THE SUCCESS CREATOR
Binod Chaudhary Chairman of Chaudhary Group
“Looking beyond the obvious is the key to every entrepreneur’s success”
It all started around 120 years ago, when my grandfather moved to Nepal from Rajasthan at the age of 17. We don’t know exactly as these are stories told by my father who is now 92. He came to Nepal and started working in a small textile shop as an employee. It was a life full of struggles at the start for him.
At that time, since there were no business people in Nepal (Nepalese were either fighters or Brahmans), the then Rana rulers decided to formally recognise a few businessmen to licence them to do business in Nepal. The way the arrangement worked was – for the six or seven royal families, each with their own palace, a business family was assigned and hence had access to serve that one Royal family.
My family had access to Prime Minister Mohan Shamsher Rana’s family. My father and his men would travel for months to source fabrics etc from various textile centres across India like Ahmedabad, Mumbai etc. After sourcing, these goods were physically carried from the Indian border to Nepal. There were no roads, and they had to trek it all the way with the load. Then on a designated day, all these goods were displayed in the courtyard of the palace. All the queens would look from their balconies and select what they liked. These are amazing memories that my father has talked about and I have often visualised.
That’s how life started. As my father grew up, he dabbled into busi- ness beyond textiles. He got into the construction business and developed some important buildings, roads and hotel chains etc in Nepal. However, things didn’t work out well and that company could not go very far. I consider my father a true entrepreneur who despite the limitations kept moving on. He was always ready to take up challenges. After this he changed the base of the textile business from India, and instead started importing textiles from Japan and Korea.
In those early days, we had a departmental store called Arun Emporium which was much ahead of its time – it was the first retail establishment in Nepal. My father travelled to Japan, Korea, Singapore and Bangkok to source goods to sell there.
Making a Start & the Struggles
I studied in Nepal and was a school topper. I wanted to come to India to study Chartered Accountancy. I had come to Delhi to appear for the entrance examination, and stayed over at a friend’s house. While on one hand, I
“Life changed one day. I was expected to take over the business, besides looking after two younger brothers and two sisters. That was a turning point in my life.“
was preparing to come to India to pursue my studies, on the other hand, I along with my friends had launched the first discotheque of Nepal called ‘Copper Floor’. That was my first entrepreneurial venture. It was fun but wasn’t just about fun; it a serious business. Life changed one day. I was 18-years-old when my dad admitted to the hospital as he had cardiac problem. The doctor advised that he has to completely withdraw from business and cannot be taking any stress at all. Now I was expected to take over the business, besides looking after two younger brothers and two sisters. That was a turning point in my life. Dad had few partners, who considered this as an opportune time to take over our share in the business.
I took charge of Arun Emporium, and a biscuit factory that was under construction. In 1973, I went to Japan to visit different textile mills and wholesellers to pick and choose with my own hands products that could be sold at our emporium.
My life has been full of challenges, right from step one. Entering business at the age of 18 years was difficult as I was not mentally prepared to take charge of the family business. I was enjoying my life with the discotheque that friends and I had started. The impression that everyone in the family and even the business partners had was that since I was only partying I would blow away all the money and our partners could easily amass our share in the business.
My Discotheque – My B-School
I was passionate about the discotheque like a real business venture. The fact is, that irrespective what your enterprise is, a business has to be run like a business only. I did not make any losses there, and have no regrets about it. At the age of 18, that discotheque business became the best B-school for me. It taught me everything about business management. I had put it together with a friend, who was my business partner. It made me deal with everything from business partner issues, management issues, hiring, firing and human resource issues, even dealing with customers and service issues. From a professional perspective that is what business is all about. By and large it is the same elements, you need to keep up the integrity of your business.
As life was changing, I decided that the textile business was not going to go on too long, and we needed to evolve to other items as well. On the other hand, the biscuit factory was set up with two partners who were eager to takeover our share. While I was fighting one battle there, my uncle who was running the import business also changed his demands, and I was to deal with that too. My challenges started on all fronts. By the grace of God, I diversified from textiles to electronics by getting the national dealership for Panasonic in Nepal. I also convinced a leading radio manufacturing company in Nepal to start a joint venture to manufacture one band and two band radio sets.
The Six Month Target
By developing contacts in Japan, I got the distributorship offer of Suzuki; but it came with a challenge as the Japanese their sharp business astute gave the offer to three others distributors as well. They told us that within six months, the one among us who sold the most cars would get the exclusive dealership. So, I literally went to everyone who could afford a car for one lakh Nepali Rupees and requested them to buy it. I offered them to return it back after six months if they didn’t like the car, and I promised to take it back. My target to get the exclusive dealership was ensure maximum sales for a period of six months only. Once I cracked the exclusive dealership, I would deal with the returned cars. So, with that I successfully managed to get the dealership from Suzuki.
