Arvind Agarwal: A Visionary Enabling Organizational Transformation Beyond Finances

Arvind Agarwal: A Visionary Enabling Organizational Transformation Beyond Finances

Arvind Agarwal,  Chief Financial Officer

Arvind Agarwal

Chief Financial Officer

Today's CFOs are not just practitioners of finance, they are experts in strategy, macro-eco-nomics, forecasting, analytics, technology, risk management, team management, retention, and more. Working abreast with the Chief Executive, they are the most impartial `constructive' critics and the organization's stewards of governance. An ideal example of such a leader is Arvind Agarwal, the CFO of Nykaa.

The industry veteran with more than two and half decades of experience in strategic, operational, and financial aspects, has played a significant role in the listing the IPO of Nykaa. Arvind is well-known in the industry not only for his problem-solving skills and expertise, but also for leading the organization with great efficiency and contributing to its growth.

Arvind talks about his journey with CEO Insights Asia. Below are the excerpts.

Take us through your educational and professional journey.

Hailing from a family of CAs, I was naturally good at managing money, budgeting, accounting, and more. I have always been fascinated by numbers and how effective planning can add value to a business of any size. I completed CA, CS, and MBA, and explored my career in reputed conglomerates such as Adani Group, BG Group, Tata Teleservices, Vodafone and Amazon before joining Nykaa. Throughout my journey, I was fortunately exposed to variety of roles in global businesses with start-up environments as well as several matured state-of-art affairs. Indeed, the experiences equipped me with the versatility demanded by a CFO role. It prepared me to adapt to different environments easily and understand how to transform a company's financial functions. Leveraging my professional skills & potential, I could grow to leadership levels and am now leading Nykaa's financial functions for the past two years.

Share some of the key memorable experiences you have gained over the years.

In close to 25 years of my professional career, every bit has been challenging and rewarding. A lot of memories to share, but some inflection points in industry had a great impact on my career and helped me appreciate how finance can play a critical role in driving growth businesses. Firstly, I was with a telecom business when the 2G mobile revolution happened in the early 2000s. The second turning point was in 2011-12 when there was a boom in smartphone and data penetration. I was working with Vodafone at that point and played a critical role in galvanizing the $300M CapEx to seize the opportunity as head of finance of Mumbai circle. The third opportunity came at Amazon, where post 4G launch by Jio and accelerated UPI adoption driven by demonetisation, e-Commerce was witnessing exponential growth. In all these three peak points, there was a hyper-growth phase in the market, and it presented an exciting learning opportunity.

Apparently, not only success but the crisis also comes with a lot of learning. During the great recession in 2008, I was with a start-up that faced losses and didn't have access to capital. As a finance professional, I learnt to handle tough situations and appreciate true `value of money'. While I had just joined Nykaa, the outbreak of pandemic and following volatility in environment that happened post Covid showed a different perspective on how technology usage can help remote working and driving productivity. Ultimately, I believe that every situation is an opportunity to learn and grow.

My leadership is not just constrained to finance and economic aspects, but various things, right from keeping track of customer trends to making tough strategic decisions

How would you define Nykaa's current financial position in the market?

Proudly, Nykaa was one of the few start-ups to get listed in the Fashion, Beauty & Personal care segment last year. The basics around which Falguni has built this brand are commendable. For instance, everything at Nykaa revolves around customers. We think about the customers first and try to make things convenient for them. The best part about the brand is its agility and flexibility, which helped it to quickly bounce back from retail losses that happened during the pandemic. The company has been capital-efficient since the beginning and uses capital very judiciously.

Brief us on your roles and responsibility at Nykaa.

My leadership is not just constrained to finance and economic aspects, but various things; right from keeping track of customer trends to making tough strategic decisions to influence business partners on driving productivity. That being said, a lot of analysis goes to meet the demands of the young, discerning, and experimenting generation. We constantly ensure to embrace market change and technological advancements that bring us closer to customers. Apart from this, it's imperative to have an eye on the macroeconomic aspects of inflation, the supply chain cycle, and other parameters that impact the business. Nonetheless, policy & regulations also need my attention.

Tell about the efforts that go into transforming the organization to get ready for IPO.

A company should start behaving like a listed company internally much before it is listed. Playing a multifaceted role at the company has helped  me drive several successful initiatives such as the implementation of ERP, convergence to Ind AS (global equivalent accounting standard), bringing Big4 auditors to raise the bar, setting-up legal and compliance processes in structural & institutionalized way, to tell a few before we launched IPO process.

With the sole aim of creating sustained enterprise value for the brand that aimed to go for IPO, we ensured that business decisions are grounded in sound financial analysis supported with ability to predict and influence internal stakeholders. My previous experiences also helped me to focus on people practices, operational excellence, customer-centricity, scalable processes, and more. Above all, I was able to build a strong team quickly that helped in IPO journey and post IPO sustenance.

Arvind Agarwal, CFO, Nykaa

Favorite Book: Rich Dad & Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Some Sizes Fit All by Akhil Gupta

Favorite Destination: Europe

Current Issue