They shattered glass ceilings, challenged the boys’ clubs and held their own as successful women leaders in India. They’ve taken risks, persevered and transformed their lives and ours. Fifty-something and thriving, Aruna Jayanthi, Vani Kola and Falguni Nayar tell Vogue India how they made it.
55, Founder and CEO, Nykaa
On pursuing your dreams…
What made you start a new career at the age of 49?
While I was leading investment banking at Kotak Mahindra, I met many entrepreneurs who truly impressed me. I saw the need for a multi-brand retail format in India that would give consumers easy access to beauty, with a guided and educative approach. In 2012, I decided to take the plunge.
In 2012 the start-up ecosystem in India was nascent, but you convinced investors to support Nykaa. Your advice to founders today?
It’s all about a strong business model. Investors show faith in thought-through scalable business ideas with a clear road map for the future. I think that patience, commitment and consistency are required, but most importantly, believe in your idea and stick to it.
Your go-to life lesson:
The name Nykaa comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Nayaka’ and is inspired by a message to all women—that one must pursue their dreams. Decide what makes you happy and make choices that will allow you to achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to lean in. Make choices based on your passion. If entrepreneurship is the journey you’re embarking on, think long-term and have a plan that extends up to at least five years. Entrepreneurship is not easy, but the rewards are immense.
57, MD, Latina America and Canada, Capgemini
On leadership today…
How did you lead people across countries and continents during the pandemic?
Relationships helped. Once you build relationships with people, transitioning from in-person to virtual is seamless. I know my teams and their working styles well, so we didn’t think of it as disruptive. Respecting personal time helps. But the most important thing for me was continuing the organisation’s rituals. For instance, if you have a sales strategy meeting once a month and then head out for dinner after, simulate the same online.
Were there changes at work you drove as a leader that will continue in a post-pandemic world?
I was always a flexible leader. I was never a nine-to-five person for myself or my team. I never looked at work time, I only looked at work output. The pandemic reinforced that need for flexibility as well as respect for our people’s private lives and how they manage their time. We are talking a lot more about mental health and we will continue to do so. People have different levels of stress and anxieties. We have to carry on focusing on the emotional well-being of our employees.
How do you stay positive?
I have never been a person who has not been positive. For me, it’s a way of life. I look forward to every single day. I think about how to become a better version of myself every single day.
Your go-to life lesson:
Discover the value of relationships. Stay focused with your family, friends and colleagues. Difficulties like the pandemic will come and go. We have to learn to rely on the people that are near and dear to us and support one another.
57, Founder and MD, Kalaari Capital
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