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Column: Further To Go

The idea of starting my own company took root in my mind as I helped launch a number of IPOs during my banking days. It interested me to see value created in a company and to help build it from the ground up.

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami

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Of the many reasons that led to my launching an e-commerce beauty platform, I feel that the most important is that I was raised in a family where women were given an equal platform. I never assumed that I had to expect less or demand less of myself than anyone else.

Then there is my investment banking career. Working in the financial sector for many years developed my business sensibility, gave me a keen understanding of what is necessary to run a successful company — and the combination of these two, my never feeling unequal and my banking career gave me the strong impetus to start my own company. I was one of eight women in a 150-strong MBA class, and I then went on to become an investment banker — including a stint as Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Capital Company — for 20 years. This taught me very early on that to succeed in a male-dominated world, I had to make sure I never shied away from responsibility, always made sure I was a hundred per cent committed and most importantly, that I honed the skills most commonly associated with men — like negotiating and networking. While performance is important, never discount soft skills.

The idea of starting my own company took root in my mind as I helped launch a number of IPOs during my banking days. It interested me to see value created in a company and to help build it from the ground up.

As my job as an investment banker took me on trips to various parts of the world, I would often shop for my stock of beauty products in dedicated stores in these places. It was then that it struck me that Indian women did not have access to one-stop beauty stores with a well curated set of products and sales people who could guide them to make the best choice. When I finally decided to become an entrepreneur, it was the perfect opportunity to give shape to my idea of a multi-brand e-commerce beauty platform.

Nykaa.com was launched in April 2013 and my hunch proved right when we started getting customer traffic in huge numbers. Today, we get 5 million visitors a month and notch up sales of Rs 150 crore — sales quadrupled over last year reiterating my belief that there was a gap in the market as far as on-line shopping for good quality skin care and beauty care products was concerned.

Of course, we’ve had our set of ups and downs along the way because e-commerce is an unchartered territory: you don’t have much to learn from predecessors. So it was really about rolling up our sleeves and doing the heavy lifting. Unanticipated gaps in technology and logistics had to be bridged effectively and efficiently. I realised that the pace is such that you’ve got to learn fast and on your feet.

I learnt from a very early stage that retail is about detail. Since I was moving industries, from finance to retail, it was important that I delve deeper into every aspect of the business, from inventory management, logistics, marketing and most importantly, understanding our customers. I remember in the early days looking at every order that came through, imagining who that woman was, and why a particular product interested her.

This eventually developed into the detailed conversations we now have with our customers, whether through product reviews on the website, or on social platforms or our video tutorials. This kind of customer connect allows us to learn continuously.

At Nykaa we have been extremely fortunate in that we have found an instant connect with the Indian woman. Business has been hugely encouraging and so has the support from the environment. In 2015 Nykaa.com raised $9.5 million in a funding round led by private equity firm TVS Capital.

There is much growth and plans for the future and suffice it to say that we are looking forward to being busy and on our toes as we help Indian women make all her beauty purchases at Nykaa.

Looking back on this journey, I realise that the one common factor to all my decisions is passion. I was always made sure to choose a path that interested me, that I could learn from, that challenged me. I’m very proud of how far I have come, but I’m sure I have further to go.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Falguni Nayar

The author is founder and CEO of Nykaa.com

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