Adwaita Nayar (left), CEO, Nykaa Fashion, and Anchit Nayar, CEO, Beauty Ecommerce, Nykaa
Image: Madhu Kapparath
AAround 2012, when Adwaita Nayar graduated from Yale University, her mother, Falguni Nayar, was considering getting into entrepreneurship with Nykaa. From researching the type of business Nayar could set up to setting up the wire structures in his bedroom, Adwaita saw all the initial difficulties.
In difficult times, unlike her mother who was much more experienced, Adwaita found it difficult to keep thick skin. “Back then, I was so young… I realized that entrepreneurship is so difficult and so difficult to live with – there are so many ups and downs,” she says.
After working for a few months at Nykaa, she joined Bain & Company in New York as an associate consultant for a year. However, she left that and joined Nykaa.
The company’s website had only just launched and the team numbered just five or six people. Every small step, including fundraising, was a struggle back then. “We were going to fundraise, and investor after investor would say, ‘No, we don’t believe in the beauty market, it’s not big enough.’ In 2012-2013, we couldn’t have imagined the results today. hui, ”says Adwaita, who spent about two and a half years at Nykaa before pursuing his MBA at Harvard Business School.
Two years later, in 2017, she returned to Nykaa as Head of Retail.
From the start, Nykaa saw a good mix of young and seasoned professionals, one of the reasons she was one of the first companies to go big on educating customers through digital marketing. Adwaita said, “Our generation lived on social media, so we intuitively understood the power of social media and digital. ”
Initially, Adwaita ran Retail, where she spent a lot of time traveling to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and she firmly believes that some of her best customer knowledge has come from years of traveling. “After years of interacting with customers, the best idea I have had when it comes to consumerism is that Indian women are here to demand quality experiences,” says Adwaita, Co-Founder of Nykaa and CEO of Nykaa Fashion.
His twin brother Anchit returned to India after spending nearly seven years in media and telecommunications, high yield and equity banking at Morgan Stanley, New York. Around 2018, he joined Nykaa to lead the company’s retail business. At a time when online commerce was booming, Adwaita had started its offline business by setting up nearly 20 stores across India. Anchit then took over the retail business and increased it to 60 to 70 stores in about two years.
“FN [Falguni Nayar] always wanted us [Adwaita and me] joining retail first because of the difficulty it represents … if you just do e-commerce, you don’t meet the customers and our success depends entirely on what the consumer thinks, ”says Anchit .
But understanding the beauty segment itself was a learning experience for him. “For hours, I spent hours in this conference room and I put lipsticks on my hand… I can tell you all about eye shadows and foundations, as well as toning. and hydration. If you’re in this business, you have to learn everything, ”says Anchit, who also enjoys being up to date with the brand’s partners, in addition to understanding the products and the market.
Integrating branded partners is a whole different ball game. Regarding a number of international brands, Anchit says: “We have a very active team that looks after these brands. We build these relationships over time, because for them bringing their brands to India is a risky bet. ”
Big brands like Huda Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury are currently selling on Nykaa without having a single employee in India. “We handle everything for them, from imports to pricing, warehouse storage and marketing,” says Anchit, President and CEO of Beauty Ecommerce. Previously, only brands inherited from the beauty and personal care industry were known to people. This has changed. “Nykaa democratized access not only for consumers but also for brands,” he adds.
“Anchit and Adwaita are both determined and humble. They focused on sustainable growth and building partnerships, ”said Rohan Vaziralli, Managing Director of Estée Lauder Companies. “Online acceleration was part of our strategic plan. We launched MAC, Clinique and Estée Lauder with Nykaa in 2016, as this allowed us to reach over 500 cities, while the brick and mortar was limited to the development of shopping centers mainly in level 1 cities and some level 2 towns. ”
In 2017, they launched Nykaa Fashion, as the size of the fashion market was 5-6 times that of beauty. “Mum often comes to me with a glint in her eyes and says, ‘Let’s look at a new business,’” recalls Adwaita. This happened first when they moved from online beauty to offline retail stores and then into fashion. “I’m just set at the end of starting new things,” Adwaita laughs. Looking back, she thinks it was one of Nykaa’s best strategic moves.
Setting up Nykaa Fashion and growing it every day, says Adwaita, is a rewarding experience. “Just because you’re good at beauty doesn’t automatically mean you have the right to be successful. You have to fight very hard, ”she said.
Around 2018, they noticed an increase in demand for men’s grooming products. As Nykaa was focused on women, they decided to create a separate platform for men: Nykaa Man. “It’s currently a lifestyle platform where men can buy everything from personal care and grooming to tech accessories, through the same website or app,” says Anchit.
Like their parents (Father Sanjay is CEO of KKR India), Anchit and Adwaita first started working as professionals before joining Nykaa.
“Consulting helps you learn to communicate and offers a structured approach to problem solving,” says Adwaita.
She took up three key values of Bain & Company, which she implemented at Nykaa: Never let a colleague fail; don’t complain about the problems and instead try to suggest solutions and always do a flawless job.
For Anchit, working at Morgan Stanley has taught him a lot about good work ethics and discipline. “It taught me patience, hard work, diligence, attention to detail – the slightest error in analysis can have a big impact – and people skills,” he says.
And then ?
Nykaa is betting big on the growing e-B2B space with its “Superstore”, which was launched at T2FY22. This applies to small retailers who sell multi-brand products and deal with multiple distributors.
“Now all merchants have access to all brands on our platform at wholesale prices.
Once traders place an order, the supply chain is taken over by Nykaa and the products are delivered to them.
“I try to lead with as much softness of heart as I try to lead with a strong mind,” Adwaita says of her leadership mantra. “I try not to ask people to do something that I wouldn’t do or that I would have done myself,” adds Anchit.
In terms of learning from their mother, one of the biggest benefits for siblings is thinking about a business from a long-term perspective. On a personal level, Adwaita says, “She once told me, it’s good to be average; you don’t have to be the best all the time.
Sitting down at the table with two accomplished parents can be intimidating.
But Anchit says, “Since we were young we have seen how hard our parents worked. Both taught us to love what you do, because it doesn’t look like work.
The siblings hope to see Nykaa become a domestic brand. But will the startup virus bite them in the next few years?
The two say in unison, “No, we love Nykaa and what we do, so we’re not going anywhere.”
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(This story appears in the December 31, 2021 issue of Forbes India. You can purchase our tablet version at Magzter.com. To visit our archives, click here.)