Riyaz Kilton is an exquisite storyteller and the fascinating rollercoaster of a life he has lived so far is a tale worth telling.
His path to becoming the Chairman of Kiltons Group was anything but easy, but as he says so himself, it was all worth it. He transformed from a youngster who was thrust into the field of business at the age of 16, went through his fair share of failures, became the king of the gold business- after which he was back to square one, this time around, with experience on his side. If there’s one thing you can learn from this story, it is to be resilient in the face of downfall and to have the courage to begin from scratch.
What’s in a name?
Riyaz’ family name ‘Kilton’ is actually based off an island in Lakshwadeep from where his grandfather would bring jaggery from, to be sold in Ponnani, his hometown. This, decades later, became the brand-name of his businesses on the suggestion of a friend. While the domain to match his real last name was not available, the addition of the suffix ‘s’ made all the difference.
His business services are not restricted to Kiltons Business Setup Services, he also handles Business Manthra, Kiltons Properties, Kiltons Landscape & Pool and Kiltons Audit & Tax Consultancy. Kiltons Audit & Tax Consultancy is run by a team of 4 partners- 3 Chartered Accounts and Kilton!
A Rough Start
Riyaz was a gifted student with several laurels to his name and was even awarded by Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. As a student, he was also an active scouts member interested in social service, in helping people and so he served in the Ayyappa Seva Sangam to serve people on pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
He opted to study at a private college and completed his degree in BA Economics. He began dabbling in business from a very young age. He tried his luck in the candle business, set up a DTP centre and even started his own rent-a-car business.
But misfortune struck and before he could prove his business acumen, he was packing his bags to move to the Gulf to work to pay off his debts. It took him four years to do so.
The Shining Beckoning of Gold
Before he ventured out into the four fields which his companies take after today, Riyaz Kilton’s love for gold reigned above all. Working in the gold sector was his dream and most of his life’s biggest adventures come from this 9-year period of his life.
He started off with a gold melting machine and the collection of scrap gold to be converted into gold bars in Dubai i.e. ‘City of Gold’ itself. After a few legal battles, he started his own company called Al Madeena Gold Bullion, which turned out to be a massive success. He became a trusted associate to jewellery manufacturers, selling over 300 kg of gold a day! After two years of revelling in the success of his company, he branched out to make his own 21K gold manufacturing unit called Alba Gold Factory LLC- one of the biggest in Dubai- hiring approximately 65 people in the factory! 21K gold holds interest in primarily the Arab markets.
At the time, he joined a Jewellery & Ornaments Manufacturing course in Delhi and would shuttle between the Indian capital and Dubai every week. His interest took him to various European countries as well as remote Indian villages to gather more information on machinery and techniques in ornament production.
The most adventurous and best phase of his life, Kilton says, is the time he spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo! He went independently to visit one of his customers who invited him there to learn about the gold mining process. He pushed aside people’s anecdotes of Africa being a notorious country, decided to place his trust in his partner who invited him there- and he was pleasantly surprised. The sites for gold mining were away from the city- the only way to get there was using dirt roads and forest pathways, travelling a distance of approximately 500 kilometres. He would make this journey carrying large sums of Congolese Francs to purchase the gold from the sites. Along with one of his associates, he opened a gold business using a front of a used tyre shop for security reasons. As luck would have it, the tyre business started doing exceptionally well too!
Despite language barriers, currency tussles, close alligator encounters and several logistical challenges, Riyaz speaks fondly as he reminisces about his time in Congo. His experience is unlike any other- while people just visit the cities in Africa, he believes he got the chance to truly explore! As he reflects on his time in Africa, Riyaz can’t help but call his younger self reckless and he warns people against following his footsteps!
Back to Square One
A major reversal of fortunes in the gold industry caught Riyaz unaware and he lost almost 18 million Dirhams overnight. A period of bankruptcy and shutdown caused a lull in his gold business, but Riyaz is not one to give up. He then decided to focus his attention on Kiltons Business Setup Services and can now proudly attest to the fact that it is a strong and stable enterprise.
Helping One & All
Riyaz has been moulded with the spirit of helping others- right from his experience as a young scout member to an Ayyapan Seva Sangam member, to the Vice President of United PRO Association and Director of HOPE Child Cancer Care. He is also a board member of IPA which is an organisation with Keralite business people in the UAE.
Awards and Recognitions
Apart from the award that Riyaz received from Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which he considers to be his greatest felicitation yet, he has received an award from Minister Kadannapalli Ramachandran at Professional’s Conclave for his charitable involvements and in recognition of being a successful entrepreneur. He has also won the Kerala Governor’s medal for social work, for his active involvement in the state’s Literacy Mission, being recognised by the then Chief Minister too.
He has also won the Young Businessman Award from Dubai KMCC as well as the Media One Best consultant award which he received at BizDubai event.
While Kilton is chummed with the progress of Kiltons Business Setup Services, he reserves a special place in his heart for his passion of designing and manufacturing gold ornaments. His current setup allows him to spend time with his family and gives him adequate time to travel. He is an avid traveller and has and has visited 40 countries. He makes it a point to travel with his team every year. For 10 days, he shuts shop and the team heads out to exotic destinations- last year’s trip was to a few European countries.
In an effort to reach out to more people and help others get a better understanding of the business licencing process in Dubai, Riyaz also vlogs on his YouTube channel in both English and Malayalam.
When asked for his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Kilton says that people no longer believe in hard work, they just chase money. Instant money at high risk is not worth it- slow consistent growth is the recipe to success. He also says that, at the end of the day, people will judge you anyway; so don’t live your life impressing others, impress yourself.
This article has been written by Neha Nambiar.