How Megha Rao Balances a Full Time Job and Running a Startup
This feature is part of our series on members of our community who inspire us. From entrepreneurs, stylists, and consultants starting their own businesses to executives changing the game at the highest levels, we’re lucky to be able to learn from these incredible role models.
In that vein, half the profits from our Duet Pinky Rings fund seed grants for entrepreneurs around the world. Each ring is a symbol of a pinky pledge to pay it forward to support women & a connection between each member of our community. Make your own pinky pledge here.
Photographed by Shoji Van Kuzumi
By day, Megha Rao works for Citigroup’s transformation team, helping shape the future of the retail bank as we know it today. If that weren’t enough, by night, she also serves as designer and curator for her South Asian-inspired contemporary clothing brand, holiCHIC by Megha. With her line, she wanted to create versatile pieces that could be mixed, matched, and worn to any occasion. Starting a business certainly isn’t an easy undertaking, especially starting one while maintaining a full time job. We chatted with Megha to learn more about how she came up with the idea for holiCHIC, women she admires, and her number one life hack.
“I spent more than 10 years modeling for South Asian fashion designers, living in New York City. Through these experiences, I discovered a void. While India was always introducing fresh and new fashion concepts with so many options for consumers to choose from, the same was not the case here. Inventory here was often stale, overpriced and flying to India wasn’t always feasible for many people.
I wanted to find a common ground between the fashion worlds of the East and West and create a local bred Indo-Western label that speaks directly to modern South Asian women and represents their identity. I wanted to launch a clothing line that promoted comfort, affordability, and versatility.
At the start of my business, I partnered with two incredible individuals who brought a unique dimension to my business model. Nidhish Varughese, our Operations Director, and Pooja Desai Shah, our Creative Director, played a vital role in getting holiCHIC off the ground and jumpstarting the label. Their experience in business, marketing, and branding have been instrumental in helping me fulfill this dream.
We were inspired by our own experience of not being able to find clothing easily in the US and having to “settle” or take a trip to India to “stock up.”
The name symbolizes a fresh perspective. The word “Holi” is taken from the exuberant spring festival symbolizing color and love. When paired with “Chic” it creates a new standard for conventional Indian fashion.
What were some of the challenges you faced, especially running this while maintaining a full time job? What were some of the strategies that helped you grow?
Time management and balance. Not only do Pooja and I have full time jobs, but we are also moms. Our day jobs have taught us important business fundamentals and our children — they inspire us. We want to set good examples for them, and show them that they can have anything they want if they are willing to work for it.
As our business has grown, we’ve made the changes necessary to keep up with demand. For example, we continue to expand our team of customer service experts to help us with client communication and have expanded our team of tailors in India to expedite production. We are constantly learning and evolving.
Who are some of the women in your life who have inspired you?
The disruptors... the ones who find the empty space, break stereotypes and are relentless in their efforts to succeed. Some examples of women in my life - Payal Kadakia, Anjula Acharia, Deepica Mutyala, Ami Rawal Desai and both my moms of course - two of the hardest working women I know!
What are some of your most meaningful pieces of jewelry and why?
I love personalized jewelry. I have 2 necklaces with my kids’ names in Hindi that I wear almost every day.
Who would be in your dream group text?
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Nicky and Simone Zimmerman, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone.
Whose jewelry wardrobe would you want to steal?
What's something you keep in your purse that no one knows about?
Extra diapers and pacifiers at all times!
What are your top 3 songs at the moment?
Could only think of 2, Galtiyan by Zack Knight and Pani Da Rang by Vidya Vox!
What are you reading that you want to tell everyone about?
The August issue of Marie Claire, page 70. (go on, check it out!)
What's your top life hack?
You come first. How you dress and feel sets the tone for your entire day. Before having kids and after...this is something I’ve never sacrificed.