Nepalese, and I believe it’s a very attractive and sustainable business model. It has opened our eyes about the capacity of the Nepalese upper class to pay that kind ofmoney. Likewise, I can talk about our bank, which

is rapidly taking significant steps to convert many of its operations into a digital bank con- cept. Very soon, this bank will transform into one of the most advanced digital banks and get into no branch banking, while in the past hav- ing more branches used to determine the size of the bank.



: CG Hospitality counted 94 hotels at the beginning of 2019, with another 36 in the pipeline.Whatisyouroutlookontheindustry?

: I believe that the hospitality industry, including aviation, will go through a huge

transformation and shift from international dependence to domestic markets; from big hotels and crowds to boutique hotels: more nature and organic experiences. Will the indus- try come back and people start travelling the way you used to before? I doubt it. This gives you an idea of the level of challenge this whole world is facing.

:Howhave youevolvedyourmanagement style in the wake of the pandemic?

: First, we have encouraged our people to work from home. That has brought in a big-

ger sense of cost rationalisation and people are happy.Ouroffice footprint is definitely reduced. Second, there was a pressure on the

organisation to do multitasking. People started to learn different skills. Our head- count reduced by about 50% and the business has been run with the same level of efficiency. This is going to make the industry very effi- cient going forward. Thirdly, there is more delegation of author-

ity and responsibility at a local level, because we can’t be physically present anywhere we have to empower people. Earlier, the name of the game for multinationals like us was to cre- ate Centres of Excellence, and run the organisa- tion from there. Today, it is to build leadership at the local level and impart knowledge and know-howto the extent possible. We can’t have our regional management go and travel to a subsidiary like before any longer. There was undue reliance on the hierarchy and the struc- ture before. I think the management chain has becomemuch flatter.

course, that there is something beyond the materialistic advancement that the world has made over the years. Something that is called Mother Nature. The challenges were the same across the globe but, as a matter of fact, theWestern coun-


February/March 2021

: What are the lessons for you, both as the head of the organisation and as an indi-

vidual, fromthis period?

: It has taught a very important lesson to the whole world, including myself, of

tries suffered more than many of the develop- ing countries. We didn’t have the luxury of social distancing. Think of the communities in the slums of India and Bangladesh, where 10 people live in one room.Whatkind of social dis- tancing can they enforce? That’s a way of life, they don’t have the luxury of an e-commerce delivery system. If the logistics systemdoesn’t function, if the payment platformdoesn’t func- tion, howdo they deal with it? These countries in my mind are developing herd immunity faster than theWest. As a consequence of differ- ent upbringings and lifestyles, somebody’s strength becomes another one’s weakness. Also, we started seeing birds coming back to

barren lands, and the air started becoming fresherandcleaner.Overall, itwasawake-up call. It helpedmesetmypriorities right once again.


: Do you see any new verticals, any new geography that youmay be willing to con-

sider that you were not considering before the pandemic?

: We were very keen on our telecom busi- ness with our digital telephone company

in Nepal, and for one reason or other, that could not happen. We end up doing it in Moldova. And now we are in serious conversa- tion to acquire two more telcos in Central Asia and the Balkans, in countries like Croatia, Serbia or Georgia. A lot of big companies are interested in selling and we are very interested in buying. All big companies want to become local. Companies like Turkcell sold many of their international telecom operations; Telia and Vodafone are in the same process too, as far as I’m told. At the same time, we will be also expanding

our financial services sector. We have a lot of interest in smaller boutique banks, digital banks, for instance. As far as Nepal is con- cerned, we are focusing more on infrastructure projects, cement, mining-based industries and real estate.


: CG Corp Global also has manufacturing operations across the world. Do you agree value chains will be regionalised?

: Global investors want this so the whole process can be more efficient and cost

effective. Eliminating the middlemen brings the cost down, but it requires a huge amount of infrastructure. Generalising could be wish- ful thinking. What countries like China or America can

do in terms of creating local supply chains by supporting logistic infrastructure, countries like Nepal will find it very difficult to do — or for that matter, even India, which has a long way to get there. It can require a huge amount of investment. It’s happening, but if you ask me whether there will be successful transfor- mation within a short period of time, the answer is no.■

Binod Chaudhary is the chairman of CG Corp Global. 47


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