Taking Nepal To The World
A fascinating peek into the history and future of CG Corp Global, an enterprise born and bred in Nepal, that has spread its wings across the globe and a spectrum of industry verticals including hospitality and FMCG.
As we took off from our respective places to shoot the first episode of BW HOTELIER’s Dialogues series in Rajasthan, Bhuvanesh Khanna, CEO of BW Communities at BW Businessworld, and I deliberated on the Chaudhary Group that currently has over 100 companies under its umbrella and an investment outlay of over a billion dollars. The ascent of Chairman Binod Chaudhary, known to be the wealthiest billionaire in Nepal, up the ladder of success had been synchronous with growing his business across various verticals, namely infrastructure, telecom, finance, education, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), hospitality, banking, food and beverages etcetera. The Nepali entrepreneur, philanthropist and politician is a third generation businessman who originally hails from Rajasthan’s Churi-Ajithgarh village in the Jhunjhunu district, in the midst of the Shekhawati region.
Around 150 years ago, Chaudhary’s grandfather, Bhuramull had migrated to Nepal in his early teens, where he established a textile business to cater for the Rana regime. Bhuramull Chaudhary’s empire was built on toil and labour. He travelled all over India collecting textiles, taking them to the Nepal border via train, from where it was carried into Nepalese territory as human load. The business was soon passed on to Bhuramull Chaudhary’s son Lunkaran Das Chaudhary who was born in Nepal and had both sharp business ethics and a value system. Taking over the reins of his father’s business at the age of 23, he embarked on a lucrative venture of exporting jute to the USA and Europe. He also began importing fabrics from Japan and Korea. But he still felt that he needed to go beyond trading, and that is when he set up a biscuit manufacturing unit.
The flashback into the intriguing history of CG Corp Global braced us for the interaction with the present generation of the Chaudhary dynasty. After reaching the venue where the shoot was going to take place, we were able to find the perfect spot for the rendezvous with the Chaudharys, namely Binod Chaudhary and his three sons, Niravana, Rahul and Varun. As the camera began to roll, Binod Chaudhary began to recount the origins of the family empire. We learnt later that he was also very fond of Hindi cinema and had in his youth bunked classes to watch movies. “But overnight my life changed, when my father had a heart attack and he asked me to buckle up as I am the eldest in the family,” he recalled.
The Climb Up the Ladder
With five generations having lived in Nepal so far, the family considers itself staunchly Nepali with a great sense of pride in what Nepal has given them in terms of recognition and respect around the world. Chaudhary considers himself blessed for having had good people in his life, be they family, friends, colleagues or business associates. Binod Chaudhary’s dream of building an enterprise with humility, learning, social responsibility, entrepreneurship, teamwork and relationships as core values, was fired by role models like J. R. D. Tata, Muhammed Yunus, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
“When it comes to business, JRD Tata is one person who I've always tried to emulate in terms of the way the Tata Empire exists. I’m equally and deeply touched by Muhammad Yunus whose vision transformed Bangladesh from absolute poverty,” mused Chaudhary. “Likewise, I also look at Bill Gates as another individual whose name comes to my mind more of late, because we happen to be working together on the philanthropy side. But there are also people like Warren Buffett − look at the trust factor − he has pledged his entire wealth to support the initiatives taken by them,” Chaudhary went on to say.
There was a time when the Chaudhary Group aspired to keep a toehold in every industry around the world. They reached a stage at which they were approached with new business ideas and offered joint venture proposals that led to continuous growth of the brand. Chaudhary recalled that there was a time when CG Corp Global was involved in more than 18 different business verticals ranging from food and beverages to hospitality, to banking, power, insurance, education and so on. But he soon realised the need for a niche and the need to consolidate. The group then focused on nine different business verticals independently run in Nepal and six that exist globally. “It seems that there is plenty to do within this domain. Our private equity arm is always willing to look at new investment opportunities and for so long it is run well and managed by people we trust, but we don't want to re-engineer and rebuild a team from scratch and get into a new business,” emphasised Chaudhary.
Khanna was curious about the future plans of the family and how Binod Chaudhury saw each of his sons carrying forward the family legacy. Describing his eldest son as a tremendous entrepreneurial and spirited person, Chaudhury said, “You leave him (Nirvana) in a room where there is probably nothing happening and still he will come out with some business idea. And the angles that he brings to the business is something which not many people can think about. He is a great people's person and has played a major role in building the team that we have within the group. He has very sharp eyes for identifying talents, which may be hidden and not be seen on the surface, but he pulls them up.”
He labelled his second son, Rahul Chaudhary, as a solid professional entrepreneur. “Rahul is a very hard working, very systematic, very organised, meticulous person. He makes sure that everything is followed through till it is totally implemented and starts to produce the result that is of great quality,” he added.
The youngest of the Chaudhary scions, Varun Chaudhary, is based in India currently. In his father’s words, he is resourceful. “He is a perfect person to be based in India. He is dynamic, astute and sharp in working in a situation which may be so different and unthinkable. You send him in any kind of a complex situation, he will find a solution and he will leave a lasting impression of himself. And when it comes to relationship building, again, he's no less than anybody else,” said Binod Chaudhary.
A proud father, mentor and boss, Binod Chaudhary has no reserves about handing over the baton to his sons who are well-poised to take CG Corp Global to new heights in the times to come. “I would like to be born as my own son. Just imagine if I was Niravana or Rahul or Varun, you cannot imagine what I would do to this group. So, that's the challenge and opportunity they have,” said Chaudhary enthusiastically.
