responsibilities I still take time out for my soul nourishment through literature,” Chougule says with a sparkle in his eyes.
Besides Urdu, he is also an ardent advocate of his mother tongue, i.e., Marathi. “One can’t afford to be negligent of their native language, especially in a foreign land as this could also mean going astray from one’s cultural roots,” he says.
Thanks to his efforts, Marathi as a third language is taught in about five Indian schools alongside Urdu in about eight schools. For his work in Marathi abroad, he was given the Sanmanarth Award and featured in Shiv Sena’s Samna magazine with the title, “Flyer of Marathi Flag in Arab World.”
Facilitator of Qatar-India Bilateral Ties
The Indian community has a robust presence in Qatar, sending a lot of remittance to India. At the same time, these expatriates are also an essential cog in Qatar’s wheels of progress.
Because of that, bilateral ties between the two nations assume enormous significance. Indian leaders, diplomats, officials responsible for inking pacts and agreements with the Qatari government don’t shy away from taking time to time inputs from Chougule due to his vast experience as the most successful community leader.
“As I have been living here for four decades, I have my ears to the ground and know the problems and requirements of the Indian community. I try to apprise both the governments regarding the same and the concerns sometimes reflect in the policies of both the governments,” says Chougule.
He further adds that the relations between Qatar and India have only been deepened over the years, as they are solidly founded on the historical association, traditional friendships, and people-to-people interactions on so many different levels. He foresees even broader and stronger relations between the two nations in future as the trade and economic interdependencies widen with time.
Awards Keep Chasing Him
With his motto of service before self and charismatic leadership at various levels, Chougule has left an awe-inspiring impact on millions of people. While, according to him, the love of people for him is his biggest award, various awards keep hunting him, nonetheless.
In recognition of his yeomen’s service to the people, community, and the nation at large, Chougule has been conferred with many awards in his life, the most significant being the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman 2012 from the hands of then-President Pratibha Patil.
The Human Rights Award by Qatar Human Rights Committee, Indian Community Forum Benevolent Charity Award, and Pride of India Award by President of Mauritius are also a few momentous awards in his kitty.
In addition to these awards, he has received several other recognitions as follows:
- One of the 100 Global Indians by The Indian Hong Kong,
- One of the 100 Most Powerful Arabian Indians by Arabian Business UAE
- One of the 100 Super Indians of MEENA countries by Grey Matter, UAE
- One of the 100 Top Indian Leaders of Arab World by Forbes Middle East
- One of the 50 Entrepreneurs of the Middle East, BNC Publication, UAE
While these awards are all important, Chougule has no airs about them. However, although sheepishly, he doesn’t forget to mention a few literary awards in his possession, such as the Majrooh Award, Urdu Carvan Award by Akhilesh Yadav, then-Chief Minister of UP, and Baghbane Urdu Award from European Urdu Writers Society. His manner of mentioning these awards once again confirms how literature is dear to him.
A Grateful Spouse
Hassan Chougule is not a man to run away with all the recognitions without giving due credit to his wife. He happily brings up his wife’s role behind his success during the interaction. In fact, in his biographies, his wife, Mrs. Kausar Hassan Chougule, has been copiously mentioned for her contributions to his life.
Talking about her, Chougule says, “I am lucky to have Mrs. Kausar Hassan Chougule as my wife who has been a tremendous source of strength for me. She makes me believe in the impossible even when it is difficult for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If not for her, I wouldn’t have been doing so many things in life.”
“She comes across as someone tender in spirit, but she is lionhearted in her zeal. And that’s why she is a successful entrepreneur in her own right,” he says.
Mrs. Kausar Hassan Chougule is a well-known name in the hospitality business in Doha. She first began her career in a restaurant in Mumbai, and after shifting to Doha, she opened Mid Town Restaurant. After that, she took over the famous Gulf Paradise Hotel. She now manages many hotels and restaurants and participates in various social and charitable works in Qatar and India. She is also the recipient of the BINT HIND Entrepreneur Award 2008 by NEEDS Mumbai.
“They say behind every successful man there is a woman. But in my case, she is not simply a woman but a full-fledged successful woman,” Chougule says it wittily and signs off with a hearty laugh.
A Perfect Role Model
Hassan Chougule has been spectacular in all his successes, but what strikes most to everybody is his remarkable humility and his childlike eagerness to approach new things.
No doubt, surmounting every ills and odds, he has built an empire that easily rivals the best in the world. Still, at the core of his heart, he remains a giver, always bubbling over with a desire to help and serve the people of the community.
Needless to say that as a successful business giant with all the humane traits intact, Chougule is a perfect role model for the millions of compatriots and the youths in India.