Indian billionaire’s luxury cosmetic empire opens doors in Gurugram

‘I wouldn’t go out without my Chanel shades or a scarf,’ says Indian businesswoman who stands to make $160m from luxury bag launch

At first glance, it may look like the offices of a cosmetic company, but deep within the Mumbai building favoured by Indian billionaire Falguni Nayar, there is a chamber filled with small portions of red roses and not one but two — count ’em, two — anti-ageing cream.

Despite the capacious shower room, Nayar is not a cosmetics devotee. “I wouldn’t go out without my Chanel shades or a scarf,” the beauty and fashion entrepreneur said. But by co-owning Gurugram, India’s answer to Silicon Valley, Nayar is about to become one of the world’s wealthiest women.

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She and her husband, the tycoon Kashiram, paid $3.5bn (£2.7bn) for Gurugram, a satellite city near Delhi, in 2012, hoping to pioneer the burgeoning new technology hub as a family retreat.

“We had an emotional attachment to the place. We raised our children here, and it’s so exciting to be part of a historic moment,” she said.

With its gleaming malls, gourmet food courts and craft galleries, Gurugram is an enticing place for an Indian billionaire to launch the expansion of a multimillion-dollar cosmetics company with a heritage dating back to the 1860s, a year before Christmas in Paris.

After officially opening on Friday, Nayar’s newest business, Shoppers Stop, will be India’s largest store, selling men’s and women’s cosmetics, perfumes, jewellery and watches, across 240 stores and their four online outlets.

An initial intake of 700 employees will be joined by an additional 2,200 by September.

Inside the Shoppers Stop retail outlet in Gurugram, India. Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

Nayar’s globetrotting business career began at 13, when she started collecting stamps and stamps collectors’ magazines, and at 13 she planned to become a fashion designer.

“It had really never crossed my mind, and I honestly wasn’t sure it was the most legitimate interest,” she said.

However, her passion for travel quickly won over her and she began working in high-end stores, before moving into jewellery and later taking the helm of her own company, Murugappa Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates.

Murugappa Group was founded by Nayar’s father, Deepak Nayar, whose net worth has been estimated at more than $3bn.

There are no figures publicly available on Kashiram Nayar’s wealth, but Forbes estimates that his net worth is about $5bn. The Nayars’ fortune is projected to increase by $160m each year for the next 10 years as they expand their business.

Fashion is not Nayar’s only interest: she owns a tennis academy and is a corporate patron for the Indian women’s cricket team.

But she sees her new empire as a win-win.

“Like Apple, we are like the technology company,” she said. “We help build a sustainable, sophisticated technology city, while also giving back.”

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