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Legacy of 150 years

The book Oman-India Ties Across Sea and Space takes its readers on a visual journey outlining the rich historical relationship between the two great civilisations of the Sultanate of Oman and India which goes back more than 5,000 years. Published by the Observer in association Indian Embassy Muscat and written by Samuel Kutty (Senior Editor of the Observer) and Sandhya Rao Mehta (Associate Professor of SQU), the book is an attempt to document, archive and disseminate this relationship from its historical past to the present time where these relations have taken new wings. Extracts from the book will continue to appear on this space every Saturday

By Samuel Kutty (Senior Editor of the Observer) and Sandhya Rao Mehta (Associate Professor of SQU)

Khimji Ramdas (KR) is one of the most prominent Indian-origin business groups in Oman. A historic voyage in 1870 from the deserts of Kutch, India to the Port of Sur in Oman built a 150-year-old legacy that is now being carried forward into its sixth generation by the sons and daughters of Khimji Ramdas.

While trading along the Mandvi-Muscat-Zanzibar route, it was decided that the father, Ramdas Thackersay, and his son Khimji Ramdas would stay back in the port of Muscat where the trade had been profitable and the hospitality gracious and welcoming. In 1920, Khimji Ramdas’ sons Gokaldas and Mathradas began to further build the company and engaged in a variety of ventures, including trading in dates, rice, dried lime as well as construction. Growing steadily from a small trading house, the Khimji Ramdas (KR) Group of companies has become one of the most pioneering and respected business conglomerates in the region.

Today, it is one of Oman’s largest in terms of scale and scope. The KR Group employs more than 5000 personnel across Oman, UAE, and India. Its businesses cover almost 95 per cent of the population through its extensive network across the country. They were the

lead supplier of essentials to Allied forces in the two world wars, built the first HSBC bank (1960), helped to build the first airport in Bait Al Falaj (1956), and sold the first Ford car in the Sultanate.

KR Group’s commitment to philanthropic activities is well documented both in Oman and in India. Since the time of Sheikh Kanaksi's father,

Gokaldas Khimji, the group has been actively involved in reaching out to the marginalised and grassroots sections of the society, especially in the interiors. Through ‘Eshraqa’, the KR Group has been involved within the Omani community for ventures in education, health, community wellbeing, and training, creating a positive change in society through the empowerment of youth and women.

The Khimji family has also played a leading role in Oman's modem development and has helped found many Indian institutions in Muscat such as the Gujarati Medium School in Muttrah (1941), the Indian School Muscat in Ruwi (1975), the Indian Social Club in Ruwi (1977), Oman Cricket (1979), and the Indian School Wadi al-Kabir (1987) the last four being co-founded by Kanaksi Khimji.

Kanaksi Khimji also played a wider role in promoting India-GCC socio-economic relations. During his visit to Oman in 1996, the late President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, described him as “the real ambassador of India to the Gulf countries”.

Kanakbhai has played a pivotal role in organising the state visit of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi to Oman in 2018. Notably, Mr. Modi had inaugurated one of the educational institutes in Kutch founded by KR in Mandvi, which aims to build a scientific temper amongst the children, with great emphasis on educating girls in the hinterlands.

In recognition of Kanaksi Khimji’s leadership in Oman, the Indian government bestowed the prestigious Pravasi-Bharatiya Samman Award on him in 2003, the highest honour lndia conferred on PIO (People of Indian Origin) for his zealous commitment to social activities and contribution to the strengthening of bilateral relations between India and Oman. He was the first PIO in the

GCC to receive this award.

Celebrating its 150th year in 2020, the KR Group is committed to innovation, by transforming its customer experiences in real-time with digital technologies and integrated SAP solutions. The organization stands firmly grounded in its past with a visionary outlook for the future, upholding its core values of trust, care, commitment, and learning.

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