As chairman of Nepal’s only privately held multinational conglomerate, Binod Chaudhary has significant experience of investing in his home country.
Kathmandu-based Chaudhary Group – which has interests across nine business verticals including food and beverages, hotels, financial services and telecommunications – has become a mainstay of Nepal’s business landscape.
Dubbed the ‘noodle king’ for his successful instant noodle brand Wai Wai, Mr Chaudhary has scaled up his business globally from Nepal. “Three generations of Nepalese and part of the northeastern Indian community fell in love with this product. As they grew and started sharing the product all over the world, we followed them,” he says, adding that building on a popular brand is a “natural way” of expanding from a small developing country.
“You need to develop a niche, something which you carry with you,” he says, asserting that timing and capital also assisted the process. His noodles are now produced in facilities in India, Serbia and Kazakhstan, with another factory under construction in Egypt.
CG Corp Global, the international arm of the group, has lived by its motto of “taking Nepal to the world”, and has some 10,000 employees across 30 countries worldwide. Through partnerships, such as with Indian industrial giant Tata and South Korean electronics producer LG, and acquisitions, Mr Chaudhary has stepped into new markets.
His hospitality arm now encompasses some 130 hotels worldwide, including flagship wellness resorts such as Taj Exotica in the Maldives, and The Farm at San Benito, Philippines. “If you have the right partner, it hardly makes any difference putting up a hotel in Bhutan or New York City,” he says.
While having interests globally, Mr Chaudhary claims he is a “great fan” of both central Asia and eastern Europe, shown by his recent acquisition of a Moldovan telecoms group and the location of his noodle factories.
“The sky’s the limit in that part of the world,” he adds.
Climbing for investors
While his businesses look abroad, Mr Chaudhary is both an acting parliamentarian in Nepal and an advocate for its investment appeal. Though the Himalayan country has a recent history of disruption and armed conflict following years of political transition, foreign investment has grown steadily since the 2015 landmark passing of a new constitution.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” says Mr Chaudhary, who notes Nepal’s recent FDI in the power and hospitality sectors, and calls on other investors to follow suit. “If you do not enter Nepal now, you will miss the bus. No country’s opportunities will wait forever,” he adds. He says investors can gain first-mover advantage as well as export-oriented opportunities to India, especially in Nepal’s “underutilised” agricultural sector.
The hospitable nature of Nepal's people and its proximity to populous countries such as India and China also make it an attractive prospect for investors in the south Asia region, he says.
Despite its currently stable government, Nepal could improve transparency and reduce bureaucracy to further its foreign investment appeal, Mr Chaudhary admits, however: “Nepal does have the problem of policy consistency from time to time.”
But as someone who has experience in several global markets, he says problems are much more easily solved in a small country like Nepal than in larger economies. “Foreign investment in this country is always small – but if you are able to build a strong base and a platform, then nobody can compete with you. I see that as a huge advantage,” he concludes.