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Envious criticisms in the face of success

Some such pettiness was on display when Falguni Nayar, founder of Nykaa, made the company publicly-traded this month, becoming the sixth Indian woman billionaire.

Published: 19th November 2021 06:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th November 2021 06:46 AM   |  A+A-

Nykaa’s stock market debut

“If you’re down too long, people root for you. But if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be up too long, you better get a helmet.” Oprah Winfrey read this from Will Smith’s memoir, Will, while interviewing him on her talk show earlier this month. “Amen to that!” she exclaimed. Winfrey is an icon of resilience. If she gets envied for being successful, and criticised, who can go unscathed?

Some such pettiness was on display when Falguni Nayar, founder of Nykaa, made the company publicly-traded this month, becoming the sixth Indian woman billionaire. As the third who fulfils the “self made”  criteria, her achievement is a rarity. But how tongues wagged. There isn’t critique as much as there is criticism. (Here’s a valid critique: it’s rumoured that Nykaa has an exploitative workplace).

The criticism is about privilege. Nayar founded Nykaa after having worked in finance for decades; her spouse Sanjay Nayar is also successful. USD 2 million of their savings went into establishing Nykaa in 2012. It’s a lot of money, but they did earn it. The part no one wants to admit is: if most of us were given USD 2 million, we wouldn’t be able to multiply it to a billion. (Maybe we wouldn’t want to?) That takes work ethic and business acumen. Appreciating Nayar had both is giving credit where it’s due. Most people cannot do the things that the people they criticise do.  

Frustration with ourselves for not pursuing our desires masks itself as high standards or performative principles. I had a friend who wanted to create, but wouldn’t. She happened to have known Arundhati Roy in school. Once, after relating gossip about Roy, she said, “I expected better from her.” Literarily speaking, that is. I wasn’t sure what “better” than writing a masterpiece was. Eventually, pouncing at a low moment, she tried to coax me to quit writing. I lost touch with her then. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if she’s scrunching her nose up about me now. But I’d rather hear she’s creating the work she longed to, instead of wasting her time side-eyeing others as they flounder or fly (but, either way, try).

Sharanya Manivannan

 @ranyamanivannan

The columnist is a writer and illustrator



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