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India’s richest self-made female billionaire’s advice for women? Let go of guilt and fear

February 1, 2022, 7:36 PM UTC

The disparity between venture capital funding that goes to male and female founders is well known; in 2021, women-only founding teams got just 2% of U.S. VC funding. But what about other kinds of capital?

Falguni Nayar, the multibillionaire founder and CEO of Indian beauty e-commerce business Nykaa, is more focused on the kinds of bets female founders are willing to take on themselves. Nykaa conducted an initial public offering in November that valued Nayar’s ownership stake at $7 billion; during its nine years as a private company, the startup raised $77 million in outside funding, a relatively small amount for a business with ambitions to transform e-commerce across the world’s second-most-populated country.

The real difference that allowed Nayar to succeed, she says, came not from investor money but from the financial decisions she made at home.

“What I achieved in 2021 was culmination of the determination I had in 2012 to say, ‘I want to do this, and I want to bet the family capital on a business,’” Nayar reflects in a new interview in the February/March issue of Fortune. “Women don’t want to bet the family capital on business. Men are always starting new businesses and taking the availability of family capital for granted, whereas women don’t want to impose.”

Of course, betting with “family capital” requires a founder to have enough personal wealth to take a risk. Nayar founded her business at 49 (she’s 58 today) after a long career in investment banking. Her husband was an executive and later CEO at the private equity firm KKR India.

But the lessons she offers to aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to someone dreaming of founding an investor-backed startup that will one day exit, or a woman aiming to put her time and resources behind a small business or another venture closer to home.

“Women need to not feel guilty if they want to dream for themselves,” Nayar says. “The name Nykaa means ‘actress.’ Our message to our customers was, Let the spotlight of your life be on you. For too long, women have been the support system of their family. They feel that if they want to lead their life, there may be disruptions, or they may not be able to sustain it. And I think that fear must go.”

Read Nayar’s full interview here.

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