Nykaa founder may become first Indian woman to enter 10 figure valuation club

Updated: Apr 14, 2019, 10:10 IST | Prutha Bhosle

Wings of entrepreneur Falguni Nayar's unicorn are all set to flap as beauty and wellness retailer, Nykaa, may soon attain the billion-dollar mark

Nykaa founder may become first Indian woman to enter 10 figure valuation club
Falguni Nayar left her investment banking job to start Nykaa in 2012

When US seed investor Aileen Lee coined the term 'unicorn' in 2013 to separate tech winners from losers in the startup ecosystem, Falguni Nayar's online beauty and wellness company was only a year old.

Soon, unicorn companies were called "the world's most exclusive boys' club". Exactly six years later, Nayar has busted the myth that female entrepreneurs don't belong in this 10-figure valuation club. With Nykaa's valuation now approaching $1 billion, Nayar may become the first Indian woman to join this rare breed of elite startups in 2019.

Nayar's success is inspiring given that majority of India's current 14 unicorns are headed by men. Her decision to starting this young brand had been a risky one. The former investment banker recalls, "Having been involved in the launch of many successful initial public offerings [IPOs] during my career as an investment banker, and witnessing first-hand the process of creating value, I had wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time. During my travels, I went to a multi-brand beauty store and was amazed by the profusion of beauty solutions, the beautiful displays and the women behind counters, who offered advice, sold beauty products and helped women discover a whole new side to themselves."

This made Nayar realise there was a huge gap in India that needed to be addressed. "I saw the need for a multi-brand retail format that gives unbiased advice to consumers, guides them on the right products for their beauty concerns and offers solutions that are easy to access, across the length and breadth of the country. It was a risk I was willing to take, and today I am proud to say we have been extremely well-received by our customers across the country."

The name Nykaa is derived from the Sanskrit word 'nayaka', meaning the one in the spotlight. "We want to empower our customers to be the best version of themselves." This is a philosophy she seems to mirror in her company as well, as its valuation has more than doubled in six months. On March 31, Nykaa said it had raised Rs 100 crore ($14 million) from private equity firm TPG Growth. This new round brings the company's total funding to $93 million. Nayar says, today, her risk appetite has only increased. "There has not been a quiet moment for me in the last six years. When I left investment banking, I was closing million-dollar deals. But, when I started Nykaa, I remember being excited when we crossed 20 orders in one day. The journey has been a revelation of sorts. With each passing year, we have learnt about customers, what works for our business, how to add value to our offering, etc. Building this brand has been a roller-coaster ride."

But, do investors exhibit faith in women entrepreneurs? Nayar thinks every entrepreneur faces challenges in getting serious investors, irrespective of gender. "Investors show faith in a business model. I feel that as long as you're willing to lean in, there are no boundaries." After the recent funding, Nykaa plans to use the proceeds to introduce more beauty brands and expand its retail stores across the country. "Nykaa Fashion, our newly-launched website and app, is focused on being high on style with a carefully curated collection of 150-plus designers across clothing, accessories and footwear, to appeal to every woman. It inspires the Indian woman to make the best choices for herself." She is doing the same in the male grooming space with the launch of Nykaa Man. "NykaaMan.com will bring the best of brands and products for men together, along with expert advice and opinions on choosing the best regime."

Looking back at her adventurous journey, Nayar has one word of advice for other budding female entrepreneurs. "Don't be afraid to lean in. There will be times when you will question your ability to carry out a task, whether you have the right skill set or experience. Don't be afraid. You are capable of far more than you think."

Ankiti Bose

First in the line

Nayar's achievement comes just a couple of months after Mumbai native Ankiti Bose's fashion e-commerce firm, Zilingo, received $226 million in funding at a valuation of $970 million. Bose's firm, though, is based in Singapore.

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