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The liberal aura of Nykaa – Story of a banker turned Entrepreneur


Entrepreneurship is an adventure that needs courage. Age and experience are not liabilities: Falguni Nayar, executive chairperson, managing director, and CEO, Nykaa. 

Strange but true that if one is bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, at any juncture of their life, the itch will remain till the first step is taken in that direction. We have many business honchos stand testimony to it, right from Suhas Gopinath who became the youngest CEO of Global Inc. at seventeen years and was recognized as the youngest web developer in the world at the age of fourteen, with his website-www.coolhindustan.com, to Falguni Nayar who gave up a lucrative and plush position as an Investment banker at Kotak Mahindra Capital Company to give life to her entrepreneurial desire at 50. 

Falguni hails from a business family and is lucky to have had exposure to the nuances of business at a young age. Growing up seeing her father run his bearing business with his mother’s support, she had an idea of how the business world operated, with its heydays and dull hours. But after graduating from IIM Ahmedabad she took the professional route to a corporate career, first as a consultant with A F Ferguson &Co and later, for the next fifteen years, at various positions in Kotak Mahindra, traversing across continents to set up offices, during the company’s emerging days. 

After a fulfilling and rewarding corporate stint, the yearning to do something more challenging and adventurous sprung in her head and she started exploring various domains to see lacunae. With in-depth research, she was quick to identify a gap in the beauty industry that had possibilities to be tapped. She also realized she had keen interest in cosmetics and an eagerness to unearth the virtual platform that had immense scope to explore. Unlike France and Japan, in addition to the United Kingdom and the United States, India seemed rather primitive in its beauty product education and accessibility, especially the tier II and Tier III cities. 

She acknowledges deriving her strength and motivation from entrepreneurial titans like Ronnie Screwvala of UTV and Ajay Bijli of PVR Cinemas, whose poise and the spirit of adventure inspired her a lot. She also attributes her odyssey into this field to the Chanel Brand founder and the Sephora model abroad.  

According to the Hindustan Times article published on September 21st, 2022, Falguni is the fifth among the top ten rich people in India and the only woman. The IIFL Wealth India Rich list states,’ with the successful listing of the beauty and wellness e-commerce platform-Nykaa, Falguni Nayar (59) overtakes ‘Biotech queen’ Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (68) to become the richest self-made Indian woman’. These accolades stand testimony to the long path traversed by this gritty woman, with the support of her family.  Her two children are an integral part of the business, holding important positions-the daughter Adwaita Nayar, who is the Co-Founder of Nykaa and the current CEO of Nykaa Fashion, and son AnchitNayar, the Chairman, and CEO, Beauty E-commerce. 

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Critics say that when Falguni entered this e-commerce space with the beauty product idea, it was as nascent as what cryptocurrency is in today’s times, filled with a load of uncertainties and suspicions. Hence she did encounter one too many hurdles on the way up the ladder of success. The most perplexing was the incidence of quitting CEOs one after another in short spans of time, leaving her clueless and her handicap of being technologically challenged in the initial days.  

She ruminates about the early days of working long hours in the warehouse, packing orders with her daughter, being bombarded with queries and complaints from customers, and having no investors on board. But being a strong woman, who would not be deterred by these shortcomings, she dived deep into this space, learned everything from scratch, and with her children’s unconditional backing and her better half standing rock solid as moral support, she really had no reason to give up or shut shop. 

Keeping her watchword as ‘Retail is all about the detail’ moved on to become an Omni channel retailer where she adopted the inventory model rather than the marketplace model. Now, this just means, that, all the products are directly purchased, and verified in warehouses before being delivered to the customer. This in due course has given them an edge over the E-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart, who do a mix of third-party sales and in-house goods. 

She says, “We have taken the call to be an Omni channel retailer because beauty is a category where the physical trial is critical. We realized that if we want to sell premium products or even affordable products in categories like blush and foundations, color matching is very important. So we realized that in order to give our customers a really holistic beauty experience, we had to build a physical retail distribution,” – Falguni Nayar, Founder, and CEO of Nykaa. 

Her company has acquired five establishments to date, the most recent being Dot and Key wellness, the Kolkata-based skincare brand. It has four social media accounts and an exclusive YouTube channel, where they do not promote or sell its products, but offers beauty tips and lifestyle recommendations. The other feature is, deploying their customers to promote the brand rather than have personalities endorsing from a place of entitlement. The company boasts of popular personalities like super model of Victoria’s Secret fame, Gigi Hadid, fashion designer Masaba Gupta, and Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif of being a part of Nykaa and retailing their brands here. 

The subscription for the platform’s IPO was launched during October 28 to November 1 and secured a price band of Rs 1,085-1,125 apiece for the maiden offer. Nykaa IPO was subscribed 81.78 times over the 2.64 crore shares that were being offered. Some of the leading investors of the platform includeSteadview Capital, TPG Growth, and Lighthouse Funds.  With feet firmly set in the beauty space, she foraged into the fashion arena and created an exclusive website detailing women’s wear, men’s collection, both beauty, and fashion. From here she is headed toward health and wellness in her future plans. 

Three guiding principles: The startup works on the guiding principle of Curation, Content, and Convenience, prioritizing customer experience as the foremost value. Beyond the business acumen and the banking expertise of Falguni, what she credits as the primal factor of influence is the family as the core and as everything emanating from that. The Bhagavad Gita she prides on is the family philosophy, which helps them rise, fall, and bounce back with their morale and ethics intact. Her inspiration is the poem, ‘Ithaka’ (by C P Cavafy, and translated by Edmund Keeley). 

As you set out for Ithaka 

hope your road is a long one, 

full of adventure, full of discovery…… 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. 

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, 

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

Every time she feels a lull, she revisits this poem to revive her spirits and stay sprightly and driven. 

The tale of Falguni is just one of the many entrepreneurial endeavors, that is important for young adults and aspiring business minds to know about and get familiar with. Graduate schools today are striving to bridge the gap between academia and industry by adopting niche and innovative strategies. They want to make the graduates, industry ready, devoid of inhibitions/fear of the unknown terrain of business, and take bold initiatives. 

This is exactly what New Horizon College, sets out to do through its co-curricular activities like organizing guest lectures, workshops and encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives. The commerce club conducts regular events like Business quizzes, webinars, and sessions on entrepreneurial aspirations, to introduce students to the tactile world of business and accounting. They are taken on field trips, and national and International tours in addition to grooming and etiquette sessions, team building activities, and plenty of opportunities to organize and learn from department fests and the major college fest Sargam, which invites colleges pan India to participate and win grand cash prizes.  

Every little dream eventually blossoms into a venture, as long as it is consistently fueled by fervor, diligence, and innovation.