Going Local with Hospitality

Going Local with Hospitality

For years, CG Group of industries has been spreading its reach to diverse sectors of Nepal’s economy. The corporate giant, led by the business tycoon Binod Chaudhary is now heading towards further growth with the next generation of CG’s leaders moving swiftly ahead. With hotels and resorts under the CG branding spreading across boundaries, Rahul Chaudhary, Managing Director of CG Hotels and Resorts shares his memoirs of growing up in a business family and CG’s entrance into Nepal and the world’s hospitality sector.

I was 6 years old when I was sent to Welhams Boys School, a boarding school in Dehradun, India. By the fifth grade, I transferred to Doon School, also in Dehradun.  This was the starting point of my life away from my parents and family and growing up outside the country. It was not easy living away from home at such a young age. But it must have been equally difficult for my parents to send me away. In fact, two of my brothers, Nirvan and Varun like me, started boarding school from first grade.

After completing my schooling, I studied at Miami University and from there I went to Cornell University to study hospitality. So far, I have lived most of my life outside Nepal in USA, Dubai, Singapore and Delhi. In fact, I did not return to Nepal for good until 2015. As a child, I used to think that I was sent away because my parents did not want me here. But as I grew older, I came to realize that my parents wanted me to gain a global exposure from a very young age.

The seed of business was planted in me from a very early stage in my life. During summer and winter vacations at school, while other children would be enjoying their vacations, my brothers and I spent a few hours every day in the office with my father. He used to keep us in the boardroom during meetings, and that was our exposure to business. 

Getting Into the Family Business

My first real experience doing business was at the age of 20. I was dealing with a property in New York and I will remember that deal for the rest of my life because that was the worst deal of my life. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and the deal took a year and a half to get closed. To this day, my father recalls that deal as the most expensive learning curve of his life and mine. I do not regret this experience because it helped me learn everything that I needed to know from my mistakes.

It has been 18 years since CG Group stepped into the hospitality sector. It began in 2000, when we opened a joint venture with Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. After that, we began investing in hotels in Maldives and Sri Lanka. Those years were a dark time for those countries but despite that, my father saw the opportunity to invest in the hospitality sector. It was a risk to take but as he told me, “Where there is war, there is an opportunity.” Coincidentally, our business has always been established in countries that have gone through turmoil. Even in Nepal, until recently, there were many political issues that had hampered the economy of the country such as the Maoist insurgency, energy crises and many shifts in the political leaders.

But we have been able to rise above it all. Today, CG Group has about 90 hotels in 70 different cities spanning across.

Vis-à-vis with Rahul Chaudhary

What is your favorite destination in Nepal?

It might sound funny but I haven’t been to most places of Nepal except for the top tourist destinations. So I can’t decide on my favorite destination yet. Although I hope that CG Foundation’s project in Dolpo will give me a chance to trek to the region. I’m looking forward to that!

Do you have a favorite dish you cannot live without?

I’m a very homely guy so I love Dal-Bhat! Even when I’m travelling abroad I try to find Nepali restaurants to eat in. If I cannot find Nepali restaurants then I choose to eat at Indian restaurants that have the most similar cuisine to Nepali food.
What is the one moment in your life that you will always remember?

It has to be the first business deal that I made in New York which I’ve mentioned earlier. That experience will definitely stay with me for the rest of my life.

20 countries around the world. Our hospitality sector continues to grow and we hope to become the largest hospitality players in the market. My aim is to open at least 200 hotels all over the world by 2020. As for Nepal, I dream of opening a hotel in every major tourist destination in the country. We already have hotels in Kathmandu. Our most recent addition to this sector is the Meghauli Serai run by Taj Hotels in Chitwan. We are soon setting up hotels in Lumbini and Pokhara.
I really appreciate Buddha Air’s new route from Bharatpur to Pokhara. It will prove to be very beneficial to the guests of Meghauli Serai and tourists travelling from Pokhara to Chitwan and vice versa. This is a very instrumental step for tourism taken by Mr. Birendra Bahadur Basnet.

But it is not just about the big hotels. At CG, we like to work with the community and to develop the skills of the local people. We are planning to open seven lodges in Dolpo through CG foundation, an initiative for social entrepreneurship. While these lodges are built, training will be provided to the local people, to develop skilled individuals to run these lodges. 

The best thing is that these hotels and lodges will have the ownership of the local community, thus helping to us to keep in touch with the project in Dolpo.

Despite having lived most of my life outside of Nepal, I am happy to be back. No matter where I have been to, I believe I am a hardcore Nepali by heart. With my global exposure, I had the choice to base my workplace in any country but I chose Nepal. I want to set an example to others about what Nepal has to offer. I get called to speak in international forums and I always find myself talking about the myriad of opportunities you can find in Nepal.

I used to agree with the thousands of youth that leave the country every year, thinking that they are leaving because the country has nothing to offer them. But now I realize that we are the ones who have to show them the treasures that lie within the country. Other businesses around the world have also begun to realize that. Nepal is where the crown jewel is and all the sectors must work together to polish and value it.