Varkey, 58, never finished university. Yet in 1980, he took over his parents’ small private school in Dubai and proceeded to turn its fortunes around. Realising the city was becoming a business hub and attracting more expats, he hired foreign teachers and refined school programmes. Over the next 20 years, he opened schools across the city, then regionally and globally, segmenting them according to ethnicity. They include schools for Indians, Pakistanis and the British — although this segregation strategy has come under criticism. Gems Education is now the world’s largest private operator of K-12 schools, with 50 schools and 140,000 students.