LAST WEEK, the Dubai Duty Free’s Millennium Millionaire Promotion celebrated its 15th anniversary. Since its inception in 1999, the $1-million lucky draw has created 166 dollar-millionaires from 29 countries—the maximum number being from India. Of the 166 winners, no less than 78 have been Indian nationals or people of Indian origin working in the Emirates. The youngest Indian winner has been Rabia Manzil Asharaf, a 22-year old, who won her $1-million prize in 2013 with a ticket numbered 4,993, supposedly a lucky number. The millionaire promotion has, so far, paid out close to $200 million and is a comparatively recent innovation by Dubai Duty Free (DDF), one of the the world’s biggest duty-free operations, and among the most profitable. The original DDF attraction was the Finest Surprise Promotion, launched in 1989, which gave passengers, or those in transit via Dubai, the opportunity to win a luxury car. It is the longest-running duty-free promotion in the world. With tickets on sale for $139 and limited to 1,300 coupons, ticket holders have a chance to win a luxury car: a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Porsche or Audi.
However, for special supercar series, including Bentley, Audi R8, McLaren and Aston Martin, 2,300 coupons are available costing Dhs500 or $139. A recent winner was Ramnath Balakrishnan, an Indian national living in Dubai, who drove away with a McLaren MP4 12C Coupe, one of the world’s most desirable sports cars, and among the most expensive (approximately $250,000). Since its launch, more than 1,600 travellers from 68 different countries have driven away their own set of extravagant wheels as grand-prize winners. A fairly recent addition has been a draw for superbikes. Last April, Francisco Fernandes, 33, an Indian national living in Dubai, won a Ducati Streetfighter 848. Fernandes was catching a flight to Djibouti when he bought the ticket. The cars and the cash, however, are what draw in the punters. The hook is the limited number of tickets available—a current draw at Dubai airport is restricted to 1,000 tickets, with a black BMW 750 Li on offer to the prize-winner.
To attract more customers, DDF opened up the draw to online punters. Of 135 winners for the cash prize, over 30 were those who bought over the Internet. As part of its winners’ package, Dubai airport flies lucky ticket holders in business class to Dubai and puts them up in a luxury hotel for a celebratory break in the Emirates. It isn’t just individuals who win. Many people working in the Gulf do an office pool for the $1-million ticket whenever one of them is travelling, like the one recently won by Ajith Krishnan, an Indian national, who purchased the winning ticket along with his nine colleagues from the Perfect Tools Moulds Factory in Dubai. The promoters have now introduced the Double Millionaire promotion, which offers a $2-million prize in addition to the million-dollar one. Incidentally, 41-year-old Naveen Manghnani didn’t really need to pay extra to take part in the bigger prize. He won the $1-million prize back in 2010 and, in 2011, the Dubai-based businessman also won $2 million in the Double Millionaire promotion. He is the third person in the history of Dubai Duty Free to win its dollar millionaire promotions more than once.