Nicole Rodrigues

Success Through The Relentless Pursuit Of Excellence : Nicole Rodrigues

Table of Contents

When walking on stage to receive the Forbes CEO Award, Nicole Rodrigues felt amused at the irony of life.

Having been constantly called upon to manage such events like award functions for corporate heads, it was ironical that she had reached her goal of one day being called upon to receive such an award herself, and walking on stage, not as the renowned model that she was, but as the CEO of a company built on conviction and hard work.

Though she started her career with modeling, today she owns and manages the Diva Group of Companies, in which modeling is just one among a diversified portfolio of offerings.

The Group’s ventures include Diva Holdings – a real estate fund with over 33 prime properties all around the world, a salon, a laundry and a financial accounting firm.

Coming from a family of professionals in engineering and healthcare, it was a difficult decision for her to branch out and pursue her passion in modeling to build a career and an enterprise. But that is what she did, and how.

She turned a small loan of AED 50,000 to a multi-million dollar conglomerate and steadfastly stood by her decision of making a mark in this world through her chosen career and on her own terms.

When Nicole entered the domain, it was like fighting against a brick wall to gain acceptance for modeling as a career option, but she chose to pursue the line and was confident that if she pursued excellence, acceptance would follow.

Today she looks back with nostalgia on the decisions she took, the obstacles she overcame and the success that she has achieved.

She always believed in living her life to its fullest, but wanted to work for it and earn it the hard way. And earn it she did.

From becoming a successful model, to getting selected as an airhostess to venturing out and becoming a serial entrepreneur, she has systematically had all her wishes fulfilled. Her quest for life now lies in achieving excellence in everything that she takes up.

For Nicole, success is being content with oneself and what one has achieved. What others praise you for or bestow you with are only decorations.

She enjoys her times of peace with herself for making the right decisions and now she works on giving back to society and contributing something meaningful to the world.


Nicole was born in Cochin, Kerala, but her parents soon moved to Mumbai where she was brought up. She did her schooling at the St. Andrews and completed her graduation from National College.

Later, she went abroad to pursue a course in Owner Management from Harvard Business School, Boston.

Her father being a mechanical engineer and her younger brother an architect, it was expected that Nicole too enter the engineering profession given her aptitude and upbringing. But she had other plans.

Plans that initially shocked the family, what with her wanting to do modeling as a career. But her entry into the profession from inter-collegiate festivals to celebrity designer shows paved the way for an elegant and enviable start to a brilliant career.

She was married to Henrik Larsen in the year 2001 and had moved to Copenhagen with him before they came to Dubai and Nicole started her ventures and moved on in life.

The couple have a beautiful daughter Victoria, aged 12 years and a lovely son Victor, aged 9 years. Both children are studying in London, UK.


The most important message that Nicole has for all aspiring entrepreneurs is that one should have clarity of vision in whatever one wants to do.

It is not advisable to keep changing interests as one fad dies and another rises, which most youth are prone to.

On the other hand, having clarity of vision can make one touch the sky if pursued with passion and hard work. She insists that entrepreneurs should never chase money.

They should rather chase excellence which will make everything else will fall in place, especially a sustainable business model.

Chasing money on the other hand would make one jump to every attractive opportunity without focusing on building strong principle based foundations for the organization.

The development of Dubai has fascinated her a lot and Nicole looks up to H H Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as an inspirational figure who has achieved seemingly impossible tasks.

Career wise she has not really had a mentor but she insists that all budding entrepreneurs must have as many mentors as possible because the learning and experience that mentors can provide is priceless.

Mentors mostly bring in that ‘been there done that’ guidance which cannot be learnt in management schools.

Moreover each entrepreneur would need to find their own guiding stars based on their confidence and comfort. For Nicole, her experiences and her sensitiveness towards what is happening around her has been her guiding force.

A force that has seen her through the toughest phases of her life. Gaining acceptance for an unorthodox career, setting standards in an unorganized industry and establishing an enterprise based on the foundations of strong principles and lasting values.

Milestones Along The Journey 

Nicole began her modeling career when she was only 16 and living in Mumbai with her family. The glamour of the fashion industry always fascinated her and in her own small way she ventured into it by participating in inter-collegiate fashion shows.

Hailing from a family of professionals, Nicole’s plans of joining the modeling industry was not only rejected at first but also disregarded and considered a taboo in the late 80s.

But she got her break when she was cast by Indian designer Vikram Phadnis for a high profile show. It was a dream break that saw her taking the industry by storm.

She became so successful that she was on the covers of as many as 12 magazines including Femina and Health and Nutrition in a month, in the year 1994.

