Luxembourg-born Nidhima Kohli is chief executive of Beauty Tribe, a recently launched online store for beauty products hand-picked by salon experts and delivered in three hours.
Ms Kohli lived in London, Paris and New York before making the UAE home this year after a previous holiday extended when the Covid-19 pandemic closed UK borders.
She began her career in investment banking, including Credit Suisse and HSBC, before combining a passion for beauty products and an entrepreneurial spirit to create My Beauty Matches platform.
Ms Kohli is single, in her 30s and lives in Dubai Hills.
Were you around money growing up?
Luxembourg is one of the richest countries in the world. However, we were not rich. There were hardly any Indian people there, maybe 10 or 20 families. We had to prove ourselves, work harder and stand out.
In the old days, my father had nothing, worked his way up, then became one of the most successful businessmen in Luxembourg. He has import/export businesses, tech things as well, but in our early days, it was a difficult life.
That’s essentially what gave me my drive and my parents taught me you don’t waste money, you have to value money. If you have extra, then help those that don’t.
When did you first get paid for work?
At 15, I was a school bus monitor. I got something like 20 francs a journey, about one euro ($1).
The summer I turned 16, I did my first internship in private banking. I worked through school, through university.
Why the need to earn?
I wanted the freedom to buy the things I wanted. Sephora opened in Luxembourg; I wanted nail polishes and lipsticks, clothes. And then I wanted to go on holidays.
It was not really about not having to ask my parents for money, they have been incredibly generous … a big part was a sense of pride and achievement when I did it on my own.
I didn’t want to get money from my dad because I know how hard he worked and wanted him to spend more on himself.
Why swap investment banking for beauty businesses?
Working for the top investment banks, I had a six-figure salary before I hit my 30s. However, it got repetitive and my father’s a massive inspiration; there’s part of me that likes to create, innovate, likes challenges and to solve problems.
I went to the London School of Beauty, taking courses for fun. I quickly learned how confusing it is … there’s so many products out there. That gave the idea to launch my first business, essentially a product recommendation and price comparison site for beauty products.
I launched a second business, selling artificial intelligence software to beauty companies.
Was it tough financially?
It was a 180-degree turn. I went from flying business class to the best places for New Year to … I wouldn’t even go to a coffee shop to work because money I’d save on buying hot chocolate I could put into Facebook advertising.
I fundraised as well, but why would someone invest in your business if you’re not willing to invest your own money?
What led you to the UAE?
I was running my businesses for about 10 years and as much as I loved it, it was a lonely journey. I got approached (by someone) to buy one of my companies and thought: “Okay, what next?”
I came to Dubai for a 10-day trip last year. All of a sudden, they announced a lockdown in the UK, so I was working and living in Dubai for four months.
I learned a lot and then got this opportunity to work at Beauty Tribe, a start-up within a bigger company. I loved the idea that you could get expert advice. Women need a trusted source of what’s the right product to buy and how to use it.
What’s your spending and saving outlook?
It’s changed with time and age. When I was working, maybe the first five years, I was a complete spender, didn’t save anything.
During the credit crunch, I learned that you need to start saving. Now, I save for things I want to do or invest in.
My attitude is, if I can have enough money to have a comfortable life and to help others, then great.
How do you grow your wealth?
The first five years of my start-up journey, I was part of tech founder groups. I met amazing people doing amazing things, so started investing in start-ups.
Coming from a finance background, I believe in diversifying, so some are in tech, some in wellness.
Then I’ve invested in my businesses. I started investing in cryptocurrency as well.
I won’t just keep it in my bank account, it either needs to be invested somewhere that is going to grow and give a return or it needs to help someone.
Do you give to good causes?
Animals and kids, predominantly, sometimes women.
I grew up in one of the richest countries, and as a kid we would go to India every summer; one of the poorest countries.
The shock … childhood frames you as an adult. Automatically, I would want to give back.
What has been your best investment?
I got a really nice London apartment in a prime location. It’s gone up in value and is rented out. I’ll be looking to save enough to buy another home.
How do you feel about money?
Money is great. It gives you freedom, allows you access to what you want.
The most important thing is to remember to spread the wealth. And it’s good to talk about money, people need to know about investing and different possibilities earlier on. I listen to a lot of podcasts about money.
I don’t think it’s good to hold onto it too tight, you have to let it flow. You give … it comes back towards you.
Are you wise with money?
I got wiser with time. It’s important to keep an eye on it or you can just spend, spend, spend, and end up not saving anything.
I spent way too much on clothes in the past. I realised I don’t need that much. It’s just money out the window.
What do you splurge on?
Every year, I have a Mediterranean summer holiday, my favourite place in the world. I will go full on. I’m doing my birthday in Ibiza, I’ve rented a boat.
I don’t like to spend a massive amount on one thing, like a bag. I believe a lot in wellness and focusing on myself, meditation, massages.
I like to spoil myself with at least one thing a day, because that is showing self-care, and that’s why I love beauty products.
I reward myself. Running a start-up is intense, you have to invest in your wellness.
What are your future financial goals?
I’ll never be able to retire … I’d get bored out of my mind. I will always do something.
I believe in always learning, self growth. I want to own three homes, one in London, either one here or in Luxembourg and one in the Mediterranean.
And then be able to live comfortably and take care of my future family and my parents.