Most of them have struggled to make ends meet during their childhood. A bit of luck and a lot of hard work and perseverance was all that was required to take them to the top. Self-made indeed! But their stories are equally incredible as their fortune. However, what is noteworthy is the fact that all of them have their roots in Kerala and are earning fortunes in the Middle East, contributing to their economy as well as our's. From jewellery merchants to departmental store owners, these entrepreneurs knew the hacks to get the best for themselves and their economy. But most of all, they make us proud. So, here's profiling the top 5 Malayali billionaires in the Middle East.

Ravi Pillai: He is the chairman of the Bahrain-headquartered RP Group, topping the list with a net worth of Rs 18,500 crore. A lot of his wealth comes from the profits of Nasser S AlHajri Corporation (NSH). He founded the company in 1978 in Saudi Arabia. Recalling his earlier days, Pillai says, "I was a contractor with public enterprises in Kerala before I came to the Middle East. A strike at one of the undertakings forced me to look for opportunity elsewhere. Of the 500 people working with me, I took 200 to Saudi Arabia. If the strike hadn't happened, I wouldn't have made my fortune." 

Pillai is a first-generation entrepreneur with roots in Chavara, near Kollam. His parents were farmers. His 26 companies, including the NSH generate revenues of Rs 26,800 crore annually. Some of the other sectors, he dominates include travel and tourism, healthcare and education, mainly in India and the Middle East. He is often referred to as the 'Ambani of the Gulf'.

He, however shot to limelight when when he acquired Leela Resorts in Kovalam from the renowned Mumbai-based entrepreneur family of C P Krishnan Nair, who was for decades one of the best-known faces of Malayali entrepreneurship. 

M A Yussuffali: With headquarters in Abu Dhabi, he is worth Rs 16,300 crore. His 113 hypermarkets spread across the world earn him about Rs 37,000 crore annually. But that has not deterred him from staying connected with his roots. "Around 24,000 out of 32,000 employees are from Kerala; 4,000 are from my own village Nattika," Yusuffali says. He laughs off and says,"Do you know that I don't have to pay for fish back in my native village? I have given jobs to the youth from all communities, some of whom are from fishermen's families. So, when I'm around, their parents always make sure that I get fresh fish." 

Yusuffali created a retail empire that originated in the UAE. Recalling his older days, he says, "I landed in Dubai in a ship named Dumra on December 31, 1973. I found Abu Dhabi a town without a steady supply of electricity or a proper sewage system. Whenever temperatures rose - sometimes up to 52 degree Celsius, along with 84% humidity - we used to sleep on the roof." He is the Managing Director of Abu Dhabi-headquartered EMKE LuLu Group of companies that owns the Lulu Hypermarket chain in the Middle East. Yusuffali generated revenues of Rs 37,000 crore in 2014. He learnt the tricks of business during his four-year stay in Ahmedabad, where his paternal uncle ran a general store. He moved to Abu Dhabi in 1973 where his uncle and father ran a kirana store. He said,"In 1983 came my first foreign trip.With 10 years of experience in retailing, I went to Singapore, Sydney , Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Australia's supermarkets impressed me the most. I decided to set up big supermarkets in Abu Dhabi instead of small grocery shops."

P N C Menon: He is the third richest Malayali in the world with a net worth of Rs 13,000 crore. His Dubai-headquartered holding company, PNC Investments is said to have generated revenues of 1.2 billion dirham (Rs 2,107 crore) during 2013, with net profits of 88.4 million Dhs (Rs 150crore).  He had lost his father when he was just 10. He later had to discontinue his college studies to become an interior designer at Thrissur where his father has established a small business. His destiny took a dramatic turn when he met Brig Gen Suleiman Al-Adawi from Oman in the lobby of a Kochi hotel. He was invited to Muscat where the duo founded an interior design firm, taking a bank loan of 3,000 riyals. 

Sunny Verkey: With a fortune worth of Rs 11,200 crore, he is the fourth on the list. Although a second-generation entrepreneur, Varkey had to work hard to reach this position. He came to Dubai in 1959 at the age of two along with his banker father. It all started as a school for free education when his parents used to give English lessons to the workers in their free time. Their combined efforts culminated in a formal school-Our Own English High School. After his father retired in 1980, Varkey took over the reins of the organisation and started expanding, spurred by the belief that there was a huge potential for quality education not only in the Middle East, but also in developed countries. His company Gems Education, which is headquartered in Dubai, operates a global network of schools and pre-schools in the Middle East, various parts of Asia, Africa, the UK and the US. 

Azad Moopen: The chairman of the Dubai-headquartered Aster DM Healthcare LLC, he is the fifth most prominent entrepreneur in Dubai with a a net worth of Rs 5,500 crore. An MBBS gold medallist, he started his career as a lecturer at the Calicut Medical College in 1982. He moved to Dubai five years later. His company, the Aster Group now operates close to 260 hospitals and pharmacies in the Middle East and in India. The owner of a medical college in Wayanad district of Kerala, he was more keen on academics. Recalling his earlier days, he said, "Everybody in my family , including my father and brothers, have been in business. I was an exception; I went into academics."