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The Incredible Journey Of Nykaa’s Falguni Nayar, India’s Biggest Self-Made Female Billionaire

Falguni Nayar left a 20-year illustrious career in investment banking to start from scratch. As she becomes the wealthiest self-made female billionaire in India today, we take a look at how the meteoric rise of Nykaa transformed India’s beauty industry.

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On 10 November, Falguni Nayar, founder of beauty startup Nykaa, became India’s wealthiest self-made female billionaire. Nykaa’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) was listed on Wednesday, and as shares of the firm surged to a whopping 89 per cent, Nayar, who owns half of the company, is now worth $6.5 billion.

As Nayar now joins the ranks of the wealthiest across the world, it is important to note that Nykaa’s parent company, FSN E-Commerce Ventures, is the country’s first woman-led unicorn to hit the stock exchange.

Nayar’s journey began around nine years ago, when she quit her job as the managing director of the Kotak Mahindra Group to start something of her own. She was just shy of turning 50 at the time.

falguni nayar nykaa founder

In an interview with Film Companion, Nayar recalled that when she was ending her 20-year career in investment banking to make a shift to the beauty industry, everyone was a naysayer. “I think they thought that because I already had such a successful career in a company that was growing well, there was no reason for disappointment with what I was doing…I asked my son, ‘Do you think this can look like a midlife crisis?’ He said ‘Definitely’.”

When Nykaa made its debut, the beauty segment in India was fragmented, to say the least. Brick and mortar stores had a limited collection to offer, and men’s beauty products did not include the wide range they do today. But Nykaa gave Indians a unique mix of affordable brands, alongside rare and luxury brands, as well as cruelty-free products and the like, all under one ambit.

And it’s not just products — Nykaa, which is the sanskrit word for ‘one who is under the spotlight’, has a large repository of informative blogs, articles and forums for readers to access and share knowledge, questions, answers, news and updates as well.

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Nayar said she jumped into starting her own venture with limited knowledge of technology, retail or beauty. “I tell a lot of young entrepreneurs that business is like a roller coaster ride. Do it only if you think you will enjoy it, because there will be ups and downs,” she said.

While keeping these ups and downs in mind, we take a look at some other lessons that budding entrepreneurs can learn from Nayar’s meteoric rise.

  • Where there’s a gap, there’s an opportunity: In a 2018 interview with Bloomberg Markets and Finance, Nayar recalled that at the time she quit her job at Kotak, the beauty industry in India was lagging far behind the rest of the world. “[But] with the coming of e-commerce, I thought the timing was right,” she said. “I could build the beauty market in India the way it should be built.”
  • Take advantage of a diverse demographic: Shopping for beauty products has evolved in the country since Nykaa stepped in. Using a Sephora-like model, where many brands are available under one umbrella, as opposed to brand-specific stores, Nayar decided to capitalise on the large demographic of a country like India in a way that offered adequate information about competing products, alongside providing a large number of choices to empower the customer.
  • ‘The online world is the future’: “I always believed in the online business, and was convinced that the new generation will rely more on reviews and peer recommendation rather than going to stores,” she told Peacock Magazine.
  • ‘You’re not the first one facing this problem’: As Nayar told Elle, “[During tough situations] I look very hard for comparisons, case studies and go deep into reading and researching that subject. I also discuss my thoughts with the colleagues and mentors whose views I trust. Based on those inputs, I make the right decision.”
  • It’s important to dream’: In a world where women face additional barriers for wanting to fulfill their dreams, Nayar said, “For young women, I would say that you are the centre of your own life. I see women trying to meet the requirements of their families and not chase their own dreams. You are the most important person in your life. It’s important to dream.”

Currently, Nykaa offers 4,000 beauty, personal care and fashion brands online, and has around 80 retail stores across the country.

At the listing ceremony, Nayar said, “To everyone across India who ever had a dream, especially women with a dream, I hope the Nykaa journey—an Indian-born, Indian-owned and Indian-managed dream come true—can inspire each of you to be the Nykaa of your lives.”

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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