By Ram Khatry
13 June 2015
Shesh Ghale, an Australian businessman of Nepalese origin, ascended 51 positions to occupy the 99th position in the BRW Rich 200 List 2015.
He and his wife, Jamuna Gurung, gained an additional $193 million since their ranking last year when they occupied 150 and 151 positions respectively. This year, the couple are worth $528 million against $335 million last year – a quantum leap for people who arrived in Australia as international students relatively recently, in the early 1990s.
They own Melbourne Institute of Technology (mit.edu.au) where Mr Ghale is the CEO while Mrs Gurung heads the business and marketing of the private education company. The couple also own commercial properties in Melbourne CBD including of course the historic Argus Building, bought in 2010 for $10 million but renovated for $50 million. According to BRW, the couple plan to build a 200-room boutique hotel, 500 apartments and retail space overlooking the Flagstaff Gardens.
Should the steady rise of Mr Ghale and his better-half continue at the current rate, it will not be many years before Nepalese people will have their second billionaire, the first ever being noodles-king Binod Chaudhary.
However, this empire means nothing for the humble mother of the education and real estate tycoon. According to Annapurna Post, the 86-year-old still lives right where Shesh Ghale was born, grew up and attended the local school up to the fifth standard. Devikumari Ghale could not leave because of her apparent love for Nayu, an idyllic village some four hours from the headquarters of Lamjung district.
She would not leave the village for all the riches in the world – a quality seen typically in many elderly people in rural Nepal who are so loyal to their place of birth that come what may they never leave. This is why senior citizens in remote villages often live lonely lives as their children leave their native village to pursue their chosen career paths. The story of Mr Ghale’s mother is no exception. Media reports indicate she lives on her own despite the fact that she has two sons and three daughters whom she can live with. She is happy nonethelss – simply by virtue of being in Nayu!
When he was a student, expectation was for Mr Ghale to join the army, such as the British Gurkha. The area is a fertile ground for the legendary Gurkhas who epitomise gallantry and commitment. That’s the highest career residents of Nayu aimed for when the millionaire was a student at the local school. But Mr Ghale was a brilliant student right from the early days which saw him shine through eventually earning him a scholarship to go to Russia to study civil engineering.
“It was pretty tough then to raise our son. I used to work and his father used to go visit him with the expenses,” the mother of the MIT boss said.
It was the same school to which he donated Rs 5 million last October, literally a fortune by Nepalese standards. But that’s not the only money he has spent for philanthropy in Nepal. He announced Rs 1 billion worth of charity last year and pledged equal amount in the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25. As the president of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), he hit the ground zero of the catastrophe to lead teams of eager diasporic relief workers.
His philanthropy and his rising fortune means Mr Ghale’s regular appearance on the elderly mum’s television set. The entrepreneur’s mother told Annapurna Post that she felt proud and elated to see her son helping the poor and needy.
It appears the doting mum is closely watching how her son is throwing his money here and there as he goes about helping his distressed fellow-Nepalese. She would rather want him spend in the village he was born in, “It is now time to build (contribute to) the village.”
Despite all the good her son has done, Devikumari Ghale considers herself not so lucky in that she is having to live on her own, she told Post. Her husband passed away four years ago.
“I told him to leave the wealth behind and return to the village but he did not listen,” the adorable mum was quoted as saying.
She wants her son to build a blacktop road up to Ghale Gaun (not far from Nayu, Ghale Gaun is a tourist village which artistically presents the lifestyle and culture of the mountain people) and build statues of Ghale kings.
This article has been edited 14June15 9:41 am