Biggest challenge for female leaders is to balance their personal and professional lives: Naina Ruhail, Vanity Wagon

From being a part of corporate culture to a makeup artist to the founder of a clean organic beauty product brand, Naina Ruhail has multiple achievements to her credit. This Women’s Day, she talks about the various facets of being a woman entrepreneur.


As the mother of a four-year-old, married for 11 years and an entrepreneur for the last 5 years, Naina Ruhail, Co-CEO of Vanity Wagon, dons a lot of different hats in her life.

Before becoming an entrepreneur in the beauty and lifestyle sector, she was working in the IT sector. However, her passion for makeup and beauty products took her to the London School of Makeup and the London School of Styling, where she learnt the trade.

However, this also kindled her desire for good quality organic styling and beauty products. Post her return to India, her quest to find organic home-grown products led to the formation of Vanity Wagon in 2018.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Naina Ruhail talks to SME Futures about her entrepreneurial journey and her experience as a female entrepreneur in India.

Edited excerpts:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey. What inspired you to work on clean beauty products?

I come from an army background. Pursuing my educational journey in various parts of the country allowed me to learn and absorb the varied cultural experiences that exist here. This also allowed me to think beyond a section of society and I have incorporated that into my venture as well.

I have always been passionate about beauty, right from my early university days, and that’s what pushed me towards devoting my life to it. In 2017, I decided to further my journey and start Vanity Wagon as India’s first clean beauty platform.

The need of the hour is to secure a better world for our future generations and also cope with the increasing environmental and health issues that are rampant around the world today. Clean beauty is the first step towards a healthy lifestyle. The largest organ of our body is the skin, and I personally feel that taking care of it should be on the top of our priority lists!


Was it a roller-coaster ride or otherwise?

To build a successful enterprise one has to go through several ups and downs. On certain days everything would go south but with the right mindset all challenges look easy. So yes, I too had my share of problems and solving those is what makes me the entrepreneur that I am today.

A few instances would be team upskilling, supply chain volatility, economic shifts in demand and supply and the change in the status quo due to the pandemic. I am glad I got onto this journey and feel blessed to have the support of all my stakeholders – my team, our customers, our investors and the brands for making me feel like my life was worth living again.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

Women today are an integral part of every industry and their sheer grit and determination to succeed is inspiring in itself. A lot of women have inspired me in my journey, from my mother to all the amazing role models out there. Priyanka Chopra is one such inspiration, clearly defining what the women of today are capable of and how you can be confident and continue to stride forward no matter what age you are at!

The ways of doing business have changed, while India is gaining more female entrepreneurs each day. What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?

Yes, business evolution is a part of the way in which enterprises adapt to socio-economic changes. Nowadays, with the advent of new technologies and customer consumption patterns changing rapidly, we as leaders need to ensure that our businesses fall in line.

I feel that as female leaders, one of the biggest challenges that we face is about maintaining the right balance between our personal and professional lives. With the sense of urgency inherent in the businesses of today and the economic instability around the globe, a lot of our time is invested in strategising and creating new lines of work and working on new streams of revenue. This often leads to an increase in the time that we must devote to our work. I feel that women also have a pivotal role to play in the social scenario, and it’s very important for a balance to exist.


What is the one thing that you now know about women and work that you wish you had known earlier in your career?

In the early stages of my career, I was more focussed inwards, trying to learn and grow with the organisations that I was with. Moving on to creating my own line of work, I had the opportunity to bring many women into my team and I also had the opportunity to associate and interact with many of my fellow woman entrepreneurs.

The unending grit and hard work that women put into their lives is commendable and that is something that I have seen my mother do as well, but I had not realised the scope of it in the professional world. I now know that it’s easy to work with women owing to their organised natures and their ability to adapt and multi-task quicker.

What would you tell the young women who are just starting to work?

My advice to them will be to stay honest to their customers, to themselves and to all their stakeholders.

One thing that I see a lot today is that the will to succeed is so strong that one often forgets why one started doing what one is doing in the first place. I firmly believe that the goal should be clear and the means to achieve that goal can of course vary as this is about staying honest to yourself!

With competition becoming stiff in the beauty/lifestyle sector, what has you most excited about the future?

Competition is a necessity in the endeavour to achieve greater heights. It only pushes you to keep innovating and growing.

I am very excited to see the use of new technologies in the process of reaching out to new consumers and how the entire marketing roadmap will evolve in the coming days. In the last few years, the regular channels of beauty marketing have become saturated, and it won’t be long before they become obsolete.

For Vanity Wagon, we have a lot of new things planned, including international expansion, the launch of a new range of innovative products and creating technology centric offline centres of beauty. These are very interesting times, and I am highly motivated to make Vanity reach the heights that I have planned for it!