The founder of the Chaudhary Group, which is the only Nepali company that has made it to the Forbes' list of billion dollar companies, Lunkaran Das is viewed as the pioneer of international trade and industralisation in Nepal.
According to the president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Pashupati Murarka, he is one of the last entrepreneurs, from the Marwadi community, who envisioned that the private sector could be a part of Nepal's economic development. "He was a religious man and an honest entrepreneur," he added.
One of the foremost figures to promote trade and commerce in the country, Lunkaran Das expanded his family business of trading to jute and spinning mills, stainless steel production and construction.
Lunkaran Das started his long and successful journey as an industrialist by literally trailing his father Bhuramull Chaudhary to the royal palace, residences of royal families and Rana rulers where the duo used to sell textiles and saris imported from India, according to a book by his son Binod Chaudhary. He was only eight or 10 at that time, the book reads, adding that "In those days, outsiders, especially males, were not allowed to enter the rooms of female members in the royal palace. But Lunkaran Das used to get access because of his age. And once he went inside with saris and textiles, the queens and female members of the royal family never disappointed him."
According to the book, Bhuramull finally stopped wandering door to door to serve his clients when the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher allowed him to open a store in New Road. The permission was granted acknowledging the benevolent attitude of the Marwadi community towards the victims of the devastating earthquake of 1933.
Soon, New Road saw a new store Bhuramull Lunkaran Das Chaudhary. The opening of this textile store laid the foundation stone for creation of a business empire called Chaudhary Group, now one of the country’s leading business houses with around 40 companies under its wing.
Born at Makhan Tole in Kathmandu, Lunkaran Das took over the business at the age of 23, after the demise of his father Bhuramull Chaudhary. At the time when Lunkaran Das lost his father, he had only a family store. But then he started jute business and also exported to India and Europe via Biratnagar. Later, he opened the first branch of Bhuramull Lunkaran Das Chaudhary in Biratnagar. Soon, he also started importing textile from Japan and Korea.
While the trade of imported textile was flourishing, Lunkaran Das decided to diversify his business and enter into construction sector, an area in which he had no prior experience.
He embarked on this journey by securing a sub-contract for construction of Kathmandu-Trishuli road section. According to the book, the road to Trishuli led Chaudhary Group to today's status. "Later, he also secured the contract to build Soaltee Hotel," the book further adds.
At a time when the government was pushing for industrialisation, Lunkaran Das was instrumental in establishing Biratnagar Jute Mill, Modern Hosiery, Nepal Spinning, Ratna Stainless Steel, Flooring and Furnishing and United Builders, among others, which inspired the growth of private sector in Nepal. He is also credited for opening a departmental store 'Arun Emporium' in 1968 – some 50 years ago – in Nepal. Lunkaran Das also later founded the first flooring and furnishing store that used to cater to the needs of interior decoration of embassies and royals.
Lunkaran Das has many firsts to his credit establishing not just new business entities but also founding institutions for strengthening the private sector. He was founding member of FNCCI, Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC) and Marwadi Sewa Samiti, among others.
According to NCC president Rajesh Kazi Shrestha, Lunkaran Das was a benign industrialist, who envisioned the private sector role in Nepal's economic development.
"He also believed that a strong private sector could help in rapid economic development of a country and create a prosperous nation,” added Murarka.