The LTTE attack in Sri Lanka, the undoing of Nepal with political unrest and then five minutes of earth shattering or taking on a global giant like Nestle - could have been enough to put an ordinary person into a stopper – but Binod Chaudhary has always looked at misevents as opportunities to create something new and resurrect things – only better. CG Corp as a global business conglomerate operates various businesses varying from noodle to hotels to cement and real estate.
At Entrepreneur, this is our first attempt to look cross-border into the life and business of a conglomerate based in Nepal and perhaps the one and only coming out of the tiny country and that too not in the best of shape.
To become a billionaire entrepreneur is not the easiest feat by any account anywhere, but to be able to pull it out of Nepal was what doubly attracted the editorial desk to dig further. If this man can rise above everything and build a global business holding then there is something to be known about him. While his thoroughly done autobiography provided a peek into the fearless life he lived to the optimum, but a great entrepreneur will always have something to teach you.
Our one-hour meeting in his office almost stretched to two hours when he patiently took the time to let us into his life learnings that made him reach to the pinnacle (Only he thinks it is still early days!). His ways are always unusual; an entrepreneur is the one who sees what normal eyes can’t, he says.
Tough Situations Spell Opportunity
Binod Chaudhary’s, Chairman, CG Corp Global, rise from his father’s textile business - Arun Emporium to creating a conglomerate has similar feat as that of reaching the world’s highest peak Mount Everest. He believes that the tougher the situation, the bigger is the opportunity. His hotel empire today can be attributed to bad terror situation in Sri Lanka when he chose to take it heads on even when Taj group of hotels could not bear the brunt.
“It gave me a bargaining power with Taj Hotels to get Maldives property too,” he shares. Currently CG Corp is the biggest partner of Taj Group with more than 11 hotels in operation and number of other hotels in the making.
He believes that you have got to learn how to turnaround the worst situations as an entrepreneur, which has to be your biggest skill set, that will allow you to maximse any opportunity. It further gives you and your partners the confidence to trust each other in future deals.
The creation of Taj Safari in Madhya Pradesh was his vision that Taj had brought and despite the tough egronomics and initial reluctance of Digvijay Singh, then chief minister of MP, it was a proud win –win for both CG Corp and Taj Hotels. “Otherwise, I don’t think a Neplalese entrepreneur would have been able to afford a 300-400 room hotel in one of the major south east Asian towns.” At that time, nobody would have thought of venturing in Sri Lanka because the country was going through an even worse situation than Nepal.
The Nepal Connection
Binod Chaudhary’s grandfather had moved from Rajasthan to Nepal in his early business days, but he still regards Nepal as home. And even today, CG corp runs all businesses from telecom to FMCG, hotels and manufacturing in Nepal and has fair share in Nepal’s economy.
Chaudhury, who had left studies early to join his father’s business, said, “Though I never attended any business school but my business school was Japan. I went there at the age of 18. My father regularly visited the country to import textile; I soon realized that it was not my cup of tea.”
Sharing his initial opportunity in spotting his forte, he said, “I spotted a 800cc Suzuki car and wanted to bring that in Nepal, which I did and it was much before Maruti brought it to India.” When Suzuki people showed their concern for sales perceiving that Nepal is a poor country,
Chaudhary assured them, “Don’t worry about the country’s economy, just tell me the target.” This made him courageous and brought him into trysts with brands like National Panasonic Centre, wherein they even asked him to set up an assembly line in Nepal. Whatever systems were followed by global businesses, it taught him something new and helped him in drawing his organizational chart.
In his entire lifetime, Chaudhary has tried his hands in more than 50 businesses even though the company operates around 16 different business verticals today.
Sharing on the aspect on when he thought of moving out of his home country and look at global expansion, Chaudhary said, “Around the 1990s, it had started becoming a little tougher because of the Maoist uprising. In any case, the economy was small so the opportunities were limited and every time, we had to create a new vertical to do something better and bigger. The growth was limited unless you went transnational. So it was a decision of compulsion and opportunity that I saw.”
He decided to start an international branch; so to speak an outfit out of Singapore named Cinnovation. His idea was, “Business knows no boundaries, it should be replicated, which can be taken anywhere in the world and which can be very quickly professionalized.”
The Real Game is in Execution
The biggest learning from Binod Chaudhary is his vision to see how to build an empire and then manages each business with equal passion, pat comes the reply, “As a matter of fact, the business which is not performing well receives my first attention. To me, whether it is small or big, it doesn’t matter.”
Adding further on what he learnt from the Japanese, he said, “In Japan, I learnt the rules of team work, listening to people even to the junior in the organization.”
Also, if two or three people agree on a certain decision then the third person will support them regardless to see the deal through. The whole world needs to learn this from Japan.
“I believe in the power of finding the right people and delegation,” he said, adding, “If you create multiple businesses and those are doing reasonably well, then you put together a team and move on. But lot of people forget about the business all together. That is suicidal. As an entrepreneur managing multiple businesses, you have got to understand what you can manage on your own and what you need to delegate and how to monitor what you have delegated is a real art.”
Decoding the ‘C G' in FMCG
The biggest FMCG success of CG Corp has been Wai Wai Noodles, which now owns three per cent of the global noodles market.
It was a moment of awakening for Chaudhary, when he saw Wai Wai noodles in the conveyor belt at Thailand airport and it triggered the question that why should everybody be carrying Wai Wai to Nepal, why not sell it here?
A big bet for Chaudhary has been the north east of India. CG has built Wai Wai into a huge brand with people in north east India. Shared Chaudhary, “It is a huge brand in north east even more than Nepal. Post north east we thought of going to the metro cities of India.”
When asked how he tapped on the north east market, he said, “I went there to sell my biscuits, Pashupati Biscuits, much before Wai Wai. I was around 18 or 19 years.” He took the plunge even when the multinationals were not considering it.
Philanthropy is Not About Money But Belief
In 2015, when earthquake hit Nepal, it was not about extending money to make the situation better but it was about every person in CG Corp coming together.
“The earthquake in Nepal had changed our lives and the life of our group. Nepal’s priority became our priority. The whole group dedicated themselves to one fact and ie to rebuild Nepal,” shared Chaudhary.
He summed it up with the words his Guru Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, to say, “The corporate world cuts the cloth and spirituality stitches it back. On a lighter note, China being a big market hasn’t seen much action from the group. The company runs two hotels in China, but has not done anything significantly big there. On Wai Wai king not being present there, Chaudhary quips, “50 per cent of the world’s noodles are made in China. So what role can I play there? We would definitely someday want to make it big but trying to compete with someone who is the 50 per cent share holders of the market with us who have 3 per cent share in the global market will be a mis-adventure.” Even after expansion in so many countries his heart remains in Nepal. As Chaudhary parts us with these words, “I unpack my suitcases in Nepal.”
(This article was first published in the July issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)