Newest female billionaire Falguni Nayar offers some advice for other women founders

Falguni Nayar joined the rarefied ranks of self-made billionaire women this week as the Indian beauty startup she founded went public and promptly doubled on its trading debut. Now she’s encouraging more women to seize control.

Nayar runs India’s FSN E-Commerce Ventures, which raised Rs 53.5 billion ($720 million) in its initial public offering and saw shares rise 96% on its first day of trading. That makes Nayar, who owns about half of the company, worth almost $7 billion and India’s wealthiest self-made female billionaire, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“Women need to allow the spotlight of their lives to be on themselves,” Nayar said in an interview after the trading debut. “I hope more women like me dare to dream for themselves.”

Nayar founded her company, which runs the e-commerce site , in 2012 after working in investment banking and guiding other entrepreneurs through the IPO process. Back then, most Indian women bought makeup and hair-care products at neighborhood mom-and-pop stores where the selection was scanty and trials unheard of. She saw an opportunity in giving customers easy online access to high-end beauty items, complete with tutorials and testimonials.

“India is going to be a huge retail market,” Nayar said. “Indians will aspire for more, their spending power will grow and they’ll increasingly spend on lifestyle brands and services. Nykaa is in a good place.”

The startup has since grown into the country’s leading beauty retailer, buoying online sales with demo videos by glamorous Bollywood actors and celebrities and more than 70 brick-and-mortar stores. Nykaa, derived from the Sanskrit word for heroine, sells items including exfoliation creams, bridal makeup essentials and hundreds of shades of lipstick, foundation and nail color to suit Indian skin tones, skin types and local weather.

Nayar said there is plenty more opportunity ahead. In the country of 1.3 billion people, men too are beginning to spend on makeup and grooming products.

“We have built the company for multi-year growth to address a very large beauty and fashion e-commerce market in India,” she said.

Nykaa is part of a new generation of Indian startups that are breaking out into the public markets.

Ltd., a food-delivery startup, kicked off the rush in July, showing investors would buy into high-growth companies even if they were unprofitable. Paytm, India’s leading digital payments firm, said Wednesday investors had fully subscribed to its $2.5 billion listing, the nation’s biggest.

“Indian e-commerce platforms like Nykaa and Zomato are coming of age,” Nayar said. “Global-standard companies being started by Indian entrepreneurs and built by Indian engineers to satiate the appetite of Indian consumers.”

While clearly pleased with the strong IPO debut, Nayar said she was sanguine about the precise impact on her net worth.

“The size of the prize doesn’t really matter,” she said. “Being rewarded for doing what I love doing is the key. Share prices are the bonus.”

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