March 6, 2013
Nepal has produced its first billionaire in Binod Chaudhary, chairman of the Cinnovation/Chaudhary Group, a conglomerate of close to 80 companies with interests in banking, foods, cement, real estate, hotels, power, retail, electronics. But Chaudhary, 57, faced with restrictions at home, has built much of his estimated $1 billion fortune overseas through his Singapore-based arm Cinnovation.
The group has expanded into neighboring India with its famous Wai Wai brand of instant noodles and forged a partnership with India’s Taj Hotels Group with which it owns hotels in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand as well as in India. It also has a stake in Alila, an Asian luxury boutique chain and is additionally creating its own hotels under the Zinc brand.
Chaudhary hails from a business clan with Indian roots. His grandfather, a textile trader from Rajasthan, migrated to Nepal in the 19th century. He opened a small textile store that used to supply goods to the erstwhile rulers. Chaudhary’s father, converted that into Arun Emporium, Nepal’s first department store. The eldest of 3 siblings, Chaudhary joined the business at age 18, giving up his plan to study accounting in India when his father developed a heart ailment. The group had 400 people then versus 7,500 today.
A family division gave Chaudhary the freedom to pursue his own ambitions. Seeking expansion, he created Cinnovation through which he acquired overseas assets. Though scandals have dogged Chaudhary as he has flowered, he was also able to get a controlling interest in Nepal’s Nabil Bank . This was possible because two of Binod’s three sons, Rahul and Varun, are non -resident Nepalis based in Dubai and Singapore. His eldest son Nirvana looks after the domestic interests.
Nepal gave up its 240-year old monarchy five years ago, but its dreams of the new republic including a new constitution remain in limbo as political parties failed to agree on a host of issues. The country’s parliament, headed by a Maoist-led government, was dissolved last May and fresh elections are due this year. Nonetheless, Chaudhary who was a member of the erstwhile parliament, remains bullish on his home country and its economic potential beyond tourism.
A fitness fanatic, Chaudhary goes trekking in the Himalayas every year to clear his head. He and wife Sarika also regularly visit their health farm in the Philippines.