Binod Chaud­hary Chair­man of Chaud­hary Group

MillionaireAsia India - - Front Page - BY ARATI THAPA & ANU­RADHA KAUL PHO­TOS: AMIT DEY

“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.

Ma­jor Chal­lenges

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.

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