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Life seldom turns out the way you expect it to. Adwaita Nayar, a graduate of Yale University, never planned on becoming an entrepreneur, much less the co-founder of D2C ecommerce unicorn Nykaa and the CEO of Nykaa Fashion. Today, she’s one of the most prominent Indian entrepreneurs.
“Having watched my parents work as professionals all their lives, I had thought I would take the same path. But around the time that I was graduating, mum started saying that she wanted to be an entrepreneur after a long career as an investment banker,” says Nayar. In 2012, her mother, Falguni Nayar, the former managing director of Kotak Mahindra Group, founded Nykaa.
Excited by this new and interesting prospect, Nayar eventually joined her mum’s company. “It wasn’t the most well thought-out decision at the time that I took the leap, but later it definitely proved to be one of the best decisions I ever made, which forever changed the trajectory of my life, both personally and professionally,” she explains.
About three years ago, having established themselves in the beauty business, the Nayar family began thinking about its next target in terms of establishing a new vertical for Nykaa. “Naturally, we zeroed in on fashion as there’s an overlap between beauty and fashion. The latter is also quite an addressable market,” says Nayar.
According to her, the Nykaa Fashion thesis is that the Indian woman is fashion-led, style-led, and trend-led. As a company that is rather bullish on the omnichannel route, Nykaa is looking forward to opening increasingly more brick and mortar stores over time. “We have over a 100 beauty stores already, and in fashion, we’ll definitely have a physical store soon. I want to launch a couple of them first and then scale from there,” added Nayar.
She believes that the real problem to solve in fashion today is not one of variety but specificity of options. How do you show the right product to the right consumer? Technology is the key, responds Nayar. “We’re using technology for personalisation by gathering as much info about you as possible from everything that you’re clicking. By building the right recommendation widgets and search options, we’re crafting the experience that you really want,” she notes.
While most reputed national brands are available on the Nykaa website, the company has also created a category called ‘Hidden Gems’ to offer local Indian designers’ works online. Further, through exclusive partnerships, the team is also bringing top international retailers, such as Revolve, to India and plans to launch a bunch of sustainability-led brands in the future.
Amid a growing worldwide economic crisis, the ‘profitability vs growth’ debate has special currency today for all businesses, including Nykaa. “My personal philosophy on it is that you need to have a path towards profitability and every quarter you need to ensure that your business is shaping up to deliver on that goal. New businesses need the right investment and needn’t be profitable from day one; for me, it’s not growth at any cost but growth in line with a well thought-out path to profitability,” explains Nayar.
Given that all four family members, including Nayar’s father and brother, are involved in the Nykaa business in executive or non-executive capacities, a blurred line separates family from business. “We have learnt to set boundaries through a lot of trial and error and years of constructive discussions. Business dominates most dinner-table conversations; we joke that it’s the third child in the family!” she laughingly admits.
“If there’s mutual love, respect and friendship among family members underlying their professional equations with each other, then all issues can be worked through,” she reveals on a more profound note.
Fittingly, her favourite quote is from Maya Angelou’s work: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did; they will remember how you made them feel.” As she spearheads Nykaa, Nayar is helping Indian women feel good in their skin and clothes. Hopefully, they will remember how she made them feel!