[The Turning Point] How a poem shared by her daughter motivated Falguni Nayar to start Nykaa

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The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at why Falguni Nayar decided to start now-IPO-bound Nykaa.
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It was Ithaka, a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy, that set banker Falguni Nayar on an entrepreneurial journey in 2012. 

Her daughter, Adwaita Nayar, shared lines like “…Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all…”, and Falguni realised the meaning of the poem: cherish the journey rather than the destination

This was a turning point for Falguni, and led her to launch online beauty marketplace Nykaa

Touted as India’s Sephora, Mumbai-based Nykaa has since then diversified into multiple categories, including fashion, home décor, and more, and also entered the coveted unicorn club. 

Nykaa is now India’s first profitable startup heading for an IPO. The Nykaa IPO will comprise fresh issue of shares of up to Rs 525 crore and an offer for sale of up to 4.3 crore shares by existing shareholders.

A multi-brand retail format

Falguni, an IIM-Ahmedabad graduate, spent 19 years as an investment banker and broker with the Kotak Mahindra Group.

After an eight-year stint with the group’s international operations in the US and the UK, Falguni headed the group’s Institutional Equities division. In 2005, she took over as Managing Director of the investment banking business where she successfully spearheaded the firm as India’s leading IPO banker and was instrumental in closing a number of successful M&As.

It was during this point that Falguni’s interactions with a number of successful entrepreneurs motivated her to pursue entrepreneurship; the poem shared by her daughter triggered the move.

“I saw the need for a multi-brand retail format that gives unbiased advice to consumers, and is able to guide them on the right products for their beauty and health concerns,” Falguni earlier said.

Falguni Nayar, Founder & CEO, Nykaa, with Nihir Parikh, Chief Business Officer (2nd row, 3rd from L-R)

Nykaa was set up by April 2012. This was followed by a soft launch of the beta site in November 2012, and commercial marketing in April 2013. There has been no looking back for the 50-something Falguni since then.

Falguni shared earlier that the name Nykaa is derived from the Hindi word Nayika – an actress, a person of beauty

Leading the cosmetic charge 

Nykaa entered the ecommerce market when Amazon and Flipkart were already leading the charge. But instead of selling everything from books to mobile phones, Nykaa, with local makeup sellers, brought international cosmetic brands to India - similar to French cosmetic giant Sephora. 

Just before the pandemic hit India, Nykaa claimed profitability for FY19 in December 2019. The unicorn focused on increasing its retail presence and increasing its categories. It acquired D2C jewellery brand Pipa Bella in April 2021 and continued expansion in the offline segment.  

It also launched NykaaNetwork, an interactive beauty forum where subscribers could chat with each other, and NykaaDesignStudio for apparel in designer and premium brands like Ritu Kumar and Masaba in 2018. The beauty startup also launched NykaaMan, an ecommerce platform for men’s personal care products in hair care, skincare, wellness, and sports nutrition, among others.

The Mumbai-based firm follows an inventory-led model, and has its own private label in cosmetics and personal care segment. Nykaa is now seeking a valuation of over $4 billion as it heads for its IPO.

The spotlight is firmly on Falguni, and Nykaa’s IPO is being hailed as a watershed moment for women entrepreneurs in India


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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