Binod Chaudhary: The Billionaire Nepalese Politician Who Owns Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club Hotels

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Binod Chaudhary: The Billionaire Nepalese Politician Who Owns Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club Hotels
Collage image of Binod Chaudhary and Faimont The Norfolk. |Courtesy| Forbes|

Binod Kumar Chaudhary is a Nepalese billionaire businessman, politician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He the chairman and president of Chaudhary Group. The company boasts a multi-billion portfolio cutting across various sectors.

Chaudhary through his company Chaudhary Group recently acquired Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club hotels for a reported Ksh2.8 billion from Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

The Nepalese Billionaire added the two hotels to his vast investment portfolio and prioritised their renovation following his entry into the Kenyan hospitality industry.

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A deal to sell the hotels was in place during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hotel recently announced that it was firing employees during to financial constraints brought about by Covid.

According to Business Daily, Prince Al-Waleed, through his investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding, sold his stake to the Chaudhary Group (CG).

“Prince Alwaleed is no longer in the game after surrendering the ownership of remaining hotel business in Kenya and his investment group is focusing somewhere else,” a transaction advisor who participated in the Fairmont deal told the publication.

“The transaction has been closed and now the Nepalese owners are embarking on a full 100 percent renovation that will go for a whole one year.”

Chaudhary Group stated that it will add an additional 170 guest rooms and suites, 51 luxury tents and about 10 food and beverage outlets.

Binod Chaudhary: The Billionaire Nepalese Politician Who Owns Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club Hotels
File image of Fairmont The Norfolk. |Photo| Courtesy|

According to Forbes Magazine, Binod Chaudhary controls CG Corp Global and is Nepal’s sole billionaire with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Here is his story as told by WoK.

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Background & Education

Chaudhary was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, to a Marwari family. His grandfather, Bhuramal Das Chaudhary, i migrated to Nepal from India at the age of 20. Early in his life, the businessman chose to pursue further education rather than join the family business.

He credits his grandfather and father as inspirations.

Career

After moving to Nepal at the age of 20, his grandfather started a textile company. In 1934, he became the first Nepalese to start a clothing company. Chaudhary’s father,  Lunkaran Das Chaudhary, later took over the business and continued to develop it, setting up international trading houses and a construction company.

Lunkaran established Araun Emporium in 1968 which went on to become his most successful business.

Chaudhary was supposed to move to India to study chartered accountancy when he was 18. However, before he could leave, his father was diagnosed with heart disease and the doctor advised that he could not run his businesses anymore. Since, Chaudhary was the eldest son, he stepped up to run the businesses.

“My life was overnight changed completely. I did not have a choice at all. But it has made me a tougher man,” he told the Telegraph during a past interview.

“I would have liked to study further but I was required to do my duty.”

Chaudhary hit the ground running and immediately reached out to Suzuki in an attempt to import their vehicles to Nepal.

 “Suzuki did not trust me as I was a young clothes trader. I convinced them. They gave me a trial dealership along with four others to sell Suzuki in Nepal. Whoever sold most cars in six months would get the dealership.”

The businessman launched a discothèque company called Copper Floor in 1973. The company was a huge success, Due to the many wealthy and powerful people who visited the club it became a huge success. He signed a deal with Japanese electronic firm National Panasonic in 1979, his first multinational deal.

Chaudhary Group

Chaudhary Group is a corporate conglomerate with core competences in food and beverages, financial services, infrastructure, real estate and hospitality. By 2025, the group aspires to achieve a coveted position as a Global Growth Company among the leading companies in Asia with a portfolio worth over $5 billion.

The idea to sell Wai Wai noodles was conceived after seeing many people from Thailand with noodles and realised that people in Nepal were craving for them. He visited Thai Preserved Food Factory Co. Ltd., the company that produced Wai Wai noodles for Thailand. He wanted to collaborate with the company, however, the owner doubted if they would sell well in Nepal due to the country’s “poverty and poor infrastructure”.

“Yes, back then I was simply looking to create a product from flour and then I decided on this product. Flying to Bangkok and back, I saw many cases of noodles on the baggage belt and I would ask people: ‘Why are there so many of these cases coming from Thailand?’ They would tell me that people loved them. I think people have grown with the product. To begin with, Wai Wai wasn’t readily available in India.

“Today we have a 20 per cent market share in India. Now we’re looking at creating a large national campaign here. We do localised marketing, but this is going to be a big one,” he told Forbes India.

In 2013, Chaudhary was listed as Nepal’s first billionaire by Forbes. As of March 2019 he is listed at number 1,349 on Forbes Billionaires of 2019 list.

“I am humbled. As a businessman, you don’t get a Nobel. This is my Nobel Prize, … I see this as a recognition for the 40 years of my hard work,” he said after the announcement.

In 2015 he was featured in cover of Forbes Asia. By 2018 his fortune had risen by $200 million.  After appearing in the list he stated that,

“Forbes Billionaire List is the result of the blood and sweat of four generations. I am proud to say that there are 7000 people associated with the Chaudhary Group (CG) in 19 countries.”

Chaudhary’s biggest assets are a controlling stake in Nepal’s Nabil Bank and CG Foods, maker of the popular Wai Wai noodles. Wai Wai has overseas factories in India, Serbia, Bangladesh, and Egypt.

CG’s hotel assets consist of 135 owned and managed properties, including a string of luxury hotels with India’s Taj hotel chain.

His sons Nirvana in Nepal and Rahul and Varun, who live overseas, help him run the group. Nirvana and Rahul are managing directors of the group.

Political Career

Chaudhary was associated with a number of politicians in the 90s. He was involved in the drafting of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML)’s economic policy in 1994.

He was nominated to parliament by the party in 2008.

“I would like to see Nepal’s politics being driven by economic growth. I want to see someone who does not compromise the country’s interests for his personal or party-oriented agendas.”

Chaudhary joined the Nepali Congress party, led by Sher Bahadur Deuba in 2017.

Publications

The billionaire businessman released his autobiography titled “Binod Chaudhary: Atmakatha“. The book was translated into English by journalist Sanjeev Ghimire, titled “Binod Chaudhary –  My Life: From the Streets of Kathmandu to a Billion Dollar Empire”, or “Making It Big: The Inspiring Story of Nepal’s First Billionaire in His Own Words” which was released on 2015.

The book was launched in India under the title Ek Unchi Udaan.

“When I made up my mind to write this book, I also decided that I would not manipulate it,” Chaudhary told Forbes India.

Philanthropy

Chaudhary established Chaudhary Foundation in 1995. The foundation signed the United Nations Development Programme for the advancement and promotion of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nepal.

Awards & Recognitions

In 2015 he was honoured by Sri Sri University for his outstanding contribution in philanthropy; he was given an honorary doctorate degree.

Chaudhary was awarded Asian Man of the Year Award in 2016. Later that year, he was also awarded the 2016 Frost & Sullivan Growth, Innovation and Leadership (GIL) Award.

In 2019 he was awarded with Lifetime Achievement Award by Hotelivate.

Family

The billionaire is married and has three children.

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