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Women in Leadership: Falguni Nayar leading the way

women in leadership
  1. Introduction 
  2. Journey before Nykaa
  3. Transition Years
  4. Turning Point in Career
  5. Redefining leadership
  6. Consistency is key: A key lesson for women in leadership to takeaway
  7. Conclusion


Do you know what Finland, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, and Taiwan have in common? Women in leadership roles. 

Because of women in leadership, these countries best tackled the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is not just me saying that. Major research publications and think tanks across the world support this claim. With their grit and empathy, these women leaders have set examples for others to take inspiration from.

Now that we have hailed the muses of leadership, let’s discuss some insightful leadership lessons from a woman from another part of the world: India. A woman leader who made history and redefined conducting/owning family business innovatively. Falguni Nayar is a leader who needs no introduction though we can do a quick recap for those unfamiliar.

Who is Falguni Nayar? Founder and CEO of Nykaa, a beauty, and lifestyle retail company. 
What is the net worth of the Nykaa owner? A self-made billionaire, Falguni Nayar is currently worth $ 7 billion and is among the Top-20 richest people in the country.
Why are Falguni Nayar and Nykaa in the news lately? Nykaa IPO. Nykaa’s parent company, FSN E-Commerce Ventures Ltd, was listed on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) as well as the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 10th November 2021.

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Returning to our discussion on women in leadership, let’s discuss how Falguni Nayar became what she is today by tracing her journey and learning some valuable lessons along the way.

Journey before Nykaa

Falguni Nayar is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and worked as a consultant with AF Ferguson & Co. before joining Kotak Mahindra Capital.

She transitioned from a consulting career to banking when she got a call from Kotak on her child’s third birthday. Ms. Nayar then remained in that sector for around 18 years until making another change: Nykaa in 2012.

This willingness of Nayar to experiment even at the most settled stage of her life can inspire many and not just only women to follow their gut and passion at any age.

Ms. Nayar had given herself a deadline of 50 years to begin her business come what may. And, with no background in retail or fashion, she took a leap of faith out of sheer interest and business acumen to succeed.

Perhaps, this quote from Falguni Nayar can throw some light on her willingness to experiment and the courage to fail if and when facing risks: 

“I was never a good swimmer but I would always be the first to jump in. The thought, “what if I break a leg? doesn’t occur to me.”

Transition Years

“Multitasking is all about juggling priorities. Sometimes spending time with your children will be important, sometimes it will be the business trip. Never over-balance either.”

Before addressing ‘how did Falguni start Nykaa’, it is necessary to mention that she took that risk at the ripe age of 50 when her children went abroad to study. Ms. Nayar has spoken about how she juggled between family and career at various points in her life.

In a podcast interview, she said, “women shouldn’t treat maternity transition as a P&L discussion where they are trading off the income with the opportunity cost of being with the child.” In fact, she encouraged women to look at it from a positive investment point of view that matures in the future.

In fact, like most working women/mothers who wish to perfectly balance commitment to work and family, Falguni too juggled a lot. This also led her to choosing a stable job initially in her career so as to balance her career with the role of a wife and later, a mother of twins.

Starting afresh at 50

“People thought I was crazy…”

At 50, choosing to stay true to her entrepreneurial streak, Falguni took a leap of faith and started her own company, Nykaa. People thought she was crazy for quitting a well-settled life and job and starting afresh. 

Besides, in 2012, not many in India were championing or positively forecasting the future of e-retail in the country. However, Falguni took both risks and succeeded.

She made some really difficult and cautious decisions like:

  • Choosing to initially fund Nykaa from personal savings
  • Keeping Nykaa as a retail business; not changing it into ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart
  • Careful fundraising from wealthy investors from India and abroad 2014 onwards, considering India’s restriction on FDI in multi-brand retail

All of these decisions helped Falguni Nayar make Nykaa a company that now has 15 million registered users in Tier-1, 2 and 3 cities.

With a monthly active users count of 5 million, it has over the years built 70+ stores in India, sells lakhs of products from over 500 brands, and receives a really good average user rating.

We too can follow our passion by taking a leap of faith provided we have the grit to build an empire from scratch and invest our whole lives into it.

The birth of a holistic leader in Falguni Nayar

“I wanted to stand for those women who want to be beautiful for themselves, not for men or other women!” 

Moving from a comfortable leadership position at a leading banking institution to building Nykaa from ground up, Falguni redefined her leadership style to suit the needs of the business.

In fact, in the same podcast interview (we have referred to earlier), she spoke about getting inspired from ‘Ithaka’, a poem by C.P. Cavafy, her daughter, shared with her. From this, she learnt about the value of the journey and how focusing on it rather than the goal helps streamline many leadership problems.

Charting inspiration for other women leaders

“Women need to allow the spotlight of their lives to be on themselves. I hope more women like me dare to dream for themselves.”

Falguni Nayar helped many companies go public in her career as an investment banker. Now, after having done it herself with Nykaa’s listing at NSE and BSE, she wants to inspire women like her to fulfill their dreams.

One valuable lesson that everyone and not just women in leadership positions can draw is consistency. It goes without saying that Ms. Nayar has had a formidable career in the past and family responsibilities to look at, but she has been at it for a while and has reached where she is today by being consistent and disciplined at what she does.


Falguni Nayar is a rock-solid force in the Indian business world today. Her journey has and continues to inspire people across all industries. Part of women in leadership in India, her valuable quotes and success mantra can surely instill confidence in us. But, wanting to be a leader like her with no long-haul game plan can be detrimental.

So why not invest in a game plan that includes a professional course from the best in the world. Future Leaders Program is a one-of-a-kind leadership program from Asia’s leading  Business School- NUS that can help you excel and take your leadership skills to new heights.

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0 Source: GreatLearning Blog

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