The Nepali entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist put in one, Binod Choudhary is the first businessman from the Himalayan nation to enter the Forbes billionaire list with a net worth of $1.5 billion. An intriguing personality, there is so much to learn about Binod Kumar Chaudhary and how he managed to climb up the ladder of success.
Walking through Nepal’s capital by night, we could easily have encountered the fashionable, 20-year-old, long-haired man who had just opened Copper Floor, a nightclub frequented by tourists and locals alike. That young man was Binod Chaudhary and he would go on to form Nepal’s largest multinational company, becoming the first and only Nepalese on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List.
Copper Floor was his first venture outside the family business. Although he came from a conservative background, his passion for pop music and his business acumen made the happening place a success ahead of its time. The place was popular with the hippie crowd, but also by many members of the royal family. Among them, Prince Dhirendra, the son of the then king of Nepal, became a close friend and was very helpful in a country where personal relations play such an important role.
The Birth of Wai Wai
While Binod was busy learning the ropes of the business from the ground up, a chance observation proved to be the hunch of a lifetime. “At the airport I would observe that people travelling back from Thailand would return loaded with noodle cartons. I figured that these were high in demand with their relatives back home. I concluded that there was business to be done here,” he says. The flour mill which supplied the family’s biscuit factory was used to supply a small plant was then set up to manufacture noodles. Wai Wai Noodles, as Binod christened it, proved to be wildly popular in Nepal and was gradually expanded to India. Now his moniker is Noodle King and he controls two percent of the world’s noodle market.
Wai Wai granted Binod success and stability and established his calibre as a businessman to the world. But he was not satisfied. He says, “Everyone dreams of conquering new frontiers. I always felt we were competing internationally in my own home turf when companies from India and China came to Nepal to sell their products. And I thought, why can’t we do that?” Binod had been travelling to Japan for business ever since he started working. Observing the Japanese at their work influenced his own attitude towards entrepreneurship greatly.
Giving back to the community is a key concern of Chaudhary, who established the family’s philanthropic Chaudhary Foundation in 1995. After a terrible earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, killing almost 9,000 people and injuring 22,000, not only did the Chaudhary Group distribute thousands of Wai Wai noodle packages to the desperate population, but the Chaudhary Foundation also spent US$2.8 million responding to the disaster and joined hands with Alibaba’s Jack Ma and other major donors to build 10,000 homes and 100 schools.
The foundation is active in education, health and social projects. One project, for example, involves creating a fine arts and craft village to re-energise old, traditional crafts, engaging women in them, and thereby creating jobs and preserving the traditional artisanal skills of the country.