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19 Aug 2016
Sanjay & Falguni Nayar Discuss “Re-Inventing Careers, Expanding Horizons” at Inspiration Series Talk

Panel Discussion

Major career shifts are normally associated with youth in the early phases of their professional lives. So it was a fairly new experience for the audience at the talk ‘Re-Inventing Careers, Expanding Horizons’ held at the MCA Hall, Bandra on August 9 to hear how two highly successful ex-bankers, Sanjay & Falguni Nayar branched out in relatively new directions when at high points in their respective banking careers.

The talk was part of the Inspiration Series organised by Palanpur Online and Palanpur Samaj Kendra.

Sanjay was CEO of Citigroup’s Indian and South Asian operations when he left to join KKR, one of the most successful global private equity investment firms, while Falguni was MD of Kotak Mahindra Capital Company, India’s leading investment bank, when she gave it all up to set up an online beauty product store, Nykaa.com.

In the first part of the evening, Sanjay and Falguni both spoke briefly about their journeys and why they decided to move in new professional directions, forsaking careers with very bright futures to explore paths less trodden. Subsequently, they both participated in a discussion with Rajiv Mehta and Rohit Kothari, and later responded to questions from the floor.

Felicitating the Speakers

Sanjay pointed out how the shift to private equity had helped him look at his role in the bank in a new light. He stressed that the culture in a firm like KKR was vastly different from that of a large corporate bank. While assessing potential investment opportunities, private equity firms do a far more detailed analysis not only of the company and its current strengths and weaknesses, but also of the overall growth potential of the sector before taking a call. Internally too, there is much greater discussion and all viewpoints, even from the younger members of the team are heard and taken into consideration while taking decisions, he said.

His advice to the younger generation was that they should be prepared to get out of their comfort zones, explore avenues beyond well established family businesses, and try to reset their goals if the opportunities present themself.

A view of the audience

Falguni too discussed the factors that led to her decision, stressing that she had dreamt about becoming an entrepreneur long before she finally took the step. She elaborated on why she ventured into an online business in beauty products and how it was based on detailed research about the market segment and it’s potential. She also advised people considering such options to look at developing a business in a nascent, sunrise industry with good prospects for growth so as to be well established before big players with deeper pockets come in. It should also be a sector and business that allows rapid scaling up, she added.

After tracing some of the important developments in the growth of Nykaa, Falguni then summarised some of her key learnings, which she believed other start ups in the online space should give importance to. These included embracing technology to ensure speed and accuracy even when dealing in large volumes, building a brand through cost-effective methods like digital marketing, understanding that today “retail is about detail” (where “you can’t make mistakes and survive”), and the importance of being seen by consumers as a company that “does the right things”.

All entrepreneurs should enjoy the journey and be passionate about what they are doing, Falguni added, saying this will help achieve high levels of satisfaction.  “Buddy up” with people havin wide ranging skills and you can handle the roller coaster ride of such businesses. Be prepared for rejections when you approach potential investors, as 80-90% may say no, she said, and pointed out that if one is convinced of what one is doing, then there is no need to be too worried about the naysayers.

She concluded by saying that switching careers is not either about gender or age, but about a willingness to make the change and get it to work.

Both speakers were felicitated by the organisers before the programme concluded, and subsequently Ashish Bobby Kothari proposed a Vote of Thanks.


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