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Markos Williams - an Indian in Kuwait

IIK Staff Reporter Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Markos Williams - an Indian in Kuwait

Among the many expatriates who live in Kuwait, one name has always stood out. Markos Williams - enigmatic, unpredictable, suave and colorful. There is always an air of mystery about him. People see him where it matters but they don't really get to know him. He hobnobs with the high and mighty in many geographies but remains grounded though definitely opinionated. He is always helpful to those in need of intervention or assistance at any level. Above all he is dependable. Love him or loathe him but you cannot ignore him. In a sea of mediocrity, he is an island of perplexing clarity.

He founded the Kuwait India Business Council and persuaded Sheikh Talal Khaled Al Sabah to be it's Patron. He constituted the Rajiv Gandhi Awards Committee and brought Sonia Gandhi to Kuwait at a time when even an appointment with her was well-nigh impossible. He organized a fund drive for the Indian Army Central Welfare Fund for the widows and orphans of Kargil martyrs by inviting Kapil Dev to Kuwait which saw even Pakistanis contributing.

At IndiansinKuwait.com we caught up with him in a bid to understand the man and his mind. Reluctantly he let the floodgates open which he rarely does.

At the outset, Markos Williams congratulated His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and the people of Kuwait on the occasion of Kuwait's National Day and Liberation Day. "Amidst the never ending conflicts and upheavals around the world, Kuwait stands as a beacon of hope for humanity" he affirmed.

IIK: How did you end up settling in Kuwait?

Markos: I had actually retired from all professional activity when I was in Hyderabad in the late 1980s where I had successfully established my own 100% Export Oriented Unit (EOU). After making enough money I wandered the world just traveling to exotic locations. Nearly three or four years later I sought to get back to mainstream activities and got opportunities in Switzerland, Vietnam and Kuwait. I opted for Kuwait. That is how I ended up here in 1993.

IIK: We are aware that you are the chairman of Kuwait India Business Council. What are its objectives and activities?

Markos: The Kuwait India Business Council (KIBC) was established in 2002 as a platform for providing an informed understanding of the complexities of doing business in India.

KIBC has an agreement of cooperation in place with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) as well as with the EXIM Bank of India that funds India focused projects.

A unique aspect of our Council’s membership is the presence of so many Kuwaiti citizens and others with Indian interests. A singular achievement of the Council was the launch of the INDIA FUND which was the world’s first India focused Sharia Compliant open ended equity fund which was a runaway success in a Global down market. I was the Fund Manager approved by the Central Bank of Kuwait.

Further, KIBC prepared an Agenda for Development from views and suggestions from 23 Indian organizations in Kuwait which was submitted to the United Progressive Alliance Chairperson and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi by me in July 2004.

During the year 2021, we were not pleased with the indifference of erstwhile Indian Ambassador towards business promotion activities of our Council. Then we were honoured when Sheikh Talal Khaled Al Sabah who was the former Defense Minister and later First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior became the Patron of the Kuwait India Business Council. He is very supportive of our endeavours. In fact during this National Day holidays a Kuwaiti delegation is visiting Kerala for establishing an enterprise in Kuwait with age old Kerala expertise. Our Council believes in pure business activities and does not promote any shows or musical programs.

IIK: You are one of the Indians who came to Kuwait quite early. How do you feel about the transformation Kuwait has witnessed during your time?

Markos: Kuwait has progressed significantly over the years. One look at Kuwait's gleaming skyline will indicate that a pulsating business environment embraces economic growth. The proliferation of malls, towers and new businesses all indicate that Kuwait is on a high growth trajectory. In fact Kuwait has the lowest GDP to Debt ratio among the GCC countries. Prudent fiscal management helped the Kuwait economy to weather the impact of oil price plunges in the recent past.

IIK: You also had invited many Kuwaitis to India for tourism and business purposes. Can you brief us about your experience?

Markos: When Kuwaitis land in India for the first they are in awe. India which has hurtled past other developed countries to become the world's fourth largest economy offers huge investment opportunities. Kuwaitis are struck by the scale of immense success drivers. They see an educated work place in a risk free environment for safe deployment of investment. On the tourism side, needless to say, Kuwaitis are struck by the verdant greenery and the exotic landmarks as they begin to realize that India is a veritable tourist paradise. In fact a British Ambassador and his family had a memorable stay in Kerala as my guest.

With former First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Talal Khaled Al Sabah

IIK: You are also actively involved with prominent Kuwaiti personalities and keeping a very good friendship with them. Can you brief us your experience in your friendship with Kuwaitis and how they find India and the Indian community in Kuwait?

