Money & Me: ‘I value investing in myself rather than buying luxury items’

Entrepreneur Nikita Phulwani prefers to spend on business coaching, fitness, mental health, wellness, travel and education

Nikita Phulwani, founder of communications agency By Niggi, aims to be able to fund smaller businesses for growth. Pawan Singh / The National
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Nikita Phulwani, 30, is an entrepreneur in Dubai and runs a communications agency called By Niggi, which offers services in influencer marketing, public relations, social media marketing and talent management.

Watching her businessman father build his venture while she was growing up, Ms Phulwani says she always knew she wanted to run her own company.

Born and raised in Dubai, Ms Phulwani quit her public relations and marketing job in 2016, freelanced for a year in 2017 and launched her business a year later.

She lives with her five-member family on Al Wasl Road, Dubai.

How did money feature in your childhood/upbringing?

My parents gave me and my siblings everything we needed to develop ourselves to our best potential, such as enrolling us in good schools and extracurricular activities like arts, dance, ice skating and swimming, among other things.

We also travelled a lot as a family. My dad always explained to us the value of money and would not let us spend frivolously.

How did you fund your business?

I started my business conservatively. I was the only employee and did not need an office then as it was service-based.

The only expense I had to start with was to pay for the licence, which I got at a nominal rate as it was a virtual one. I paid for it with my savings.

Have your spending habits evolved?

When I first started making money, I bought myself a Chanel bag and even though it is a classic and an investment piece, my ideology on spending money has evolved significantly [since then].

I noticed that my spending habits changed completely during the pandemic.

I now value investing in myself more than any bags, shoes or luxury items.

Business coaching, fitness, mental health, wellness, travel and education — these are things I would much rather spend on today.

I feel if there is anything that will make me better — this only means that I will be able to work better and earn more — so yes, it’s an investment in myself.

Are you managing to save?

I would like to save more than I do today, but I am getting there.

Are you wise with cash?

I do not use cash at all. I rarely have any cash on hand. It is always Apple Pay or cards for me.

One reason I don’t prefer cash is because it is hard to track. With Apple Pay, all my transactions are tracked, no matter how big or small.

How are you growing wealth?

Long-term investments that grow at a certain rate consistently. I am also considering property investments and slowly, but steadily, building the assets I want.

Do you have a cherished investment?

Last year, I decided that I would gift myself a watch as an investment piece on my 30th birthday.

I am an extremely reward-based person. I like pampering myself from time to time for all the work I do
Nikita Phulwani, founder of By Niggi

I set a goal and made sure I make that much money (apart from my expenses) in order to be able to buy it. It was even on my vision board and today it’s on my wrist.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Start saving and investing as early as possible. Investing smaller amounts for a longer term, on the rule of compounding [interest], can yield good and big results — you just have to be patient.

Any key financial milestones?

There are so many and they get bigger and better with time.

I still remember my first cheque. It was for Dh500 ($136). I was wearing a red T-shirt when I went to collect it at the age of 16. I felt like a grown up when I went to collect it. [I was the] happiest!

As cliched as this may be, but I bought my mum a pair of diamond earrings from my first two salaries of my first job. I felt really good when I got those for her.

My first car. That happened this year.

And now, I am gearing up to open the doors to my first office — after the business being operational for more than four years, from home office to business centre, I finally have a space of my own and we are getting ready to move in.

Nikita Phulwani says the Covid-19 pandemic helped her prepare for the worst as a business owner and created a safety net. Pawan Singh / The National

Any luxuries that really matter to you?

I am an extremely reward-based person. No matter how big or small.

I like pampering myself from time to time for all the work I do. Initially, it used to be luxury bags, shoes, luggage — not necessarily investment pieces, though.

Now, I am considering watches (they are better investments) or perhaps working towards investing in a house.

What are your financial goals?

To not look at the price tag of anything — ever. Also, to be wise with my money and be able to fund smaller businesses for their growth.

Has the pandemic influenced your money outlook?

It certainly has. I think the pandemic taught people to be ready no matter what.

As a business owner, I still remember the month of March 2020. There was so much talk and fear about whether businesses would be able to sustain themselves or not.

For me, as a business owner, not being able to pay salaries to my employees is perhaps the scariest thing.

What my coach at the time asked me to start doing was to remove a certain percentage from each billing in a reserve fund, which remains untouched unless there is a crisis.

This habit has helped me prepare for the worst that could come and also created a safety net.

What’s your outlook towards money now?

My outlook towards money is slightly different. I think of money as a tool — a very important tool, indeed.

However, I do not believe in running after it. Whatever your source of income is, if you do that activity with the right passion and intent, money will come to you.

What car do you drive?

My thoughts on cars have changed over time. I used to drive an Audi Q5, which my father bought for me when I got my licence.

Until last year, I was determined to buy a luxury car from a very popular brand in the region, which costs $150,000. I thought it was the perfect car for who I was trying to be.

However, I bought an Infiniti Q50 this year and decided to hire a driver and not drive myself as much.

I was wasting a lot of time in commuting that I could use for working or communicating.

While cars can be possessions, they depreciate over time. At this point in my work graph, investing in a luxury car didn’t make sense and I decided to buy a premium car for the purpose that is also efficient.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 4:03 AM