Binod Chaudhary is the President of Chaudhary Group (CG), one of the leading business houses of Nepal. He is also the Chairman Emeritus of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI). A prominent industrialist, Chaudhary has recently published an autobiography, ‘Atmakatha’. This book tells the successful story of how Wai Wai noodles, initially imported from Thailand, which later took such a big market share. “Currently, 1 billion packets of Wai Wai noodles are produced annually which accounts for 1% of the total noodle production of the world”, claims Chaudhary. In an interview with New Business Age, Chaudhary talks about the CG’s successful ventures and the group’s plans among other issues.
You seem to be saying and doing whatever the Industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani of India used to say and do. Are you influenced by him?
I always say that I am influenced by two people in India - J.R.D. Tata and Dhirubhai Ambani. The status given to the Tata Group by J.R.D. Tata is unmatched by any other business house in the world. But the industrial revolution in India was brought by Dhirubhai Ambani. Hence, I am his big fan.
You happen to praise the former leader of South Korea, Park Chung-Hee as well. Do you believe that the government should praise the industrialists?
Park Chung-Hee has given birth to many multi-national companies during his regime. That is why the multinational companies of South Korea are successful globally. I am a 100% supporter of that. I truly believe that in a country like Nepal, private companies cannot develop without support from the government. In countries like Japan and Korea, the government has pushed the private companies to grow. I believe that the same should apply in our case as well.
Why did you change the decade long established Chaudhary Group into CG?
This is just a branding. The word CG is easy to remember for people but Chaudhary Group is not. You have to twist your tongue a little bit. Actually, the brand “Chaudhary’s” could not be well established. There used to be a logo of Chaudhary’s in our every product. But, that could never be the talk of the town. Today, no one says Chaudhary’s. Everyone likes to say CG.
You have set up several Noodle producing plants throughout India. Similarly, you have invested in luxury resorts in cooperation with Taj Hotel. How much have you invested like this within Nepal and abroad?
We also do not have an exact account of that. We have many companies that are being run by different individuals. Again the criterion to judge a company has become different these days. Today, a company is judged on basis of its brand, marketability etc. According to that, the co-investors invest. Today, the Tata family owns only 3% of the Tata Group. But, they are buying several companies of millions of dollars in the name of Tata industries and are trading worldwide. That’s why investment is not a big thing these days. I constantly repeat that a multinational company cannot be setup by just collecting money from Nepal. There is not enough capital to do that. Furthermore, there is a possibility of development within and without. If you have the capability of industrialization, capital will follow you. Today, we are producing Wai Wai in more than 3 countries. In those countries, there are several investors who are interested to invest in Wai Wai. We are working in hotels in different nations, in our own brand and in others’ brands. We have an option of choosing whom to mingle with. We have already earned that trust of the investors in the international market. That is why investment value and volume by an individual company or industrialist is not the key factor here.
The main question is when we can say with certainty that Binod Chaudhary is an internationally recognized billionaire.
Binod Chaudhary is only a face. If someday CG group comes to be recognized as Nepal’s billionaire company, it is not only my pride but yours too. And I pray that the day comes soon.
For some time past, you have been concentrating more on imports, rather than on two or four flagship industries like Wai Wai.
During the last twenty years, the nation has faced insurgency. Today also it exists in some form or the other. The only company that developed both horizontally and vertically during this period is CG. If CG owned only 3 companies back then, today it owns 14. If 500 people worked back then, today 3000 people do. If CG vertically owned 6 business houses back then, today the number is 10. The cement company has also been added to them. In fact, we are building the nation’s largest cement company. We are also trying to set up hydro power plants with over 240 MW capacity each. We have entered the ayurveda sector. In terms of education, we have established 5 institutions where over 4000 students are studying. We are going to invest Rs. 1 billion in education. Then an additional 10000 students will have the opportunity to study annually. Service industry is also being looked at closely by us. If you look at this sector by turning the pages of Aarthik Abhiyan National Daily, you can find the answer to your question over there itself.
You have recently left the chairmanship of CNI. Why was CNI unable to do anything much impactful during those years of your leadership?
I am doing well in CNI. Recently, a new leadership has arrived. We are also visiting districts. However, we are not in favour of opening branches in all the 75 districts. CNI mainly represents the industrial sector of the nation. Where there are no industries, it is not necessary to open the branches but we are frequently visiting the districts where there are industries.
Some time ago, you said that Nepal Airlines Corporation should be operated under PPP. Are you interested in investing in the corporation as well?
I have lost that interest now. I do not know if any private investor can show a positive route to Nepal Airlines Corporation. It is difficult to bring a change in such a corrupt system.
Nepalis cannot legally invest in the foreign markets. That would be great if possible. You got involved in a political party and also reached the constituent assembly. But, you could not do anything substantial in this regard.
Everybody agrees in this issue. Nepal Rastra Bank has been introducing several fiscal policies for that from time to time. But no proposal has yet been passed in the assembly. That is why it is not a law yet. Nepalis have opened restaurants and hotels in US and Japan. The important thing is that Nepalis are investing. When Nepalis could not invest and only the non residents could, Binod Chaudhary had to make Barun and Rahul Chaudhary, NRNs. Everyone should appreciate it. Please do not consider it illegal.
You are such a successful industrialist. But, CG has not been able to make returns to the society accordingly. Except for some minor contributions, no significant contributions in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) can be seen. Why?
We believe that we have a major involvement in the social sector. Our brand line is ‘Touching life everyday’, which means we do touch lives every day. CSR also has different ways. Donation is also one of them. The other is to help the society during desperate times. You can consider Norvic hospital and educational institutes for this case. Without these initiatives people would have been deprived of quality education and health. It’s a part of CG to cooperate with the society. Some receive concessions and some receive scholarships. You take from those who can give and you give to those who can’t.
Recently, we have agreed to set up a social business fund in cooperation with Noble prize winner Muhammad Yunus’s Muhammad Yunus Center. That will help the Nepalis who want to set up a business but do not have enough resources to do exactly that. We are always committed to shake hands with the society and move forward.
What are your suggestions to the Nepalis who want to start up new businesses in Nepal?
New businesses will have to face a lot of difficulties. I strongly suggest not losing hope. It always takes time to see the results. And, I am very hopeful for everyone.