What does it take to build a business empire?
Binod K Chaudhary, the chairman of the CG Corp Global conglomerate group, is Nepal's first billionaire and possibly the most successful industrialist in his nation. He spoke at the Bangladesh Business Awards 2020, an initiative of The Daily Star. I recently had the privilege of reading his memoir, Making it Big (India Portfolio, 2016), in which he looks back upon his professional journey.
As the book recounts, Binod Chaudhary's family worked primarily in the textile business. Binod's father, the late Shri Lunkaran Das Chaudhary, and grandfather, Bhuramal Chaudhary, stepped into a valiant journey, walking through the streets of Kathmandu to sell their products. Instead of learning about the world of business through textbooks and academic degrees, ten-year-old Shri Lunkaran started learning the trade from his own father. They set up their first proper clothing shop in 1934. Decades later, in 1968, Shri Lunkaran would start Arun's Emporium, Nepal's first department store catering to women, men, and children. Yet what felt like a dream shattered when he invested in several businesses only to see no promising returns.
Binod Chaudhary turned the tables around with the introduction of Wai Wai—a food brand that earned him the title of "Noodle King" and two percent of the world's shares in the noodle market. From regulations to finances, Binod faced the most onerous challenges, and despite the immense responsibility of expanding a family business successfully—transitioning from Bhuramal Lunkaran Das Chowdhury to the Chaudhary Group—he persevered.
The primary reason I could trek through every word of this book with ease and interest is because of the humble yet hopeful tone Binod Chaudhary maintains throughout the narrative. "[M]y most treasured possessions are my experiences and my memories", he writes in the prologue, "A Rebeginning". His account situates his personal and familial history—their travels, their corporate ups and downs—in the wider history of Nepal and the Marwari community, whose involvement in the business sector stretches back to the years after the First World War. Among the oldest trading communities in the world hailing from India's Rajasthan, where the author's grandfather was born, Marwaris expanded their influence across the land in the 19th century; by 1997, they were among the top industrialists in India, Chaudhary writes, before taking us through his encounters with politics, his foray into hotel businesses, and his contributions to philanthropy through the Chaudhary Foundation.
Making It Big is the story of a 23-year-old boy who never thought that he would become a billionaire after only 40 years of hard work. The book travels through his difficult yet thrilling journey in the world of business. It is often assumed, in the subcontinent, that inheriting the responsibility of a family business is a blessing, one that does not require hard work. Binod Chaudhary proves this notion wrong by detailing all the responsibilities he had to shoulder. He took every business decision in a way that his family could be proud of. Young business professionals today are often quite restive when it comes to taking tough career choices. From this book, they can learn how to remain resilient and take one step at a time, not only to make their family proud, but to achieve heights that they might never have dreamt of.
I would encourage the youth and young professionals—whether you are a startup founder or simply striving in the corporate world—to give this memoir a read. Binod Chaudhary's story might inspire you to do things that we will be talking about someday.
Md. Tajdin Hassan is the Chief Strategy and Digital Transformation Officer of The Daily Star.