Giving advice on beauty is best way to sell beauty products, says Falguni Nayar, Nykaa
Nykaa’s strategy is mall-led and the firm hopes to touch a turnover of Rs 100 crore pretty soon, says Falguni Nayar, CEO, Nykaa.
Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
A former investment banker, 52-year-old Falguni Nayar nurtured entrepreneurial dreams as a student. She set off to do an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and her career took off with Kotak Mahindra as an investment banker. In 2005, she was the managing director of Kotak Mahindra Capital. In 2012, she quit it all to start her entrepreneurial journey with Nykaa – an online beauty retail of multi-brands. Nykaa has raised two rounds of funding of Rs 80 crore. Nayar shares her vision for the company and the milestones in a conversation with Firstpost.
Excerpts from the conversation
What prompted Nykaa?
With my background in investment banking, I had a clear sense about business. I chose beauty and wellness for two reasons. In 2012, when I quit investment banking, the e-commerce sector was taking off. I believe there is a need in the country for a multi-brand retail format in the beauty business. The millennium customer in the age group of 20-35 years knows what he/she wants and is open to change. If you want to cater to such customers, you cannot offer just a few brands. You need to offer performance-based products. E-commerce is the way to go about it. And hence, Nykaa.
Why the name Nykaa?
It stands for the independent woman who believes in herself. She cares for her own happiness and is not concerned with pleasing others. Nykaa is for that woman who is willing to try out beauty products and is curious to know more about them. We have experts online who give beauty tips and advice. As you learn, you become aware of other products that you could try. I feel giving advice and sharing tips on beauty and beauty care is the best way to sell beauty products.
You have an offline store too. What are your plans?
Yes, we have one store at Delhi airport and plan to start one more in the capital. We plan to have stores in Mumbai and Bengaluru, too. We plan to open 20 stores in 7-9 cities. These will be large format and destination stores of 800-1000 sq feet where consumers can experience what is on offer. Nykaa’s strategy is mall-led. We expect to touch a turnover of Rs 100 crore pretty soon. I plan to build the brand.
We have already launched nail paint colours under the Nykaa brand. We will soon launch our beauty bath and body range products which will include shower gel, body mist and body lotion in four floral fragrances. We want to be known as the brand for performance-based products. We will offer the best in the beauty sphere from across the world through our brand. The focus is on building our brand and private label.
What do you consider a disadvantage in the online space?
When a product is delivered late to a customer because of logistics, for instance, sometimes the customer will go online and speak ill of the company. But the online space is positive too. When a customer is satisfied or happy with a product, the individual is willing to share that experience and talk about it. So it works both ways.
You have worked in other cultures. What is the learning that you have brought to Nykaa?
Working in the US and the UK was an eye-opener. In the US, it is a very disciplined work ethic. People wake up early, go to the gym and get to work on time. On a weekend, parents double up as coaches in the baseball leagues, for instance. Weekends may be spent partying but no one will report to work late on Monday on account of a late night. In London, the culture is different. The focus is on meeting friends, parties, travel, etc. It is a tradition-bound society. Friday evenings have to be set aside for beer parties. There is a 'must do’ cultural thing here. I try and instill this disciplined culture at Nykaa.
How do you think Indian work ethic is measuring up to these cultures?
We are very smart and good, no doubt. I have a lot of young, talented people at Nykaa and as an investment banker, I have met up with some really smart and young professionals. In the US and India, meritocracy pays. That is why you hear so many successful stories from far flung towns and remote places in India. We recognise education helps build a career. However, we need to learn to be precise and methodical. The Americans are particular about the emails they send out. The header will state what the content is going to be. That is something we need to imbibe. The art of organisation, to be clear about communication – these are things I learnt from my time in the US.
What leadership qualities do you think bring the best results in the workplace?
As a leader you need to know a lot about the business you are leading and stay updated. That is how you get the respect from the people who work with you, peers and clients. You have to be worthy of the position and add to your knowledge. I learnt very early on that commanding people does not work. You need to inspire them to do it for you. You need to reach out and talk to people. They should feel that their contribution matters to the business. A leader must provide avenues to enhance employee skills. Each employee aspires to rise up to the next position. You cannot just extract work from people as a manager.
Has Nykaa impacted your beauty regimen?
I am aware of more products in the beauty space now. As I learn, I am ready to try. I understand now how foundation can change one’s looks. But, as a manager, I have very little time on my hands. However, I follow a day-care routine and use a few more products when I go out for parties.
You love travelling. Are you able to find time for it now?
I am at work from 9.30 am to 7.30 to 8 pm. I am learning new facets about the business daily. I love trekking and travelling. I haven’t done either regularly like I would earlier. Nykaa is a three and a half year old baby and can’t be left alone. Perhaps, after two years, I can indulge in my hobbies with more regularity.
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