Invading ‘doing your thing’ masterclass, is it? Let’s find out Falguni Nayar’s entrepreneurship adventure.
About Nayar - Nayar is now the wealthiest female Indian billionaire with her estimated wealth to the tune of $7.5 billion, after recent listings, and in the top 20 richest people of India. A Gujrati (no, I’ll not generalize!), born and bought up in Mumbai, an IIM Alumna, chose to leave her fruit-full job as a Managing Director to become an entrepreneur at the age of 48. In April 2012 she founded Nykaa with $2 million of her own money and she became, India’s first woman-led unicorn to hit the stock exchange. (Source: Wikipedia)
While Nykaa trades lower for the fourth straight day (Info dated December 7, Source: Business Standard); slides 17% from a lifetime high, it is still a moment of pride to know that we’ve India’s self-made female millionaire. Diversification at that level has started to play, maybe not at its best yet.
Now it is very true that I can never match the dime of investments she made in her entrepreneurship venture, I just looked up to find the ‘spirit-side’ of her.
When I started my journey as an unsure entrepreneur, I thought entrepreneurship should come with a disclaimer: Warning! Prepare to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows in the same hour. And still, I feel freelance work is like putting a message in a bottle and hoping someday someone will find it in an isolated distant desert and send it back to you or maybe not!
Nayar's philosophy has been - "Think big, but start small".
Nykaa means an actress, with the message to women being the primary actress of their own life. For all this time women have been seen as the support system to their families and to do that giving up their own dreams. Nykaa was born with her humble thought of empowering women and the vision that every woman is beautiful. Nykaa is for the independent woman of today, who wants to look beautiful for themselves. She recalls the experience she had during her international trips to Sephora and kinds, not being a great make-up enthusiast herself, she still ended up buying products. She found the experience of showcasing products unique including the how’s. She wanted to replicate the same experience in India.
Insights on her ‘spirit-side’ that I could learn from what all is written on the net are-
She is a path creator. Nykaa does not believe in copying others. Nykaa created their path to outreach their customers. They chose not to follow an inventory-based model, brand-funded sales, and beauty box concept. She knew that every customer has their unique taste and demand. Nykaa used the power of social media and influencer marketing to outreach and multiply their consumers. Nayar wanted happy customers, so, they went down the path. Rather selling a correct lipstick shade at full price than selling an incorrect shade for half price
A risk-taker. She has her bet on everyone including her. She says “Sometimes you have to give people a chance”. Nykaa hired people from varied backgrounds and not all her people initially were from the personal care products or the beauty product industry.
Questioning assumptions. The ability to look at things that the rest of us take for granted. Nykaa received their first big order after 6 months, this demanded revision in the business strategy. Post collaboration with Lakmé and Fair&Lovely Nykaa’s sales shoot up.
Stepping in early. Nayar saw entrepreneurship close in her role as Managing Director in Kotak, she had seen the passion closely. She too got the itch of creating something of her own and believing in it whether the world believes in it or not. Spotting a trend early and getting in early gives you the advantage of time. E-commerce platform to retail beauty, back then nobody believed in.
When I ask myself what could be her leadership style, what I read is she is surely a hands-on leader. In a podcast play to potential by Deepak Jayaraman, she mentions that as an entrepreneur, she dwells in every aspect of the business. She has learned every aspect of management from technology to operations to branding and marketing at Nykaa.
When she was asked about her entrepreneurship journey at this age. She said turning entrepreneur at this age is part of her plan as her kids who are twins went to college and she had the next 10-12 solid years of hers to invest in her business. She treated entrepreneurship as a journey, that is with no fear, a lot of optimism and she enjoyed every moment of it.
During my research, I also found a few interesting insights about the reasons for lack of diversity at the top level that I’ve experienced myself during my twenty-five years of corporate career and also reading a lot about women leadership, about why we do not see the diversification at the top level. The primary reason is women are seen as caregivers and mothers. 73% of Indian women leave their jobs on giving birth, a report titled “Predicament of Returning Mothers”, released by Ashoka University, revealed. The second, mostly women unable to lead forefront leaving behind their guilt and imposter syndrome.
Nayar had kids to take care too, but she said she was always committed to her job and additional responsibility came with it. Her coping mechanism was having a lot of energy. She and her husband never believed in me or chill-time. Luckily she did not have other responsibilities like her parents are healthy. And she never hesitated to take help.
About the leakage in the women leadership pipeline post-maternity transition, she said women make a mistake by comparing what they are getting paid as in financial vis-a-vis their time away from kids. She kept the financials out as she feels women must think that by taking all the additional responsibility and committing to their job they are eventually investing in themselves, in their future. Also, she always believed in herself, loved the work she does, and just kept doing it. She believes in the philosophy of Bhagwat Geeta - “Karam karo, fal ki chinta mat karo”.
My key takeaways as a budding entrepreneur are being fearless in what I do and believing in myself.
Leaving for now with a poem named Ithaka by C. P. Cavafy and translated by Edmund Keeley (Source: poetryfoundation.org)
The poem was shared with Nayar by her daughter Adwaita that eventually motivated her to start Nykaa.
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
References - Google, Wikipedia, Forbes, Business Standard, Deepak Jayaraman’s podcast play to potential
[My sincere apologies to Falguni Nayar for writing about her without her consent (now that she is a celebutante, it shouldn’t matter), though I know there are few and far between chances that she comes across this, but I also cannot undermine the power of social media. I’ve picked up content mostly from the internet as I do not know her personally, though I would love to! And I’m here seeing her in best of the light]