The Wai Wai Billionaire

Yubaraj Ghimire meets Nepal’s richest man and asks why he likes the title “ruthless”

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | New Delhi | Published: April 7, 2013 2:15 am

Yubaraj Ghimire meets Nepal’s richest man and asks why he likes the title “ruthless”

For most people in India,Nepal is synonymous with the majesty of the Himalayas and the comfort of Wai Wai — those instant noodles,which can give Maggi a run for its money. Lovers of those noodles will be glad to know that Nepal’s first billionaire on the Forbes list,this year,manufactures the same. Binod Chaudhary is chairman of the Cinnovation/Chaudhary Group,a conglomerate of close to 80 companies,spanning banking,foods,cement,real estate,hotels,power,retail and electronics. According to Forbes,“Chaudhary faced with restrictions at home,has built much of his estimated $1 billion fortune overseas through his Singapore-based arm Cinnovation.” The group has also partnered with India’s Taj Hotels Group,opening hotels here and in Sri Lanka,the Maldives and Thailand. He has also set up an industrial village in central Nepal and plans to take his famous noodles to China and Africa.

Chaudhary,the 1,342nd richest man in the globe,owes his success to his grandfather Bhuramal Chaudhary who left his hometown Shekhawati in Rajasthan in 1890 to open a small textile store in Nepal. Binod’s 93-year-old father Lunkaran Das — now bedridden — modernised and widened it,to make it Arun Emporium,Nepal’s first department store in the late ’60s.

Chaudhary,who likes being called “ruthless”,had early in his life set a goal for himself to run a billion dollar company,as revealed in Atmakatha (his autobiography) co-written by business journalist Sudeep Shrestha,which released last month in Nepal. “For some positive results,one has to be ruthless at times,” says Chaudhary whose achievement stands out,specially given Nepal’s declining economy,poor investment climate and high degree of corruption.

His detractors are,however,quick to point out that much of his growth occurred outside Nepal and does not match his record within the country. To them,Chaudhary says,“I am sure opportunities do abound in Nepal,and I believe a 100 per cent Nepali company,registered in Nepal,can do miracles in the right climate if we are allowed to invest outside lawfully.”

Emphasising his resolve,he says,“I will not stop my journey if an individual or even the government puts a barrier in my way. I will do everything to overcome it.” Known for both his economic and political clout within and outside the country,he has also joined politics,and became a member (nominated) of the Constituent Assembly representing the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) for four years although that constitution wasn’t written.

Chaudhary is a man of varied talents,and has even sung on Radio Nepal. He briefly flirted with the idea of joining films,and,in his childhood,desperately wandered the city to catch a glimpse of Dev Anand when the evergreen hero was shooting for Hare Rama Hare Krishna in Kathmandu. Breaking away from the conservative circle of the family he even ran a discotheque when he was 19.

But expanding business beyond the traditional boundary of the family and country remained his passion. Chaudhary is already reaping the benefits of the Forbes recognition. Recently,China’s new ambassador Wu Chuntai called on him to explore partnerships. Buoyed by his feat,Chaudhary says,“If we have the right climate,we will see 10 more Binod Chaudharies emerging in the country in a decades time.”

That may be wishful thinking,given the electricity crunch (up to 14-hours-a-day power cuts) and the highly politicised and anti-industry trade unions,but Chaudhary has his own past and present that make him believe that nothing succeeds like success.

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