This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Asia’s Power Business Women 2019. See the full list here.
After nearly two decades helping entrepreneurs as an investment banker, Nayar was raring to start a business of her own. “I wanted to experience the journey of creating something from scratch,” says Nayar. So in 2012, Nayar quit her job at Kotak Investment Banking, invested $2 million and launched beauty retailer Nykaa. Today, Nykaa has 46 stores across India and 45 million visitors a month to its website and app. While the company has yet to break even, sales almost doubled in the year ended March 31, to an estimated $180 million.
Nykaa has raised $51 million in funding and, in April, TPG Growth invested $14.4 million for an undisclosed stake in a deal that valued Nykaa at $724 million. Nayar and her family still control more than 50% of the company. (Husband Sanjay Nayar, CEO of U.S. private equity giant KKR’s India operations, has invested in Nykaa in his personal capacity.)
“Falguni’s grasp over the entirety of her business—from the minute aspects of operations to big-picture finance—is extremely unique, and very rare for a startup founder and entrepreneur,” says Angad Banga, chief investment officer for the family office of Hong-Kong based commodities billionaire Harindarpal Singh Banga. The Banga family office owns 10% of Nykaa.
Gurgaon, India-based consulting firm Technopak predicts that rising incomes among younger Indians will almost double the country’s beauty and personal care market, to $23 billion, by 2023. “Beauty is a low footprint category and the unit value is very high,” says Arvind Singhal, Technopak’s chairman and managing director.
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Nayar spent 19 years at Kotak, setting up its securities operations in the U.S. and U.K. before spearheading IPOs back in India. Even as a veteran banker, though, Nayar found fundraising for Nykaa a challenge. “I’d get meetings because of our backgrounds,” she says, “but meetings didn’t always mean money. Investors wouldn’t believe in what I was saying.”
“I didn’t know who she was,” recalls Rishabh Mariwala, managing director of another investor, Sharrp Ventures, the family office of Indian consumer goods billionaire Harsh Mariwala. (Rishabh also runs a bath and body products company that sells on Nykaa and other outlets.) “But after I interacted with her, I understood her conviction.”
Nayar started Nykaa as an online-only business. That allowed her to minimize overhead while introducing to India an endless aisle of international products such as Estée Lauder, Clinique and Bobbi Brown. But she soon realized customers wanted to touch and try products before buying them. So in 2015, she opened her first brick-and-mortar store in Delhi. Nykaa now sells 1,300 brands, up from just 350 in 2015, and 130,000 products. Nykaa has also launched its own fashion line.