Hospitality, Travel and Tourism
Hospitality, travel and tourism is the sector worst hit by the black swan event has had every industry leader grappling for solutions. From lockdown to revival to survival, the industry has come a long way in revamping itself in tune with the need of the hour, keeping consumer satisfaction as its top priority. Khanna steered the conversation to this beleaguered sector and sought Chaudhary’s views on the future of the industry.
The Chaudhary Group is among the most diversified hospitality companies, not only in terms of its geographical presence all the way from New York to China, but also in terms of the nature of properties, in which they are involved. The hospitality vertical of the group has properties ranging from safaris to wellness, to business hotels, to adventure. The CG Corp Global hospitality business is also unique because of the different brands that they carry with some of the most iconic properties.
Talking of the prevailing hardships and opportunities before the industry, Chaudhary pointed out that resorts operational in secluded and less crowded regions that were close to nature, were doing extremely well in India. “Maldives is doing very well. You know, specialised properties that give the kind of comfort and sense of security post-pandemic are doing well. But one thing is for sure, that people will not travel the way they used to travel before,” said Chaudhary. “A lot of people who have different opinions about when this industry is going to come back (to normalcy), by 2022 or 2023. If you ask me, the hotel industry and destinations are going to be redefined,” emphasised Chaudhary.
The Chaudhary Heirs
The eldest heir of the Chaudhary group is responsible for a number of businesses like telecom, finance, insurance, banking, infrastructure, etc. Khanna picked his brain on strategies for growth with existing and new partners. Niravana Chaudhary stressed that Nepal would always remain a geography, where the group would continue to grow organically in some core areas. “For us today, our FMCG continues to be one of our core competencies, and we will continue to grow in it organically. We are looking at different avenues beyond Nepal, to grow inorganically. But within Nepal, I think we are laterally trying to diversify into different portfolios within our FMCG products. Apart from noodles, snacks, beverages, brewery, we are trying to get into other FMCG verticals as well,” said the eldest Chaudhary.
Talking about the group’s entry into the newest field, communication and IT, Nirvana Chaudhary felt that Nepal had a huge opportunity for growth in this sector. “With a population of 30 million, access to broadband, data, IT, e-commerce is still in its infancy stage,” he explained. “With our new vertical in telecommunications and IT, we will be first focusing on creating the ecosystem and the backbone for it. We see huge opportunities in reinventing some of our existing businesses, and giving them an angle of an e-commerce platform,” said the eldest Chaudhary.
He talked of the education sector too, into which the company had moved aggressively into the online education model. Nirvana pointed out that Nepal was known worldwide for its potential capacity in harnessing energy. He admitted that the demand-supply gap was slowly closing in, but felt that even so, a huge potential existed for cross border export. “And that's one area where we were trying to enter aggressively in the past and now I must say, that we have been relatively successful in almost launching our first project which is already giving shape to a few other projects coming up,” said Nirvana Chaudhary.
Rahul Chaudhary handles the hospitality vertical of the group and the brand’s presence has grown exponentially over the past two decades taking up the tally of hotels within CG Corp Global to 141 across 13 countries with 8,500 keys. Prodded by Bhuvanesh Khanna, Rahul Chaudhary divulged plans of partnering with a giant like the Tatas had been a big leap forward for the group. “If you see the growth that we have done and the investments that we have made, all our investments have been in countries and in opportunities that have a larger opportunity in the long term,” he said.
Talking of handling relations with some key operators like IHCL, Carlson Rezidor (Radisson), Hilton, Marriott and Accor, Rahul Chaudhary said the most important aspect of maintaining a relationship or going forward in any relationship with an operator or a brand was the alignment of interest and growth strategy. “You have to always be aligned in terms of where you want to go and where you want to be,” he asserted. He divulged that the company’s focus was currently in the wellness and experiential space in the hospitality sector. The group has a long-term vision of having 200 hotels within its fold by 2025.
CG Hospitality operates the eco-luxury holistic medical wellness resort, The Farm at San Benito, Philippines, which has been among the top destinations for travelers looking for a perfect holiday that combines science and holistic wellness in a transformative retreat. Resting on a 48-hectare lush green jungle, with a stunning view of the majestic mountains, with fresh air and pristine and uplifting life-giving energy radiating around the property, The Farm delivers a better quality of life through its wellness journeys carefully put together by internationally trained integrative medical doctors, nurses, spa therapists, nutritionists, living food experts, fitness coaches and yoga teachers. Expanding its wings, the brands also acquired two Fairmont properties in Masai Mara and Nairobi, which are scheduled to open their gates on 1 May, 2021.
Khanna goes on to quizz the youngest of the brothers about his plans of pushing the Wai Wai brand of instant noodles in India. Pointing out modestly that his father was the creator of the Wai Wai brand, Varun Chaudhary said that he had simply taken the brand to new heights with his vision and passion. Recalling his school days, Chaudhary said he remembered using Wai Wai as a barter for work done.
“Wai Wai used to be like a currency for us,” he recalled. Varun Chaudhary has focussed on the youth as his target consumer group for Wai Wai, who he sees as brand ambassadors of the product and the company. Starting his career in Dubai in real estate business, the youngest Chaudhary brother wanted to relocate to a new base. With his father’s blessings he started his journey with Wai Wai and took it to new heights. Currently, the brand has units in India, Bangladesh, Serbia and Kazakhstan.
It was soon time to wrap up the enjoyable rendezvous. BW HOTELIER came away richer by another amazing story behind another successful empire and how the Chaudhary clan were able to take CG Corp Gobal to the world. Binod Chaudhary said in conclusion, “This has been one of the most remarkable and emotionally fulfilling sessions together that I have ever been in. I don't know whether this will happen again. But this will always be treasured by the family and the group for generations to come.” We thank you for the opportunity, Dr Chaudhary.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled '6TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 1'
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