Fully confident and absolutely certain that she would come back to modeling, she continued her studies, but nurtured her other desire, which was to travel around the world.

So, after her graduation, she bagged a job as a cabin crew with Gulf Air and moved to Bahrain. She worked for Gulf Air for around six years during which she met husband and life partner Henrik Larsen.

Soon she quit her job and moved to her husband’s place in Copenhagen and started another phase of her life as a wife and a mother.

It was a chance vacation in March 2003 during which Nicole and Henrik along with their daughter Victoria visited Dubai that they seriously thought about shifting base from Denmark to Dubai. 

They liked and loved the potential that Dubai was promising at that point of time and soon they made up their minds and decided to move.

A decision that proved only too right, as it laid the foundations for Nicole to start a string of ventures that is today The Diva Group of Companies.

As a corporation, the Diva Group continues to thrive and expand, enjoying a 33% year-on-year growth under the unwavering vision of Nicole, to consistently provide superior products and services that ensures its prominence with customers.

Diva Modeling & Events is one of the companies in the Group, which had its inception when initially Nicole joined a PR agency as a Business Development Officer but her love and affinity for the glamorous world of modeling led her to developing the idea of starting a modeling agency.

The early days were tough, when she had to take on multiple roles from accountant to office receptionist.

But Nicole didn’t want any shortcut to success and ultimately her hard work paid off. Diva today has around 14,000 models on its rolls and was named among the top 100 small businesses in the year 2011 by Dubai SME which is a Dubai Government agency.

Soon Diva Modeling & Events became the forerunner in talent booking and earned praise for raising standards and practices in a hitherto unorganized industry.

In short Nicole took the modeling industry by storm and brought in a fresh breath of professionalism and order that gained acceptance as a well-run corporate establishment. 

The DIVA Group 

As Founder and Managing Director of the DIVA Group, Nicole oversees five major companies; DIVA Modeling and Events, DIVA Salon, DIVA Laundry, DIVA Holdings and NM Investments.

Beginning with DIVA Modeling and Events in the year 2003, she branched out into real estate with DIVA Holdings in 2004.

While setting up and running these businesses she faced several hurdles in terms of resources and expertise in the support functions, especially accounting.

That gave her the idea to provide accounting services to small businesses which saw the launch of NM Investments in 2010.

Diva Salon launched in 2011 was an idea waiting to happen as it complemented the existing modeling business.

Almost getting into the frenzy of a serial entrepreneur by now, when she moved to a new neighborhood and found it lacking in services, she launched DIVA Laundry, a much needed help to all the families in the area.

There’s also a boutique advertisement agency coming up in the pipeline like NM Investments, a boutique investment management and corporate advisory firm.

At NMI, they strive to optimize the performance of principal investments by taking a hands-on approach through a rigorous pre-investment due-diligence process and a collaborative post-investment monitoring process.

Principal investments are made on behalf of the firm’s proprietary book as well as select third-party clients. Corporate advisory services are offered to select entities, where there is an opportunity to enhance shareholder value.

A unique and disciplined investment strategy and hands-on portfolio management approach ensure measurable, lasting results, which generate significant, long-term shareholder value.

Soon it was time for restructuring and Nicole brought in more focus in management. Today she directly oversees DIVA Holdings and delegates work to company heads for the other ventures.

Though a seasoned businesswoman, she believes in trusting and letting people answer their own consciences when it comes to owning responsibility and taking the right decisions.

She has learnt the hard way that making each one accountable for their job and regular reporting are vital factors for the success of Group.

This has worked well and has made everyone dedicate themselves to their jobs to the extent that they all make sure that excellence flows through the entire Group. The Group is also the first in the world to set up ERP system in a modeling agency.

Down the line, Nicole wants to take her hands off day to day management and make sure that the Group is able to transact and grow under the leadership of the respective company heads.

Presently she has plans underway for the expansion of DIVA Holdings to other regions in the UAE and start operations in the Indian sub-continent.


Nicole loves to travel and explore new places and cultures. In fact that is how she fell in love with the UAE.

She likes swimming and sailing. She owns a boat and has a passion for cars, her favorite being the Rolls Royce.

She is an eternal optimist and that is the driving force that lets her overcome the daily hurdles that life keeps throwing around all the time.

She adores her children completely and spending as much quality time with her family tops her priority list.

It is this all round persona and the hard work that has gone into the creation of an organization of repute that saw Nicole and her venture collect one award after another.

The notable and the recent ones being the Forbes CEO award, Asia Pacific Entrepreneur of the year award. She was also the winner of the People’s Choice award of the SME Advisor ‘Stars of Business 2011’.