An Indian woman investment banker-turned successful entrepreneur at the age of 50. Falguni Nayar does have grit and resolve in her indomitable Gujarati spirit. Hers is a story of resilience against all perceived odds.
Global consulting firm Ernst and Young has chosen her as “EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021.” She will now represent India at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Award on June 9, 2022. Her e-commerce app Nykaa, has also won the “EY Start-Up of the Year” in 2019.
It has been an incredible journey for this IIM-A alumnus who left her cushy job as a managing director at Kotak Mahindra Investment Bank. She has also served as a director of the bank’s institutional equities division, Kotak Securities.
Daughter of Rashmi and Vinodchandra Mehta, Falguni has roots in Gujarat’s Halvad, a small town famous for the braves who laid down their lives fighting against invaders, 45 km northeast of Morbi.
Falguni was born in February 1963. At the time, her father owned a small-bearing manufacturing firm in Mumbai. A devout believer in Pithad Mataji, Falguni has fond memories of childhood visits to the temple at her native place. Her vacations were spent largely at the estates owned by grandfather Ratilal and grandmother Kamlaben Mehta.
During IIM-A days, she met Sanjay Nayar (now CEO of KKR Securities) and the two settled into matrimony. She joined Kotak Mahindra group in 1993 and continued moving up the hierarchy to become managing director in 2005, ultimately leaving after a 19-year stint in 2012.
The inherent entrepreneurship bug, buried so far in the heap of familial priorities, revolted when the mother of two approached the age milestone of 50. Falguni started Nykaa- meaning an actress in Sanskrit – taking the digital route to sell beauty products.
Nykaa is among the most profitable e-commerce apps in India today with strong resonance among young appearance-conscious millennials and Gen-Z women spending between Rs 150 and upwards of Rs 3,000 on various beauty products such as lipsticks, creams, face masks, concealers and eye-shadows. The premise of Nykaa about “an independent woman who uses beauty products for herself, and not to please any man or woman” has worked wonderfully for Falguni.
Nykaa has quickly diversified from beauty into fashion and lifestyle with a well-established portfolio of over 2,600 international brands and 100-plus offline stores. Following Falguni’s vision of building a multi-brand omnichannel beauty-focused retail business by empowering customer choices and enabling brands to reach the breadth and depth of the country, Nykaa has emerged as India’s leading beauty retailer in India.
To her credit, she created the business from scratch — handling the backend of the website, to the front end, products, strategy and literally every aspect of the site. Nykaa boasts about 35,000 products from 400 reputed brands like Lakme, Kaya Skin Clinic, L’Oreal Paris, Bobbi Brown, MAC and Estee Lauder, to name a few. Forbes estimates the number of visitors to be around 45 million every month on the website and app.
Her professional success is gauged by the fact that as founder and CEO of Nykaa, she is the wealthiest female entrepreneur and one of the top 20 richest people in India. Forbes’ annual “World’s Billionaire List” has her at rank number 26. That also makes her one among the 166 billionaires in India.
Called “one of the most powerful women in the country” by Business Today in 2017, Falguni’s career is dotted with many accolades. She was awarded “Woman Ahead” at “Economic Times Startup Awards 2017” and the Businesswoman of the Year at the “Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2019.” She was listed as one of Asia’s Power Businesswomen 2019 by Forbes Asia and Vogue India named her Businessperson of the Year 2019.
Falguni is on the board of several companies including ACC, Dabur, Aviva Insurance, Endurance Group and Tata Technologies.