Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of FSN E-Commerce Ventures (NYKAA)

Falguni Nayar stands out starkly in the action-packed world of startups and unicorns – companies with $1-billion valuation. The founder and CEO of FSN E-Commerce Ventures – the company that owns online beauty products retailer Nykaa – is the only woman in the country to head a unicorn in an otherwise male-dominated bastion. 

Ms Nayar’s success is further amplified by the blockbuster debut of her e-commerce company on the stock markets last month. The over Rs 2,400-crore FSN E-Commerce Ventures – popularly known by its brand name Nykaa – had debuted on the bourses at a 79.4 per cent premium to its IPO price of Rs 1,125 per share. The stock had ended the first day of trade quite spectacularly at Rs 2,205, up by a whopping 96 per cent to its issue price.

In fact, FSN’s market capitalisation (m-cap) had hit an overall valuation of Rs 1,00,000 crore in the first five minutes of trade. And within an hour and a half, Nykaa’s m-cap had already matched those of industry giants, such as Britannia, Godrej, and IndiGo. Nykaa’s dizzying surge had turned Ms Nayar into a billionaire – India’s seventh woman billionaire.

The Nykaa chief’s business family background undoubtedly aided her in her huge success. However, it would be grossly unjust to ignore the 58-year-old former investment banker’s sharp business acumen and her strong grasp of the finances, which played a vital role in putting Nykaa on top. 

Ms Nayar was born into a Gujarati business family (her father had a ball bearings business) in Mumbai. After graduating in commerce from Mumbai’s Sydenham College, she did her MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. It was here that she met her future husband, Sanjay Nayar, also an investment banker and CEO of KKR India.

The Nykaa CEO started her career at AF Ferguson & Co. She then joined Kotak Mahindra Bank and spent 19 years at Kotak, setting up its securities operations in the US and the UK. She also served as MD of Kotak Mahindra Investment Bank until March 2012.

After nearly two decades of helping entrepreneurs as an investment banker, Ms Nayar herself donned the role of entrepreneur. In 2012, Ms Nayar quit her job at Kotak and launched online beauty retailer Nykaa. Putting her experience as a former banker to good use, Ms Nayar changed the dynamics of the Indian beauty industry by evolving an efficient online system. This allowed her to minimise overheads and cut costs and launch many reputed global brands – Estee Lauder, Clinique and Bobbi Brown, among many others.

But she soon realised that customers wanted to touch and try products before buying them. So, she opened several offline stores in tier-II and tier-III cities. Nykaa, which means an actress in Sanskrit, offers over 4,000 brands on its site.

The Indian beauty products market, in the meanwhile, is growing by leaps and bounds as women seek newer ranges of cosmetics to groom themselves. Consulting firm Technopak predicts that the country’s beauty and personal-care market is all set to double to $23 billion by 2023. Ms Nayar may be busy crunching numbers to get Nykaa to make the most of this robust market. 

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