Earning money is never a easy task at all

Earlier last month, in September 2016, I set out for Hyderabad. To Heera Group’s head office located at Masab Tank, to find out more. With ten companies, thousands of investors and crores of funds, I had a certain picture of their group head office. What I saw was a small commercial building, various businesses running operations on the ground floor – a private cab operator, a Haj & Umrah travels company, a Hero Motors showroom and a men’s parlour. One of these shops belonged to Heera Textiles; the entire first floor occupied by Heera Group companies. But right at the entrance, there was a notice from a Debt Recovery Tribunal on a case between Indian Overseas Bank and Shaik, putting a stay on recovery of property until 8 September, 2016.

Shutters were drawn down on three of the five stores, which were branded as Heera Fancy World. There was a working jewellery showroom. I was welcomed in the office and I met the lady manning the front desk who refused to disclose anything about the company and asked me to send queries to [email protected] – an address reportedly accessed by both Shaik and her personal assistant, Molly Thomas.

Multiple emails, with a detailed questionnaire sent to this address went unanswered.

I did meet Thomas though; only after showing up uninvited at their second operational office. This office was more well put up than their head office. Thomas too didn’t reveal much. She was not authorised to speak on behalf of the company, and she added that she was a mere employee who kept her head down, clocked in her hours and did what she was told to do. A little puzzling though, that a mere employee had access to tens of CCTV cameras streaming from various locations at her desk. She wouldn’t confirm if Shaik was in town and also expressed inability to initiate any meeting with her, until directly authorised.

In search of answers, I spent time in Hyderabad visiting the offices of Food, Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the white collar offences team of the crime branch, Hyderabad police. I also spoke to agents, sub-agents, ex-employees, and investors for this story – few were willing to go on record.

Places from which it operate

Apart from being a hobby photoshopper, who is Shaik? She is a director in at least ten companies in India — running the gamut from gold exports and imports, jewellery, financial services, packaged foods, bottled water plant, Haj & Umrah tours, trading blankets and bedsheets from China. All co-founded and co-owned by her, Mubarak Jan Shaik and Khamar Jan Shaik (perhaps sisters going by most accounts, but The Ken couldn’t independently confirm this). Shaik is a self-professed pious Muslim from Tirupati. The group also operates from satellite offices in Mumbai and Dubai. They have retail jewellery shops in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and claims warehouses and offices in Dubai and other parts of UAE.

Depending on which way the wind is blowing, she is referred to as Dr, Aalima (gendered title for Islamic scholar), CEO, chairman, director, MD, CMD or Aapa. Aapa is commonly used in Urdu-speaking and Muslim circles to address any lady with respect, especially one who’s pious or religious.

Different functions

All public functions and all her speeches come with a generous dose of:

–Bismillah (In the name of God)

–InshaAllah (God willing)

–Alhamdulillah (All Praise Due to God)

-Sermons of Quranic verses, Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, Islamic history

– Religious chants and songs (naaths) filling up the background

Heera Group’s brochures exhort readers to participate in this special opportunity of handsome profits and contribute to the cause of an interest-free society.

Lest you forget, Shaik and and her followers dutifully remind you that part of the profits retained by the promoters is used to run an Islamic school for girls and other avenues to empower and work towards upliftment of the financially weaker sections within the community.

But back to business. Gold trading of course, is just one. The flagship one. And then there are others: blankets imported from China into Dubai and India under “Diamond” mark. File it under Heera Textiles Limited. A bottled-water business under the brand “Heera Pure Drops”. File it under Heera Ice Drop Pvt Ltd? No, because all water business is conducted under Heera Retail (Hyderabad) Pvt Ltd, a different company, also cofounded by same set of promoters.

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