1. Falguni Nayar, Nykaa
A graduate in Economics from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, and a PGDM in Finance and Marketing from IIM Ahmedabad, Falguni Nayar spent 19 years working at Kotak Investment Banking, from where she quit in 2012, as the Managing Director to work on her entrepreneurial dream – Nykaa, an e-commerce platform offering a comprehensive selection of makeup, skincare, hair care, fragrances, bath and body, luxury and wellness products for women and men.
Today, Nykaa has over 35,000 well-priced products in listed from 300 verified brands, including big names like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, and more. They have also raised funding twice, from affluent Indian investors – Harsh Mariwala: Founder of Marico, Atul Nishar: Founder of Hexaware, Dalip Pathak: former India and Europe head of Warburg Pincus – and former President of Swiss fragrance maker Givaudan: Michael Carlos.
Through her career, Nayar has received many accolades, notably the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) award for the top woman achiever in the field of banking, and the Business Today Award, recognizing her as one of the top 25 women in business. She was also one of the founding members of the Asia Society in India – a non-profit organization that focuses on educating the world about Asia. She serves as an Independent Member on the Tata Motors Board, and is also associated with several other boards, including Aviva Insurance and Dabur India.
She was joined by her daughter Adwaita, a Yale graduate in Applied Mathematics, who quit her join at Bain, to be part of Nykaa.
2. Neeti Tah, 36 Rang
Born and brought up in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, Neeti Tah completed her schooling from Lawrence school, Lovedale in Ooty, and joined the National Institute of Advertising in Sainik Farms, Delhi, from where she obtained a Graduate Diploma in Design. Post-college, she was employed at J Walter Thompson (JWT), Delhi, where she spent 6 months as a Trainee, and was then promoted to Junior Art Director, before finally becoming the Art Director.
Even after a generous salary increment, and promotion, in 2009, Neeti quit after three months, and decided to take a break.
Returning to her home-town, to find her calling, Neeti was inspired greatly the deep reservoir of the timeless cultural traditions and the art forms of the State of Chhattisgarh. With an aim to synthesise traditional, local content with modern, trendy tastes, and to harnessing the untapped creative potential of rural/ tribal women, 36 Rang (pronounced: Chattes Rang) came into existence. They contemporise traditional art and make it appealing to the urban youth of today, and employ prison-inmates, self taught artists, women, tribal groups and villagers, to give them a better future and brighter horizons.
Currently, the products at 36 Rang include designer apparel (Indo- western style, indian sarees, fabrics, etc.), accessories, artifacts, paintings, and more, all of which incorporate the
traditional arts of Chhattisgarh, in new-age, contemporary designs, targeted for the young-at-heart, to make their own distinct, style statement.
36 Rang has been nominated under the business entrepreneurship category at the Femina Women Awards, Mumbai, 2014, and was recognized in “Follow every Rainbow’, a book authored by Rashmi Bansal.
Neeti has been called upon to speak on Women’s Empowerment and Entrepreneurship on various Platforms such as Lokmat Women’s Summit.
3. Nishita Biyani, Wafflist
After completing her schooling from Gopi Birla Memorial School in Mumbai, Nishita went on to pursue her Bachelor’s from KC College, in the same city. In 2014, when she was unable to find a decently-prized, exclusive waffle joint in her vicinity, she decided to start her own – and added her own twist to it: Eggless Waffles!
With no prior experience in Baking, and being constantly surrounded by recipes for waffles that require eggs, she took to the kitchen, with a book on Science of Baking, and came up with her own recipe of vegetarian waffles. To test her version of waffles out and to get feedback regarding the same, she stood outside a mall, to sell her end product.
“It was a great learning experience. It was out in the open, so in the wind you had to keep the stove running and it was hot so my batter dried up. The dosa vendor next to me who had prior experience with dosa batter taught me how to keep my batter moist. I was glad that I went and sold my waffles. It was a great learning,” she says of the experience.
It wasn’t long before Wafflist opened their very first branch in Bandra, and the response was so good, that in 2015, she opened her second branch in Fort. Raising money for the later wasn’t very easy, according to her, and it took her close to six months to convincing the bank to sanction her a loan without a collateral.
