The Inspiring Life of Sunny Varkey

Sunny Varkey 2

Billionaire Sunny Varkey: Founder and CEO of GEMS Education


Sunny Varkey is a prominent UAE-based Indian entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a well-known educationist, who is the founder and chairman of GEMS Education. He started his journey as a teacher in Dubai in 1980 and transformed his tiny classroom into a global education empire. Today, GEMS Education is one of the largest and most successful chains of private schools in the world, with over 250 schools across 17 countries, serving more than 250,000 students, and employing over 20,000 people.

Early Life and Education

Sunny Varkey was born in Kerala, India in 1957. His father, K.S. Varkey, was a school teacher, and his mother, Mariamma Varkey, was a homemaker. He grew up in Dubai, where his family had migrated in 1959. He completed his schooling from the Indian High School, Dubai, and then went on to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Calicut University, Kerala.

Career and Achievements

Sunny Varkey started his career as a teacher in Dubai, where he taught Mathematics and Physics at a private school. In 1980, he borrowed $5,000 from his father and founded Our Own English School in Dubai, with only a handful of students. Over the years, he expanded his school and eventually established GEMS Education in 2000. Today, GEMS Education has a presence across five continents, with schools in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Switzerland, UK, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Oman, Bahrain, and India.

Apart from his success as an entrepreneur, Sunny Varkey is also well-known for his philanthropic work. He established the Varkey Foundation in 2010, which focuses on improving education standards for children in poverty-stricken regions around the world. The foundation also runs the annual Global Teacher Prize, which awards $1 million to an outstanding teacher who has made a significant contribution to the teaching profession.

Personal Life

Sunny Varkey is married to Sherly Varkey, who is the Vice Chairperson of GEMS Education. They have two children, Dino Varkey and Jay Varkey, who are also involved in the family business. Apart from his passion for education, Sunny Varkey is also an avid collector of vintage cars and watches.


Name Sunny Varkey
Born 1957
Country India (originally) / UAE (based)
Sector Education
Companies GEMS Education / Varkey Foundation
Net Worth $2.1 billion (as of 2021)
Forbes URL
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