Alongside all this, I never gave up on the biscuit factory with the partners, and eventually the partners also realised that they would not be
“I was passionate
about the discotheque like a real business venture. The fact is, that irrespective what your enterprise is, a business has to be run like a business only.”
able to bulldoze me out of business. I was here to stay. I setup a flourmill too and eventually discovered that we were producing far more flour than what the biscuit factory could consume. That’s when I started looking for something that would consume flour, and it led to the discovery of ‘Wai Wai’.
Turning Point - Discovering Wai Wai
I had noticed big cartons of Wai Wai on the baggage belts at the Katmandu airport. I realised that people were bringing many packs of this instant noodle while returning from Thailand. I went to Thailand to meet the company that manufactured this noodle, so as to get the knowhow and technology for making this in Nepal. It was a small Thai company, more like a cottage industry who were making this without many aspirations to grow very big. I told them, I wanted to product this in Nepal. The owner of the Thai company travelled with me to Nepal, and then told me ‘No way, you don’t make the mistake of entering this business’. He told me that the market does not have the ability to afford it, and you will not be able to sell enough to keep an entire plant busy. The fact is, one plant produces about 30,000 packets a day. I told him, I was convinced about doing the business of producing Wai Wai. He agreed to not only share the technology but also allowed me to use the brand name ‘Wai Wai’ which was already well-known in the market for instant-noodles.
That was a big achievement and we gradually started expanding selling Wai Wai beyond Nepal. It was a huge success and a whole new generation grew with it. Likewise, we started adding a whole range of snacks and juices to the Wai Wai portfolio made it a full-fledged FMCG company.
Further we went on to introduce the first industrial techno-park in Nepal, which was like a special economic zone. We gradually started exporting to 30 countries and went on to manufacture outside Nepal, in places like Sikkim, Guwahati, Rudrapur, besides plants in Gujarat and Andhra too.
Grow Locally & Globally
We have 11 business verticals beyond the FMCG company. However, the FMCG segment is closest to my heart as that is what we stated with in a big way. We first started with trading and then went into Electronics, which is what we are still leading in Nepal with two brands LG and CG. Between these we have a market share of 60%. We are FMCG leaders in the country also and into the Hospitality business too.
In 1990, we decided we wanted to go global. Nepal started to see some political unrest and Maoist issues also. I have always believed that even a small country like Nepal can also have Multi-National Company.
We are the largest operators in the education sector in Nepal. We also went into the financial services and that’s how we turned around a bank, and it is the biggest bank in Nepal which also into other financial verticals like leasing, insurance etc.
Any business venture we start, we try to grow vertically in that sector and have maximum coverage. When we went into FMCG, we did a whole range of goods too. Likewise for electronics, and real estate too. We are the first real estate company to introduce the Ansals Group in Nepal. We have own own brand, CG Realty which has also grown in Dubai now. Our strategy is to grow both locally and globally at the same time.
Everyone can be Successful
From the perspective of any young entrepreneur there are two learnings – one, that is no monopoloy of any big multi-nationals when it comes to business; and any entrepreneur can achieve what he sets out for in business. The fact is entrepreneurship and business management is not confined to any particular environment of a big country or company, anyone who works towards it, can achieve success. Today, almost all countries across the
“I did what was not the obvious, and it emerged a success. It is all about entrepreneurship. The idea is to look beyond what everyone can see, and that’s what gives you an edge over the others.”
world are attracting investment, and they don’t care whether investment comes from Russia, India, China or Nepal, they are all the same for them. When you have ability to put up a viable business enterprise, and offer
good product, and can handle your cost structure, I feel the rules of the game are the same for everyone.
No one is Small
Secondly, lot of people have a psyche that ‘you are a small country, what could you possibly do’; but I never felt that way. I had the courage to do partnership with Tata Group in a hospitality project 20 years ago. They were the business leaders, while I was a businessman from Nepal with no knowledge of this business, and we did a 50-50 partnership for projects in Maldives and Sri Lanka – which was not even my territory. Had it been a partnership for a project in Nepal, it would make sense. But I did what was not the obvious, and it emerged a success. It is all about entrepreneurship. The idea to look beyond what everyone can see, and that’s what gives you an edge over the others.
I have never let the fact that I come from a small country like Nepal, which has seen so much political unrest, hinder any of our group’s growth plans. I did have to face perception issues initially when we floated join venture, partnership plans, but that’s where your convincing power with strong business plans comes in to support your will to make it happen. All over the world I am now popular as ‘Binod Choudhary from Nepal’, which is a tag that I am very proud of.