Meghna Khanna is the founder and the owner of Levitate, a Boho style jewellery and accessories store in the heart of Bengaluru that preserves and celebrates the Indian fashion and crafts. Born to a fighter pilot father and a writer-editor mother, she became a young entrepreneur in her twenties defying all the age and gender barriers. Not only this, but Meghna is also an avid motorcyclist who loves riding the Royal Enfield Bullet. She learnt how to ride the Enfield when she was 15. She has been featured in the Limca Book of Records for being a part of the first-ever Himalayan Odyssey by REMC (Royal Enfield Motorcycle Company) to Khardung-La in 2005, which is the highest motorable passes in the world. She was the only Indian woman to do so at the time. With this strong, diverse and inspiring woman, SheThePeople.TV had a crisp conversation about her compelling life journey and what she learnt from it. Here are some edited snippets.
Quitting A Well-Paid Job Without A Defined Plan
Being an airforce kid, Meghna Khanna often travelled from one city to another with her parents. She was schooled in Jodhpur but completed her graduation and MBA at Symbiosis, Pune. She secured a well-paid job of a Qualitative Research Analyst in Mumbai. The most daunting decision of her life was quitting the job without any definite plan of action while she was just 23. Though the job was interesting, Meghna just couldn’t go through the 9 to 5 corporate life. And eventually, within a year of joining, she quit the job and moved to Bengaluru to give shape to her business idea. But this decision was not easy considering the shift from certainty to the uncertainty that she underwent being a young woman. “At that time there was a lot of disbelief among the people around me that how did I quit my first job at the age of 23. Even my family was apprehensive of my decision of giving up a well-paid job,” recalls Meghna.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I did know what I did not want to do
“But, I have been a bit of a rebel since childhood. I would fight for whatever I wanted,” she quickly adds. “You have got to believe without a doubt that you want something. The decision was interesting and difficult only in the sense that I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I did know what I did not want to do and that helped me make the decision. I was at a cross-road at that time but this belief made the decision very clear to me, though there was a lot of opposition from people around saying that I will regret the decision. But I feel I have really enjoyed the journey so far,” she says.
Inspiration Behind Levitate
It has been 18 years since Meghna first set-up Levitate in a back storage room of her friend’s restaurant in Bengaluru. Today, it has gained immense popularity as Bengaluru’s best-kept secret shopping spot for different accessories, including jewellery and clothing, for both men and women. What was the inspiration behind this start-up? “When I started, there was a huge gap between Indian crafts, which were the high-end designer and expensive crafts, and the cheap Chinese crafts which were available in the street shops. There was no Indian craft that was fun and affordable. All the best embroidery, the best craft were exported abroad. No Indians were buying them. So this is what drove me to set-up Levitate. Through Levitate, I wanted to get that kind of crafts for the Indians to buy.”
However, Meghna, who is 40 now and a mother to two children, believes that the challenge of making huge decisions starts when you have the responsibility of children. “Now to make decisions is when the real courage comes in.” Reflecting on the fact that coronavirus outbreak and the economic crisis might bring a change in her business, Meghna said, “Retail in the cities is not going to be normal anymore. Even I am moving towards a more minimalistic lifestyle. We don’t need much jewellery and accessory. Although, I will encourage the creation of the Indian artisan and craftsmen rather than going behind fast fashion. Sustainable slow fashion has always driven my brand but now it is the need of the hour.”
Also Read: Is Indian fashion taking a feminist stand?
Retail in the cities is not going to be normal anymore. Even I am moving towards a more minimalistic lifestyle.
Challenges And Lessons From Meghna’s Entrepreneurial Journey
The woman who began her entrepreneurial journey at such an early age is indeed an inspiration for many other women who have a brilliant plan but lack that support which says “You can do it!” Reflecting on the challenges that she faced in her journey as an entrepreneur, she said, “I feel that the future is female compared to the time when I started off. But at that time, it was already built in my system to fight for whatever I wanted. I feel that if you really want something, you can make it happen, male or female doesn’t matter. You will find your way to it.”
Further advising aspiring women entrepreneurs, Meghna Khanna adds, “Do your research, make sure you identify a gap in what you offer and what the world does. Creating a Substantial Differential Advantage (SDA) is the key to the growth of your business. Constantly have something substantially different to offer. Either be the first or the best or the different!”
I feel that if you really want something, you can make it happen, male or female doesn’t matter.
Meghna Khanna As A Motorcyclist
Apart from being an entrepreneur, Meghna is proud of her enthusiasm for motorcycling. She feels an emotional connect with her Royal Enfield Bullet, riding on which, she often travels beyond the city. “I made my dad teach me to ride a scooter when I was 12 years old. From there on, one bike after the other until I rode the Royal Enfield.” But, riding a motorbike is traditionally considered to be masculine. How Meghna defied those stereotypes? “Growing up, I was a bit of a tomboy. I wanted to fly my dad’s fighter jet. Since I couldn’t do that, riding the bike was the next best thing that I could do. Today, I feel a lot of young women are riding their monster bikes and doing many different things. It is awesome that it has changed to this today. Back then people did not even know women riding a bike.”
Speaking further on what is the reason that women now are riding bikes and doing different things more freely and confidently than ever before, she said, “Women have financial freedom and the strong will to do something. Besides, there are a lot of support groups where women are inspired by other women to do something. Social media, especially, has given a lot of exposure to connect with other women who do interesting work and know about their inspiring journey.”