Markos: I have been fortunate to have many Kuwaiti friends who are doyens of the business community, Ambassadors as well as Parliamentarians, Ministers and Senior Members of the Ruling Royal Family. I have known them personally for over two decades and the bonds of friendship have indeed grown stronger over the years. My stint in Kuwait Parliament for a few years for the Arab Times helped me cement relationships with those who matter. Kuwait looks up to the Indian community as a responsible and law abiding people who have contributed significantly to the development of the country.

With current Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah

IIK: There are several Indians coming to Kuwait and trying to setup their business in this country. What would be your advice to them as an experienced person in this area?

Markos: I would advise businessmen to have an all-encompassing view of the business climate, scope and opportunities in Kuwait based on a thorough understanding and study of the local market environment. On specific queries we provide our inputs to those in need of our assistance.

With current Chief of the Crown Prince’s Diwan Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and COO of City Center Mr Ajay Goel

When asked about the Rajiv Gandhi Awards Committee, Markos Williams said "I constituted the Rajiv Gandhi Awards Committee to award those who have contributed to the all round, socio, economic, cultural and educational upliftment of the Indian Community. In this connection I had personally invited Mrs Sonia Gandhi to Kuwait. HH the Amir of Kuwait provided a 16 car motorcade for her and we were given an entire floor at Sheraton Kuwait for our event. We observe May 21 every year as Rajiv Gandhi Martyrdom day and people from all walks of life join together in communal harmony.

With Sonia Gandhi in Kuwait

IIK: I also noticed that you have a very good vegetable garden at your villa. I can see lot of vegetables grown in your yard. How do you manage it?

Markos: I am passionate about growing plants and vegetables. Gardening is a real stress buster. I have plenty of space around my house, which I utilize fully for my garden. I bring seeds from India and grow plants or use locally available resources. I grow over 20 varieties of vegetables including exotic Dutch egg tomatoes, Spanish yellow tomatoes, grate and cherry tomatoes, grapes, wheat, beans, ash gourd, bottle gourd, eggplant, okra, chillies, potatoes, ridge gourd, three varieties of beans, mash melon, tapioca. Curry leaves, coriander, garlic etc. I get a few half lorry loads of vegetable wastes from a friend's commercial central kitchen and rejuvenate the soil with it during summer.

I spend hours taking care of my garden alone. It infuses abundant energy to my daily life. In fact my garden was adjudged as the best garden in Kuwait in 2023 by Lulu Hypermarket during its garden competition and awarded the First Prize. KTV 2 shot three episodes of my garden and telecast the interviews in my garden while a Canadian group featured my garden under Humans Who Grow Food category.

Garden at his home

Many of my friend’s children come to my garden and joyfully harvest the vegetables. I enjoy the sight of them as they gleefully run around snip the vegetables to their hearts content.

I truly believe in the words of Thomas More who said "The garden reconciles human art and wild nature, hard work and deep pleasure, spiritual practice and the material world. It is a magical place because it is not divided."


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Express your comment on this article

 
Inqua.S
Friday, March 1, 2024
I read your very informative interview with Mr Markos Williams. He is an extraordinary gentlemen who can be quite abrasive at times. Nevertheless, he is pillar of strength for the Indian Community.

Praful
Sunday, February 25, 2024
I have meet personally to mr markos he is Really kind gentle and very helpful person..I seen his beautiful greanery villa ..he is so hard working and time punctual gentleman..
Wish him for longlife..

Shaji Abraham
Sunday, February 25, 2024
I read your very interesting interview. I have known Mr Markos for many years. Recently when an Indian association faced some problems for staging an event with the authorities, he stepped in and resolved the issue. He is a kind man who does not hesitate to help others. For another association he got them a KD 1000 Sponsorship. He is a very straightforward person. He is a gifted speaker and a great writer. I also know that he was the chosen to prepare the documentary submission to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for his Highness the Amir of Kuwait in 2020 which is not mentioned in your interview. As a long time resident of Kuwait I am happy we have someone of the reach and caliber of Mr Markos Williams in Kuwait. He is someone on whom we can depend on.

T Gopal Krishnan
Thursday, February 22, 2024
As a person, who has known Mr Markos for a number of years during his tenure in Hyderabad, I can pretty well say that he is capable of what he has achieved thus far and what he will achieve in the years to come. His man-management skill is exemplary. In fact, I would go to the extent of saying that this skill and his superlative amiable nature, coupled with his extraordinary management skills and ambition for scaling greater heights, has taken him, I am extremely happy to note, to the present level. All the very best to him.

Prasida k maruthy
Thursday, February 22, 2024
A great personality I came to know only now . Congrats Indians in kuwait for introducing such a versatile personality .

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