Wafflist today is 25-member strong, and plans to grow further. “Striking a balance between the two is the most challenging task. What keeps us going are the new launches and additions to the menu that attracts a lot of footfalls. Its way beyond just the concept of having an eggless waffle store. To quote an example, our Fort store is eight times bigger than the Bandra store. We just don’t have an extended menu, but a WiFi-enabled and communal seating arrangement gives us more time with our customers. More time = more consumption = more revenues,” Nishita says.
4. Ratna Prabha Rajkumar, BlueMadeGreen
BlueMadeGreen, is a Bangalore based startup that recycles denim to apparel, designer bags, pouches, cushion covers, earrings, hair accessories, aprons, purses, and more such customizable items.
For Prabha who picked on the ‘art’ of recycling from early on, her inspiration comes from two very important people in her life: One, her mother who has been successfully running a boutique in Kerala, and two, a relative who picked up Kerala Mural Painting at the age of 72, and transformed the said murals to printed sarees, kurtis and more. She was also the one who introduced Prabha to crochet, and sewing, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when Prabha found her calling, and acted on it.
While living in Guangzhou, China, with her daughter and husband, she was faced with a challenge of creating a Kathakali dress for her daughter for a Masquerade ball. Unable to find the resourced she needed, around her, she decided to spend a week, recycling everyday-materials – bangles, bottles, newspapers, cartons – to create the required dress. Her efforts were acknowledged by a lot of people, and this event led to the beginning of her setting up something of her own that combined recycling, and her love for the environment.
“I wanted to carry my skills forward in this direction. As I thought about this, the first word that popped in my mind was ‘upcycle’. The fabric I chose to upcycle is denim,” she said.
On why she chose denim to be the centerpiece of her venture, she explains: “Though we might not have realized this, a lot of energy is consumed to make denim and is, therefore, not an eco-friendly fabric. But a lot of people still buy and use denim as it is durable, comfortable and fashionable.
There is a long story behind a pair of jeans that you own, right from a being in a cotton pod to being in your cupboard. We should make use of the durability of denim to the maximum and that is exactly what BlueMadeGreen does.”
Needless to say, BlueMadeGreen creates high-quality products, that are handled with extreme care from their inception to sale, encouraging you to bring forth your un-used pair of jeans and get something personalized in return!
5. Bhavana Motwani, StitchMyFit
Imagine finding clothes online that you really like, spending your hard earned money on them, waiting for them to get delivered, and then realizing that they don’t fit you like you expected them to? Bummer, right? At 33, with almost a decade of corporate experience behind her. Bhavana decided to explore the fashion vertical, and solve the problem of finding the perfect fit, when shoppng online.
“This dream was to retire from the corporate grind at perhaps 40 or 45, leave behind the routine, and the coding deadlines, and open up my very own boutique, as fashion has been my one true love apart from tech,” she says.
…but why wait till 40 to succeed? When Bhavana saw an opportunity, to capitalize on the gap between online shopping, and customized-wearable clothing, she took the plunge 10 years earlier and started StitchMyFit, an e-commerce portal where you can pick your favorite design, and have a personal stylist come to your place, to re-create the said deisgn, as per your requirements.
“For starters, the ‘standard’ sizes available on the Internet, are neither standard nor uniform across brands. Indian women have very different body shapes;a standard medium may fit their upper body but not their lower body. Unlike men, their sizes can hardly be standardised. I have personally struggled with finding good tailors and boutiques around my locality, and I know this to be true for all female friends,”Bhavana says.
After launching in 2015, Bhavana’s friend of 15 years who was caught up in a consulting job at the time, quit and joined StitchMyFit.
“I hired a stylist and we created 20 design prototypes in various fabrics and patterns and created a whole new system of online shopping,where the customer could confirm a design online, and instead of selecting a small, medium or large size, we would arrange to have a personal stylist visit their home, take into account their unique size and customisations, maybe tweaking the pattern, changing colours, and only then would we shake on it to seal the order,” explains Bhavana.
Today, StitchMyFit has several tailors and stylists on board, who help customizing over 200 orders for their users.