Tired of reading about failing and troubled business houses every day Here is refreshing change in the form of Binod Chaudhary, Nepal’s first billionaire.
Tired of reading about failing and troubled business houses every day Here is refreshing change in the form of Binod Chaudhary, Nepal’s first billionaire. His company Chaudhary Group owns Wai Wai noodles, and also a big chunk of Alila Hotels, stakes in a smattering of Taj properties around the world (Taj Exotica Maldives, Taj Samudra Sri Lanka...), real estate and much, much more.
His recent autobiography, Making It Big, should be this summer’s must-read for everyone. It charts the immensely successful and interesting life story of a self-made man who never forgot to enjoy or live his life while navigating his way up a volatile, unstable and unfriendly environment.
After surviving the 2010 Chile earthquake while on holiday, Chaudhary realised that some of his most treasured possessions were his experiences and memories. It is for this reason he wanted to share these stories with the world. But there was one problem: “More than 90 per cent of the people I have dealt with in different positions are still alive and unless I can be absolutely honest and candid, there is no point in putting down everything in a book. I also had to think about what the ramifications would be once the book came out. Lastly, I had to think about how I could afford to take out the time that writing a book needs,” says Chaudhary.
Once he sorted out the issues, Chaudhary got down to penning his story about a rebellious boy who never believed in his father’s advice: “You have to sacrifice something to gain something.” The book is about a boy from a conservative Marwari family based in Nepal, who excelled in academics, sang for Radio Nepal, dabbled in movies, went on a hunger strike to get his parents to buy him a car, fought to marry the love of his life (and got his ex fiancee’s relatives to help organise his wedding!), ran some successful nightclubs dressed in bell bottoms, while sporting long hair, and successfully made his mark in the corporate world in his early 20s after his father’s illness, while taking on powerful enemies like the Nepal Royal family, politicians and business associates who wanted him out.
“Life changed when I was 18, pretty much like in the movies, where you go to the hospital and find your father staring at you in the ICU. Though my father could not speak, I could read his eyes, they were saying to me, ‘You are still so young... not ready to take over... I have so much unfinished business, younger kids to settle, a daughter who needs to be married, business in the hands of so many other family members...’ That is when I said to myself — ‘this is my time, I have to step in. When I got into it, I was thrown in from a completely different life, into something that is very, very serious. I was thrown into a circle where everyone was my father’s age, so there was a huge issue even in the minds of those people. Whether it was people at work or the government officials I was dealing with, never took me seriously because I was this guy associated with nightlife, singing for Radio Nepal’...”
But this negative mindset that people had towards him was positive for Chaudhary. “It helped me as it made me fight back. That behaviour and reaction made me stronger and my resolve to prove myself.
Also made me much stronger because people thought this guy is a ‘gone case’, his father is unwell, we can now run the show.”
If fighting off partners and employees was tough, Chaudhary also had to deal with political matters as he was being attacked for his ties with the then Nepal Prime Minister. “In my early twenties, I was in a situation where I was being made a scapegoat as nothing could be done to the politicians. This again made me fight back, out of pure necessity. Such events sometime work in your favour. People probably thought they were running me down, but in my case they just pushed me into defence mode. I did things differently, was always bold and courageous in my approach.”
At one point, to get his enemies off his back, Chaudhary had to take his friend Prince Dhirendra’s help. In Nepal, when the royal family was in power, if any member of the family was associated with you or your business partner, everyone backed off. But a “partnership” with the royal family was not without its hurdles. One put in all the capital, hard work and made a business a success, and then the royals decided how much stake they wanted in the company, and often it was 51 per cent. But in Chaudhary’s case, the prince decided to become a 49 per cent partner in their jointly held Apollo Steel Industries, out of friendship.
Just when things were going smoothly, the Prince left his wife Princess Prekshya Rajya Laxmi Devi for a British woman, and in the process got disowned by the royal family. The book details how this fallout affected Chaudhary. Suddenly the Princess was the boss as she was given all her husband’s investments, and she wanted Chaudhary out.
Another example of Chaudhary’s courage is displayed in the book, when he told the Princess to hop off and told her he was not parting with anything though going against the monarchy, which was the last word in Nepal, normally spelled disaster. When asked where he got the courage to take her on, he says, “I told myself, “Come on, this is my hard earned money, my business, they have not invested a penny and expect me to give my business to her cronies. I said, ‘Nothing doing!’ In hindsight, you can call it a completely irrational decision. But it worked.” As luck would have it, there was already a movement growing against an absolute monarchy so the Princess backed off, but after this, Chaudhary was no longer favoured by the royals.
The book details many more such experiences of conflict as it charts his business success and how his company became a $1.4 billion enterprise.
Another very important lesson you can learn from the book is that the people who succeed are the ones who dream through the day. But the difference is you have to see the same dream. Don’t waver on your commitment or determination, no matter what the hurdle is. You have to have the guts to jump over hurdles.
This determination can be seen in Chaudhary’s personal life too, where he woos the late Welham School principal S.K. Kandhari so that his sons can get admission into the premier boarding school. Chaudhary even followed Kandhari and his pet dog around the school premises trying to get an appointment. But in the end he did get his sons in.
The importance of spirituality and how holding grudges is the worst thing you can do in life are also listed. Talking about the importance of keeping your dislikes to yourself, Chaudhary says, “When you have a bigger mission in life, you realise and step back and say, ‘Hold on, you have bigger things to do than holding grudges in life.’ Then you re-think and see how you can manage a problem. This doesn’t mean that I change my opinion about people, but just that I keep those thoughts on the back-burner. This has paid off. We may have difference of opinions, you don’t have to shout and fight and make it so difficult for yourself that you can never work with the person in the future, even if you need to.”
Chaudhary also teaches us another important lesson: don’t be drawn towards only one thing in life. Work hard, but take time out for your family and importantly for yourself too. “Life has to be successful and interesting. This is when life is fulfilling.” And Mr Chaudhary certainly leads a fulfilling life!