Safety in Numbers > From Finance to Condom Creator

A career in finance taught Nikhil Daftary that he could either build his own dreams, or build someone else’s. He chose the former. By Nina Hendy.

Melbourne man Nikhil Daftary made the bold decision to leave behind high profile career in finance to produce a range of sexual health products including condoms a few years ago, and he hasn’t looked back.

It’s a bold deviation that has thrown him in the deep end as an employer in charge of the strategic vision of his own company. But with plenty of experience in the healthcare sector as an employee, he could see a gap in the market and was determined to launch out on his own.

He built Coral Healthcare in 2017, which produces condoms, ultrasound probe covers, sterile gloves and related latex and lubricant products for the healthcare sector. He has 15 condoms in the range, has launched a range of lubricants and pleasure toys.

He has forged strong relationships with large hospitals and healthcare sectors, while his range of Moments Condoms selling online and at Coles Supermarkets. He also supplies up to 10 million condoms to the New Zealand government a year and has plans to expand into South East Asia and UK in 2024.

While initially he had hoped that he would have his website up and running and would be selling condoms within three months, he admits it took longer than he thought it would. Designing packaging that would stand out on the supermarket shelf that would appeal to his customers took time.

“I thought I’d be the condom king of Australia, but it didn’t happen that way at all. It took us 10 months to create a brand and to design the packaging and get the product made.”

He has grown from zero to $10 million in revenue, with profitability of around 30 to 40 per cent.

Based in Melbourne, he employs 10 people. More recently, Daftary has launched range of pleasure toys as he expands the business. He is pursuing growth into new markets overseas, admitting he doesn’t want to just rely on Australian retailers to achieve growth.

The journey so far

He came to Australia in 1995 as an international student, completing a Bachelor in Commerce, Accounting, Finance and Commercial Law, then a Master in Finance.

Daftary went on to work as a chartered accountant and a finance manager before accepting a role with healthcare services and products company Symbion.

He’s also worked as a senior project finance manager team lead for ANZ, a financial controller for Virtus Health and a senior commercial business consultant for educational brand, Cubewise.

“Most of my experience has been in the healthcare sector, and I could see that if you don’t build your dreams, then someone will hire you to build theirs, and I wanted to build something on my own.

“I just decided that I wanted to start something in the healthcare sector of my own, and so I looked at what I could do that would utilise all the contacts I had built up in the healthcare sector throughout my career.”

He hopes that one day he’ll be able to launch a manufacturing facility in Australia, but at the moment most of the products are manufactured in Malaysia and China. “Being adaptable in a changing market means being nimble enough to evolve the business.”

Building a legacy

Daftary has funded the growth Coral Healthcare himself, admitting it wasn’t easy in the early days. “I didn’t pay myself a salary for the first few years, but now we’re at a pretty good place where things run smoothly, but we have a lot we want to achieve in the next few years.”

The hard work and persistence has paid off, though he admits that disrupting a tightly held market takes time. “At some point I realised that you’re either a corporate person, or you want to build your own legacy. You’ve got to be innovative in this industry dominated by corporate giants,” he says.

“I wanted to create a legacy of my own and could see there was a gap in the market in the sexual health and wellness space where the big guns had been dominating the market and yet I couldn’t see any disrupters,” Daftary says.

“Being in your own small business you’ve always got to be thinking about where your big contracts are coming from.”

He’s extremely driven, admitting the next big contract is never far from his thoughts. “You’ve got to be very determined to build something from the ground up. We pitched to Coles four years before we finally got a yes,” he says. 

Daftary has taken on learnings from his loved ones to build the business. For example, his wife refused to buy condoms from the supermarket, prompting him to conduct research to understand from a marketing perspective how to design packaging that would help remove the stigma that women shouldn’t be buying condoms.

The financials might be second nature to him, but he admits he keeps himself away from the day-to-day finances, hiring a company accountant so that he can focus on the vision of the company and drive future growth. “I like to be very close to the numbers, but I’ve realised that being too close to the numbers isn’t great, so I wanted someone else to handle that. Most of my work is still on Excel, which I can’t escape.”

His number one piece of advice is not to ever have a Plan B. “Instead, keep working on Plan A, because failure was never an option for me. You also need to have a strong business plan that you follow closely,” he says.